Colossians 1:1-13: Verse by verse discussion

The Colossian deception taught that Christians are incomplete without the higher level knowledge and wisdom available from supernatural sources. Paul responds by saying that Christians are already complete in Christ.

Summary

Paul in chainsPaul wrote the letter to the faithful believers, with Timothy’s assistance, from prison in Rome around AD 60-63.  This was about 30 years after Christ’s death.  Paul was sent by Christ by the will of God our Father.  He therefore had the authority to write this letter.

Paul himself never worked in Colossae. While Paul was in a Roman prison, the gospel traveled through the earth and has reached Colossae via Epaphras; one of Paul’s faithful co-workers and a native of the city.

The gospel is the message of God’s merciful kindness; His free gift, particularly through the Person and teachings of Christ, as recorded in the four gospels.  The gospel includes the promise of the eternal inheritance which believers will receive from God when Christ is revealed.  Paul added clarity with respect to the relevance of the Jews and their Law, but Christ and His teachings are the core of the Christian message.

Epaphras, when he visited Paul in prison in Rome, informed Paul of the Colossians’ faith, but also of the Colossian deception that was threatening his church.  The letter does not describe the Colossian deception fully.  We only have Paul’s rebuttal of the deception.  From that we have to infer what the Colossian deception was.

Paul in prayerPaul was a man of prayer.  Through prayer he was in constant contact with God.  He assures the Colossians that he is continually praying for them, asking that they may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Knowledge, wisdom and understanding is a key theme in the letter to the Colossians, from which we conclude that the Colossian deception claimed to have special knowledge, wisdom and understanding.  This commentary assumes that the points which Paul emphasizes, compared to his other letters, are in response to the Colossian deception, and therefore indicate the nature there-of.

Verses 1 to 3 and verses 12 and 13 focus on God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Father who qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints, through Jesus Christ. It is the Father who rescued us from the domain of darkness (supernatural beings hostile to God) and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.  Christ is the Means, but it is the Father that accomplishes all these things.

The Colossians deception judged the Christians “in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” (2:16) and told them that they are incomplete, and that they will only become spiritually complete if they submit their teachings, such as “decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (2:20-21).  Paul responds with a three-fold message:

  1. In Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form (2:9).
  2. Therefore Christians, since they are “in Christ” are already complete (2:10-15).
  3. Therefore they do not have to submit to the demands of the Colossian deception (2:16-23) to become complete.

These are the three main points of the entire letter.  They are particularly clear from chapter two, but chapter one contains aspects there-of.  In 1:12-13 we see that the believers are already qualified, already rescued and already transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.  This is the second of the three points above.

Verse by Verse Discussion

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother

Paul: According to the custom of the day of writing letters, the author’s name is given first. Paul wrote the letter probably from Rome at around AD 63, which was about 30 years after Christ’s death.

An apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God: Paul was qualified to write this letter of instruction to the Colossians because he was an apostle.  Literally apostolos means ‘one sent’.  At its deepest level it denotes an authorized spokesman for God; one commissioned and empowered to act as His representative.  Paul is an “apostle of Jesus Christ”, which means he is sent by Christ, but it is “by the will of God”.

And Timothy our brother: Timothy was an honored companion of Paul, but he was not an apostle because he did not receive a direct instruction from Christ.

1:2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: grace to you and peace from God our Father.

To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ:Saints and faithful brethren” are the same people; not two different classes of Christians.  Every true Christian is a saint. It is possible that Paul adds “and faithful brethren” to contrast the saints with those who embraced the false teaching that concerned Paul so much in this letter.

Who are at Colossae: The city of Colossae is not mentioned in the Book of Acts. All our Biblical information about the church there comes from this letter and a few allusions in the letter to Philemon.  Historically, Colossae was a prosperous city, yet by Paul’s time the glory it had as a city was on the decline.  The city of Colossae was probably the smallest and least important city that Paul ever wrote to.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father: Grace is God’s unconditioned goodwill and mercy.

