Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
The apostle, having in his prayer pleaded for the Colossians that they may be worthy members of the kingdom of Christ, proceeds to speak of the glories which belong to their King. His purpose, like that of every true preacher, is to make Christ pre-eminent. The central thought of the passage is that God is invisible, but Christ is the visible Manifestation of the Father's perfections. In him as the perfect "Image" we may "see God."
I. JESUS AS THE GLORIOUS CREATOR REVEALED THE MIND OF GOD. (Vers. 15, 16.) We are apt to think of Christ's revelation of the Godhead solely in his incarnation. Doubtless it was the climax of the "exegesis" of the invisible God (cf. John 1:18, ἐξηγήσατο). But there were previous revelations, and this is Paul's idea here that creation is a revelation of God through the power of. Christ. Now, one thing is certain about the creation, that it addresses itself to mind. If men imagined it was thoughtless, they would not spend two minutes more in its investigation. All science proceeds on the postulate of creation being thinkable, intelligible, an appeal to mind. If creation, then, embodies thought, we have further to notice that it is thought of the same order as human thought. After all the weary investigation, therefore, which tries to blink the fact of creation being a revelation of God, we are reduced in the last analysis exactly to this idea. Of course, we have not succeeded in interpreting the revelation in nature with either accuracy or fulness; but every year's honest work carries us on towards the fuller understanding of the Divine Thinker who speaks to his creatures in all the work of his hands. The fascination of science lies in the fact that a deeper Thinker than any of the investigators is behind the work, and is calling for interpreters. The wonderful creation is from end to end, in heaven above and in earth beneath, Christ's exposition of the mind of God.
II. HISTORY IS ALSO AN EXPOSITION BY CHRIST OF THE DIVINE MIND. (Ver. 17.) For not only did Christ as Creator give the system a start, but as the Upholder of the system he makes it a continuous revelation. The philosophy of history lies in the assurance of the great procession of facts being under the constant control and direction of Divinity. Of course, as in the former case of the interpretation of nature, we may be and are very far from a full grasp of the significance of history. Yet undoubtedly a reverential study of the course of events brings us daily nearer the understanding of the whole. It adds to our interest to take with us this assurance - that Jesus Christ is at the back of all being, upholding it, sustaining the system, and reducing it to an orderly exposition of the Divine thought. Amid the apparently chaotic course of events, in consequence of the freedom and frailty of the creature, there is the really orderly procession of the whole towards that "one Divine event to which the whole creation moves."
III. CHRIST'S ECCLESIASTICAL HEADSHIP IS A FURTHER REVELATION OF GOD. (Ver. 18.) For not only has Christ been Creator, not only has he been and is the Preserver of the system, but he has also been constituted Head of a special class of beings, united in what is called "the Church." Many of his creatures do not recognize either him or his relations to the universe. They act as if he were not, and his control of them is without their leave and in spite oftentimes of their opposition. But others happily have come to recognize him as Lord of all, and consequently of themselves as well. Believers in him, adorers of him, they have learned to look on life as simply a longer or shorter opportunity of doing his will or of suffering" his good pleasure." And as Christ comes lute tenderer and closer relations to the believers of the world than he can come into towards the unbelievers, he is as closely bound to his believing people as the ruling and sovereign "head" is to the subject and obedient "members "of the one body. And this headship of Christ is a revelation unto men of the mind of God. Of course, in this case, as in the previous cases, there is only an approximation to the understanding of God's mind and will as thus revealed. But we are progressing steadily towards the ideal of perfect light and perfect submission. The Churches may but imperfectly grasp what God in Christ means; they may be very wayward and arbitrary in many of their interpretations; but the desire to know and obey Christ brings them along the line of privilege and duty with increasing appreciation and success.
IV. IS CHRIST'S RECONCILIATION OF ALL THINGS UNTO GOD HE FURTHER REVEALS TO THE UNIVERSE THE MIND OF GOD. (Vers. 18-20.) Now, just as philosophy is the reduction of the multiform in fact to the uniform in idea, so is there in the system administered by Christ provision made for the reconciliation of all things to the Supreme, that the unity of all things may be the last thought of God. This is the meaning of the cross and the blood shed upon it, and all the redemptive system which centres around it. This is the purpose of Christ's resurrection to immortal life the first, that, as the pre-eminent One, he might gather in his embrace a reconciled universe and lay it at the Father's feet. Of course, the prerogative of creaturely freedom is such as to refuse the reconciliation and to crystallize into hostility in some sad cases. It would be contrary to the Divine plan to force the will and ride rough shod over the determinations of the creature. Some consequently, it would seem, are to be allowed to take their own course and remain incorrigible; yet in the unifying idea of God their discord, as in the music of the great masters, will be made to contribute to and to emphasize the general harmony. Meanwhile, how grand the idea is of the unity of all things! Surely we should not allow ourselves to conflict consciously with it in our dealings with men. We should back it up as the goal and far off Divine event to which all things are made to move. The blood of the cross cries really for the reconciliation of the universe to God. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: