Colossians 1:15
Parallel Verses
New American Standard Bible
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

King James Bible
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Darby Bible Translation
who is image of the invisible God, firstborn of all creation;

World English Bible
who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Young's Literal Translation
who is the image of the invisible God, first-born of all creation,

Colossians 1:15 Parallel
Commentary
Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Who is the image of the invisible God - εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου eikōn tou Theou tou aoratou. The objects. here, as it is in the parallel place in Ephesians 1:20-23, is to give a just view of the exaltation of the Redeemer. It is probable that, in both cases, the design is to meet some erroneous opinion on this subject that prevailed in those churches, or among those that claimed to be teachers there. See the Introduction to this Epistle, and compare the notes at Ephesians 1:20-23. For the meaning of the phrase occurring here, "the image of the invisible God," see the Hebrews 1:3, note, and 2 Corinthians 4:4, note. The meaning is, that he represents to mankind the perfections of God, as an image, figure, or drawing does the object which it is made to resemble. See the word "image" - εἰκὼν eikōn - explained in the notes at Hebrews 10:1. It properly denotes that which is a copy or delineation of a thing; which accurately and fully represents it, in contradistinction from a rough sketch, or outline; compare Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Corinthians 15:49.

The meaning here is, that the being and perfections of God are accurately and fully represented by Christ. In what respects particularly he was thus a representative of God, the apostle proceeds to state in the following verses, to wit, in his creative power, in his eternal existence, in his heirship over the universe, in the fulness that dwelt in him. This cannot refer to him merely as incarnate, for some of the things affirmed of him pertained to him before his incarnation; and the idea is, that in all things Christ fairly represents to us the divine nature and perfections. God is manifest to us through him; 1 Timothy 3:16. We see God in him as we see an object in that which is in all respects an exact copy of it. God is invisible. No eye has seen him, or can see him; but in what Christ is, and has done in the works of creation and redemption, we have a fair and full representation of what God is; see the notes at John 1:18; John 14:9, note.

The first-born of every creature - Among all the creatures of God, or over all his creation, occupying the rank and pro-eminence of the first-born. The first-born, or the oldest son, among the Hebrews as elsewhere, had special privileges. He was entitled to a double portion of the inheritance. It has been, also, and especially in oriental countries, a common thing for the oldest son to succeed to the estate and the title of his father. In early times, the first-born son was the officiating priest in the family, in the absence or on the death of the father. There can be no doubt that the apostle here has reference to the usual distinctions and honors conferred on the first-born, and means to say that, among all the creatures of God, Christ occupied a pre-eminence similar to that. He does not say that, in all respects, he resembled the first-born in a family; nor does he say that he himself was a creature, for the point of his comparison does not turn on these things, and what he proceeds to affirm respecting him is inconsistent with the idea of his being a created being himself.

He that "created all things that are in heaven and that are in earth," was not himself created. That the apostle did not mean to represent him as a creature, is also manifest from the reason which he assigns why he is called the first-born. "He is the image of God, and the first-born of every creature, for - ὅτι hoti - by him were all things created." That is, he sustains the elevated rank of the first-born, or a high eminence over the creation, because by him "all things were created in heaven and in earth." The language used here, also, does not fairly imply that he was a creature, or that he was in nature and rank one of those in relation to whom it is said he was the first-born. It is true that the word "first-born" - πρωτότοκος prōtotokos - properly means the first-born child of a father or mother, Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:7; or the first-born of animals. But two things are also to be remarked in regard to the use of the word:

(1) It does not necessarily imply that anyone is born afterward in the family, for it would be used of the first-born, though an only child; and,

(2) it is used to denote one who is chief, or who is highly distinguished and pre-eminent. Thus, it is employed in Romans 8:29, "That he might be the first-born among many brethren." So, in Colossians 1:18, it is said that he was "the first-born from the dead;" not that he was literally the first that was raised from the dead, which was not the fact, but that he might be pre-eminent among those that are raised; compare Exodus 4:22. The meaning, then, is, that Christ sustains the most exalted rank in the universe; he is pre-eminent above all others; he is at the head of all things. The expression does not mean that he was "begotten before all creatures," as it is often explained, but refers to the simple fact that he sustains the highest rank over the creation. He is the Son of God. He is the heir of all things. All other creatures are also the "offspring of God;" but he is exalted as the Son of God above all.

(This clause has been variously explained. The most commonly received, and, as we think, best supported opinion, is that which renders πρωτοτοκος πασης κτισεως prōtotokos pasēs ktiseōs; "begotten before all creation." This most natural and obvious sense would have been more readily admitted, had it not been supposed hostile to certain views on the sonship of Christ. Some explain πρωτότοκος prōtotokos actively, and render "first begetter or producer of all things," which gives, at all events, a sense consistent with truth and with the context, which immediately assigns as the reason of Christ being styled πρωτότοκος prōtotokos, the clause beginning ὁτι εν αυτω εκτισθη hoti en autō ektisthē, "For by him were all things created." Others, with the author explain the word figuratively, of pre-eminence or lordship. To this view however, there are serious objections.

It seems not supported by sufficient evidence. No argument can be drawn from Colossians 1:18 until it is proved that "firstborn from the dead," does not mean the first that was raised to die no more, which Doddridge affirms to be "the easiest, surest, most natural sense, in which the best commentators are agreed." Nor is the argument from Romans 8:29 satisfactory. "Πρωτότοκος Prōtotokos," says Bloomfield, at the close of an admirable note on this verse, "is not well taken by Whitby and others, in a figurative sense, to denote 'Lord of all things, since the word is never so used, except in reference to primogeniture. And although, in Romans 8:29, we have τον ρωτοτοκος εν πολλοις αδελφοις ton prōtotokos en pollois adelphois, yet there his followers are represented not as his creatures, but as his brethren. On which, and other accounts, the interpretation, according to which we have here a strong testimony to the eternal filiation of our Saviour is greatly preferable; and it is clear that Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18 are illustrative of the nature, as Colossians 1:16-17 are an evidence of the pre-existence and divinity of Christ.")

Colossians 1:15 Parallel Commentaries

Library
Twenty Fourth Sunday after Trinity Prayer and Spiritual Knowledge.
Text: Colossians 1, 3-14. 3 We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have toward all the saints, 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which is come unto you; even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing, as it doth in you also, since the day ye heard and knew the grace of God
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. III

Saints, Believers, Brethren
' . . . The saints and faithful brethren in Christ.'--COL. i. 2. 'The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch,' says the Acts of the Apostles. It was a name given by outsiders, and like most of the instances where a sect, or school, or party is labelled with the name of its founder, it was given in scorn. It hit and yet missed its mark. The early believers were Christians, that is, Christ's men, but they were not merely a group of followers of a man, like many other groups of whom the
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Victory Found
AT THE close of this little volume it seems fitting to recount again a wonderful personal experience, narrated in The Sunday School Times of December 7, 1918. I do not remember the time when I did not have in some degree a love for the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour. When not quite twelve years of age, at a revival meeting, I publicly accepted and confessed Christ as my Lord and Master. From that time there grew up in my heart a deep yearning to know Christ in a more real way, for he seemed so unreal,
Rosalind Goforth—How I Know God Answers Prayer

section 3
But we will go back from this glimpse of God's ultimate purpose for us, to watch the process by which it is reached, so far as we can trace it in the ripening of the little annuals. The figure will not give us all the steps by which God gets His way in the intricacies of a human soul: we shall see no hint in it of the cleansing and filling that is needed in sinful man before he can follow the path of the plant. It shows us some of the Divine principles of the new life rather than a set sequence of
I. Lilias Trotter—Parables of the Christ-life

Cross References
Psalm 89:27
"I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.

John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:18
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

John 14:9
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 '?

Romans 8:29
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

2 Corinthians 4:4
in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

1 Timothy 1:17
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

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