1:3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

We give thanks to God: We receive grace and peace from “God our Father” (1:2), and in return we thank “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3).  That is the true circle of life: He gives us everything we need and we love and praise Him.

The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: The focus in verses 1 to 3 is on the Father, not on Christ.  For instance, Paul was an apostle “by the will of God” (1:1) who is identified as the “Father” in verses 2 and 3.  As in the prayer which we received from our Lord, God is “our Father” (1:2), which means that He cares for us deeply and continually protects us.  The Father is the active Force behind Paul’s work (1:1) and behind Christ’s sacrifice (1:12; 2:13, 15).  God is also “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  As Jesus said, “‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17).  See the article Jesus is the Son of God, but is He in all respects equal to God? 

Praying always for you: Although he probably had never met them, the Christians of Colossae were on Paul’s prayer list. He prayed for them not only often, but always.

1:4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints:

Genuine faith in Jesus will always have a true love for God’s people as a companion.

1:5 Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel

The hope laid up for you in heaven:Christ in you” is “the hope of glory” (1:27), namely the hope for “the inheritance of the saints” (1:12).  “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (3:3-4).  These were not merely theological ideas for Paul; but dominated his thinking as a Christian.  It is also our privilege to have this hope.

In verses 4 and 5 we notice the familiar triad of faith, hope, and love:  “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel: The four gospels were written decades after the Cross as tools to teach the believers what Christ taught.  The gospel of John was one of the last books of the Bible to be written; about 50 years after the Cross.  To teach Jesus means to teach what He taught, as recorded in the gospels.  Some people today hold the letters of the New Testament up high, but the basic teaching in the first century was what Jesus preached.  Paul added clarity with respect to aspects such as the relevance of the Law of Moses and the relationship between Jew and Gentile, but his teachings are not core; what Christ taught is the core of the Christian message.

Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians to oppose a specific distortion of the truth (2:4, 8, 16, 18).  Perhaps for that reason we find early on in this letter an emphasis on “truth” (1:5, 6).  Because we do not live in that time and place, we do not know what the Colossian deception specifically was.  Paul, in his letter, only gives us one side of the story; we only have his rebuttal of the deceptions.  From this we have to infer what the Colossian deception was.

1:6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it: and understood the grace of God in truth:

The Gospel is represented as a traveler, whose object it is to visit the whole earth.  So rapid is this traveler in his course, that he had already gone nearly through the whole of the countries under the Roman dominion, and will travel on until he has proclaimed his message to every people, and kindred, and nation, and tongue (Rev. 14:6).  The phrase “in all the world” was a legitimate hyperbole, for the gospel was spreading all over the Roman Empire.

Grace is God’s merciful kindness; His free gift.  Everything we receive from Him is His free gift.  The kindness of God leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).  We are saved by His merciful kindness; we can never earn it as a wage.

1:7 Just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf:

Learned it from Epaphras: Paul himself had not worked in the area of Colossae (1:4, 7-9; 2:1).  Apparently, Epaphras, one of his helpers, and a native of the city (4:12), established a group of believers there (1:7; 4:12, 13).

Who is a faithful servant (KJV – minister): The word “minister doesn’t mean that Epaphras was superior to the other Christians in Colossae. The word minister means servant.  Paul probably wrote the letter because of a visit of Epaphras from Colossae.

1:8 and he also informed us of your love in the spirit:

It seems as if, while Paul was in prison in Rome, Epaphras visited him, and informed him of the spiritual growth of the Colossian church (see also 2:5), but also of the “deception” (2:8) troubling his church.

1:9 for this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you:  and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding:

Paul in prayerNot ceased to pray for you: Paul was a man of prayer (1:3, 9).  Through prayer he was in constant contact with God (1:9).  “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

Knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding: Knowledge, wisdom and understanding is a key theme in the letter to the Colossians.  It is important to note that Paul wrote that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (2:3) “so that no one will delude you” (2:4).  This is understood to mean that some people in Colossae were trying to delude the believers, claiming that they have special knowledge, wisdom and understanding.  The interpretation in this commentary is based on the assumption that the points which Paul emphasizes, compared to his other letters, indicate the nature of the Colossian deception (2:8).

1:10 So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord: to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Paul also prayed that they would walk (live) according to the knowledge which they received.  Our life is based on our knowledge of God and our understanding of His will.

1:11 Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously:

His strength is there to help us meet all of life’s challenges, and to endure and overcome problems with patience and joy.  God is the source of all power.  Whatever power we have, or hope to have, we only have because He gave it to us.

1:12 Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light:

The Father is mentioned as the active Force of redemption. He initiated the plan of the ages.  It is the Father who qualifies us, through Jesus Christ.  The ESV and other translations render 2:18 as “Let no one disqualify you”.  It is there quite possible that Paul, in 1:12, is contradicting the Colossian deception.

1:13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son

He rescued us from the domain of darkness: The domain of darkness is Satan’s domain.  Jesus referred to “the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53) that led to His arrest, suffering and death.  The power of darkness are the supernatural beings marshaled against God and His followers for combat in the spiritual realm.  “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).  These “rulers and authorities are a particular emphasis in the letter to the Colossians (1:15; 2:15, 18), implying that the Colossian deception involved such supernatural beings.

Note the contrast between the light in verse 12 and the darkness in verse 13.  Light allows us to see; to receive “knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (1:9).

And transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son: According to Barclay, the word translated “transferred” had a special significance in the ancient world. When one empire conquered another, the custom was to transfer the entire population of the defeated empire to the conqueror’s land. It is in this sense that Paul says we have been transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son.

His” in these verses (1:9, 11, 13) consistently refers to “the Father” (1:3):

Verse 9, for instance, refers to “knowledge of His will”, which is explained by verse 1 as “the will of God”, who is “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3).

His glorious might” (1:11) refers back to “God” in 1:10, who is identified in verse 3 as “the Father”.

Verses 12 and 13 therefore continue the focus of verses 2 and 3 on the Father. Some Christians think of Christ as their Savior, but these verses inform us, as already indicated by 1:2-3, that the Father is the Active Force that “has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints” (1:12).  The kingdom belongs to “His beloved Son” (1:13), but it is the Father that “rescued us from the domain of darkness”.  In Christ “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (1:14), but it is the Father that “qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints” (1:12).

Note Christians are already rescued and already transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son.  This is another emphasis in the letter to the Colossians.  It is again emphasized in 2:10, where Paul states that Christians are complete in Christ.  The Colossian deception judged the Christians “in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” (2:16) and told them that they are incomplete, and that they will only become spiritually complete when they submit to “decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (2:20-21).  In response Paul wrote that they are already qualified (1:12), already rescued and already transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son (1:13).

TO: Colossians Table of Contents

TO: General Table of Contents

Colossians 1:23-28 – The mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations

Paul in chains
Paul in Prison

As prisoner Paul rejoices in his suffering because it was “the stewardship from God bestowed on” him for our benefit (1:25).  God gave Paul the task to proclaim a mystery that has been hidden in past ages, namely that believing Gentiles are also descendants of Abraham—and share in the glory of the age to come.  

1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

Moved away – Some teach that God decides who should live eternally and who should go to hell, irrespective of what they are or do.  Such teachers consequently have to promote the ‘once saved, always saved’ concept, but the current verse implies that people are able to move away from God.  God does keep people.  Romans 14:4 says “and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand”, but people are able to resist God’s keeping power and move away “from the hope of the gospel” (1:23).

Warning – Against the background of the deception threatening the Colossians (2:8), Paul here warns the predominantly Gentile Colossian Christians (1:27, 21) to remain on the firm and sure foundation of the message preached to them (1:23).  This warning will be repeated four times in chapter 2 with growing seriousness.

HopeHope of the gospel – This is the “inheritance of the saints” (1:12), “the hope laid up for you in heaven” (1:5) and “the hope of glory” (1:27).  “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (3:3-4).

1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.

Sacrificed Himself

My sufferings – Paul wrote this letter from prison (4:3).  When Paul served, being in ministry was the greatest sacrifice that one could make.  The Lord said to Ananias:

Go, for he (Paul) is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16).

Paul’s message also reflects the greatest sacrifice that was ever made—the cross.  For that reason God gave him strength, and Paul could claim that he labored, “striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (1:29).

Today however, being in ministry, in general, no longer requires that level of sacrifice.  But the lack of sacrifice is also reflected in our lives.  Most of our own decisions are based mainly on what would get us further, not on a consideration of the will of the Lord.  This even includes the decision to enter God’s kingdom. Even in our desire to allow God to show us our own faults, we are motivated by what would help us to victory without suffering loss.  We are still living for ourselves, not for Him.  We are walking much more in self-centeredness than in Christ-centeredness.

This is also reflected in our message.  We today have so little power to transform the minds and hearts of people because we do not live, and do not preach the immense sacrifice of the cross.  Consequently it is difficult today to see much difference between church and non-church people.  Although it is many, many times larger, the church is now but a phantom of what it was even in Paul’s time, .

The cross is the power of God, and it is the center of all we are called to live by.  The cross is the gospel and the salvation with which the church was entrusted.  We must return to the cross.

1:25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 1:26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 1:27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 1:29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

These verses may be analyzed into two concepts:

The first “the stewardship from God bestowed on” Paul (1:25), “admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom” (1:28), “striving according to His power, which mightily works within” Paul (1:29).

The second is the purpose of his ministry, which is “for your benefit” (1:25), to establish “Christ in you” (1:27), “that we may present every man complete in Christ” (1:28).

Christ in you (1:27) – This indicates the close relationship between Christ and the believer.  We must be “complete in Christ” (1:28) but the mystery among the Gentiles isChrist in you” (1:27).   Christ explained that everyone is in everyone; “the Spirit of truth … abides with you and will be in you”, “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:16-20).

Mystery Fellow HeirsMystery – The “mystery … has been hidden from the past ages and generations” – In Ephesians 3:1-6 Paul similarly wrote:

… by revelation there was made known to me the mystery … which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel …

Mystery GentilesWhat this mystery is, is clearly stated in Ephesians and less clearly so in Colossians, but it does seem clear that it is the same mystery, because Colossians also relates the mystery to the Gentiles, and indicates that the mystery is “Christ in you” (1:27), which means to be a child of God.  The mystery that is now revealed is therefore that non-Jews believers “are fellow heirs” (Eph. 3:6) of the promises made to Abraham (Gal. 3:29; Rom. 4:13).  Today this principle is generally accepted, but in Paul’s day it was a novel idea and a new message that God gave Paul to preach, resulting in severe controversy in the church.  For the Jewish Christians, who were in the beginning the majority of the church, this was contrary to everything they were told as Jews.  In their view, to be saved, one had to become a Jew through circumcision.

Colossians Table of Contents

Next: 2:1-4

 

Col. 1:20-22 – Reconcile all things in heaven to Himself through His cross

In the time before Christ there was war in heaven; heavenly creatures waged war against God by evil deeds.  God was not angry.  He did reconcile all things to Himself by providing evidence through Christ’s death, which even heaven needed.

Colossians 1:20-22 can be analysed into the following statements:

  1. Before Christ’s death there was “war” between God and His intelligent creatures; both on earth and in heaven.
  2. That war was caused by the aggression of God’s intelligent creatures against Him.
  3. God was not angry with His enemies.
  4. To bring an end to the war, God changed the minds of His enemies by providing evidence through Christ’s death.
  5. The intelligent beings in heaven also needed the evidence provided by the cross
  6. God forgives completely.

1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—

Before Christ’s death there was “war” between God and His intelligent creatures; both on earth and in heaven.

Through Himthe Father reconciled “all things to Himself” and also “made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him” (1:20).  To reconcile therefore means to make peace between God and His alienated intelligent creatures.  This is also seen in verses 21 and 22, where it is stated that the Colossians previously were “hostile in mind”—which indicates a lack of peace—but now are “reconciled”.  Since God had to make “peace”, there previously was war.

The blood of Christ not only reconciles humans to the Father; even the “things in heaven” are reconciled to the Father through His blood (1:20).  This means that there also was war in heaven.  The Bible is generally silent on the war in heaven.  With the exception of a few places (Job 1:6-; Eph. 1:10; 3:10; Col. 1:20-22; etc.) the Bible only describes events on earth.  But right at the beginning of the Bible we read that Satan came to deceive our first parents.  Sin therefore did not originate on earth; the rebellion against God started elsewhere: in what we may call heaven.  Revelation 12:7 describes that war as between two groups of angels:

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war

This “dragon” is a symbol for Satan (Rev. 12:9).  Satan and his angels are alienated from and hostile towards Him, to quote from Colossians 1:21.

It is this war that spilled over to earth when Satan deceived our first parents, and which is continued today:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places“ (Eph. 6:12).

That war was caused by the aggression of God’s intelligent creatures against Him.

Notice the ‘before’ and ‘after’ conditions of the Colossians:

Before they were reconciled, they were “alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (1:21).

After they were reconciled and at “peace” with God, they were “holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (1:22), i.e. the absence of evil deeds.

It is not God that is described as “hostile”, but His intelligent creatures.  God is perfectly good.  “Evil deeds” are acts of aggression against God.

God was not angry with His enemies.

Since “Him” and “His” in the current verses refer to Christ, these are things which the Father did “through Him”.  It is important to note that it is God that made peace with His enemies; His enemies did not make peace with Him.  The Father took the initiative and through Christ unilaterally acted to reconcile His enemies to Himself.  This means that it is not the Father that is angry with His enemies; it is His enemies that are angry with God.  They are trying to exclude Him from their lives in all possible ways.  A common method is to insult God by using His name in vain, and even to use His name as a swearword.

Some people conclude from the Bible that God is angry and that Christ died to pacify Him.  The current verses present His enemies as angry, and God as the One that seeks reconciliation.  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16).

To bring an end to the war, God changed the minds of His enemies by providing evidence through Christ’s death.

The previous verses explained who Christ is.  By using the word “through” four times, the current verses (1:20-22) shift the focus to what God did through Christ, indicating that Christ was the Means of reconciliation:

The Father “through Him … reconcile all things to Himself … through the blood of His cross; through Him” (1:20).  That includes the Colossian Christians, who were “reconciled … in His fleshly body through death” (1:22).

We should not think that His literal blood has any magical power.  “Through the blood of His cross” (1:20) means “in His fleshly body through death” (1:22).  “Blood” is therefore a symbol of His death.

The question now is how Christ’s death succeeded “to reconcile all things to Himself” (1:20):

According to Colossians 2:15 the cross made a “public display” of the “rulers and authorities”.  These are supernatural beings. (See discussion of 2:10)

According to Romans 3:25-26 the cross made a “public display” of Christ to demonstrate His (the Father’s) righteousness; to show the Father as just in spite of the fact that He justifies (forgives) people.

In Revelation the victory of “Michael and his angels” over “the dragon and his angels” is expressed as that the “dragon” and “his angels” were “thrown down” (v9) from heaven (v8) to earth (v12).  Since Satan is represented as accusing “our brethren … before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:10), his being “thrown down” (v9) from heaven (v8) implies that the cross of Christ made it impossible for him to further accuse “our brethren”.  The analysis of Revelation 12 concludes that this victory was won through “her child“ (Christ), when He “was caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev. 12:5).

For the following reasons it is therefore proposed that God reconciled His enemies with Himself by changing the minds of His enemies by providing evidence:

  • Christ’s death is said to be a “public display” (Col. 2:15; Rom. 3:25-26).
  • Christ’s death is said to be a demonstration of God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:25-26).
  • Christ’s death is said to have made an end to Satan’s ability to accuse “our brethren” (Rev. 12:8-10). As stated by Colossians 2:15, the cross “disarmed the rulers and authorities”.

To combine these thoughts: by accusing “our brethren”, Satan was actually accusing God of injustice for forgiving (justifying) “our brethren”.  Somehow the public display and demonstration of both Christ and the “rulers and authorities” through the cross made it impossible for Satan to further accuse “our brethren” because it has been shown the justice of God.  In other words, Satan’s arguments were proven false by the public demonstration of the cross.

To take this idea further, we need to ask what Christ’s death revealed of Christ, of God and of Satan.  This will not be discussed now.

If the cross made peace, why are we still involved in the war?  In the words of Revelation, peace came to heaven when Satan was cast out of heaven, but he was given more time on earth (12:9-12).  Why?  This issue is addressed in the discussion of the seals in Revelation.

The intelligent beings in the heaven also needed the evidence provided by the cross.

This brings us to the perhaps surprising conclusion that the intelligent beings in the heaven also needed the evidence provided by the cross.  The war that is started in heaven is ended on earth.  The struggle that you and I are involved in, has cosmic implications.

God forgives completely.

Lastly, the Colossian Christians were reconciled “to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (1:22).  As verse 23 indicates, this must still happen.  But the point here is that God will not hold the sins of His people against them.  God is the great Physician.  He wants to heal us of a deadly cancer.  Yes, our evil deeds are aggression against Him, but once we are healed from this cancer He will not hold it against us.

Atonement

Another way in which the Bible expresses the “reconcile”-concept is “make atonement”, as indicated by the following definition of “atonement”:

Atonement: reconciliation … specifically the reconciliation between God and humanity effected by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  … The New Testament rarely uses a word for atonement. The basic Greek word is katallasso, usually translated “to reconcile”.  The basic meaning is to establish friendship. (Holman Bible dictionary)

The original meaning of “atonement” is “at-one-ment”, which means to be “at-one”, which means to be reconciled.  That is what “atonement” meant when the Bible was first translated into English.  In the Bible it is God, because He loves us, that sent His Son (“the Lamb of God”-John 1:29) to bring His people back to Him (John 3:16).  But the forensic doctrine of salvation caused the meaning of “atonement” to change over the centuries.  The forensic doctrine of salvation teaches that somebody must pay for sins committed.  This doctrine presents God as angry and the death of Christ as a sacrifice to pacify God.  Therefore “atonement” has today come to mean “reparation for an offence or injury” (Merriam-Webster).

But that is not how we should understand the purpose of Christ’s death.  It is not God that must change.  The blood of the Cross did not change how the Father feels about sinners.  The opposite is rather true, namely that the blood of Christ was the means by which the Father changed the hearts and minds of His creatures; to be reconciled to Himself (1:20).  It is us that must change.  It is not God that is angry; it is His creatures that are “hostile in mind” (1:21).  In the Bible God is never reconciled to us.  The current verses (Col. 1:20-22) indicate that God, through Christ, reconciled all things “to Himself” (1:20).  And in Romans 5:10 we read:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5:10).

Colossians Table of Contents

Next: Colossians 1:23-28 The mystery hidden from the past ages

 

Colossians 1:15-19 – The image of the invisible God, the beginning, all the fullness dwell in Him

Summary: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  Christ created the heavens and the earth and everything in them and He continues to hold all things together. Christ is the answer to the Colossian deception:

The deception claimed to have special knowledge, but “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” abides in Christ.

The deception claimed to have received special guidance from supernatural rulers or authorities, but Christ created all “rulers or authorities”.

Col. 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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–all things have been created through Him and for Him. 1:17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 1:19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,

In the previous verses the focus was on the Father, but verses 13 and 14 shifted the focus to Christ as God’s Means of redemption.  The current verses continue to focus on Christ, explaining Who He is.

Image of the invisible God (1:15)

God is invisible.  Unless God reveals Himself in some way, our senses do not allow us to perceive Him.  But Christ is the Father’s visible image (1:15).  Christ is God’s visible face and the God’s audible voice: He is the Word of God (John 1:1).

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9)

Firstborn of all creation For by Him all things were created (1:15-16)

It is impossible for man to understand God.  God is infinite, and infinity is something which man cannot comprehend.  God has no beginning and no end.  God is not subject to time because He created time.  One cannot say that God existed before time because there is no such thing as time before time.  This physical universe is also infinite.  We can travel in any direction and will never find an end.  Scientists estimate the age of the universe as 15 thousand million years, but the Energy which was converted into this physical universe must have existed already (E=MC2). These are things we simply do not understand.  It would be inappropriate for us to speculate about these things.  Let as rather focus on what we can understand, namely that “by him all things were created” (vss. 15, 16), which requires that “He is before all things” (1:17).  That is the meaning of the word “For” with which 1:16 starts.  Christ was that beginning (1:18) of the universe:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2).

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Rev. 22:13).

Some understand from the phrase “firstborn of all creation” that Christ is a created being.  It is preferred to say here that Christ was the first to appear in this physical universe.  He was that immense energy that shocked this entire universe into existence.  We cannot say that He existed before that time because there was no time before that moment.  Time only started at that moment.  What we can say is that that Energy did exist at that moment.  More than that is impossible for the human mind to comprehend.

An alternative is to understand the word “firstborn” not as the first in time, but the first in importance.  The Old Testament does use the word in that sense as well.  For instance, talking about David, it is said:

I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:27).

All things have been created through Him (1:16)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1).

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).

The word “us” is consistent with the idea that everything is created by the power of the Father, but through Christ.  Man, as the highest creation on this planet, has been made in God’s likeness.  That is a wonderful privilege; and what tragedy it is what we have become.

All things have been created … for Him (1:16)

He will always be part and King of this physical universe.  The Father “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (1:13).  His “kingdom … will never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44).

Rulers or authorities” (1:16)

Even “invisible” (1:16) rulers or authorities, are a particular emphasis in the letter to the Colossians (2:15), which implies that “rulers or authorities” are an important part of the deception in Colossae.

In Him all things hold together (1:17)

All things hold together
All things hold together

He is the Power that holds atoms together.  All things will disintegrate should He withdraw His protective power for a moment.

The wrath of God is not that He would punish sinners; He simply discontinues His loving protection.  Three time in Romans 1 it is said that the “wrath of God” on all “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18) is to give them over.  They are given over “in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (1:24), “to  degrading passions” (Rom. 1:26) and “to a depraved mind” (Rom. 1:28)

Firstborn from the dead (1:18)

Firstborn from the dead
Firstborn from the dead

He is the “firstborn” “of all creation” (1:15) as well as the “firstborn from the dead” (1:18).  He was not the first to be raised from death, but the first in importance.  Other people were raised from death before Him, but their resurrection from death would have been in vain if He was not raised from death (Rom. 3:25).  The church today emphasizes Christ’s death, but the Bible emphasises His resurrection even more.

All the fullness to dwell in Him (1:19)

Many other wonderful things are said here about Christ; things we only dimly understand, because God is infinite.  Even after living hundreds of thousands of millions of years in His kingdom, there will always be an infinite difference between God and us.  But what we can clearly understand is that God loves us; so much that He was willing to die for sinners.  To the evidence of His love we must cling so that we may place our faith and trust fully in Him.

Deception (2:8)

The emphasis placed on Christ in these verses is unique in Paul’s letters.  Colossians contains Paul’s strongest emphasis on the person of the Redeemer.  As already mentioned, the interpretation in this commentary is based on the assumption that the points that Paul emphasizes, compared to his other letters, are indications of the nature of the “deception” (2:8) in Colossae.  Therefore, the emphasis on the person of Christ is taken to indicate that He is the answer to the .  The Colossian deception claimed to have special knowledge (1:9-10; 2:3) , but “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” abides in Christ (2:3).  The Colossian deception claimed to have received special guidance from supernatural rulers or authorities (1:16), but Christ created all “rulers or authorities” (1:16).

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