In the first section (vv 1-14), Paul emphasizes the truth of the gospel of Christ, and its power to produce spiritual fruitfulness in us which is pleasing to God. The second section (vv 15-19) highlights the supremacy of Christ in every realm; the following section (vv 20-23) declares His sufficiency as Savior to present us holy and blameless before God. The final section (vv 24-29) focuses upon His work in and through His servants toward His Body, with the goal of presenting each one “perfect in Christ Jesus” (v 28).
1:1-14 The Gospel Of Christ: Fruit Of Salvation
“In Christ … at Colosse” (v 2) captures the conflict of Christian experience – caught between two worlds. Divine grace and peace sustain us. Faith, love, and hope are linked together as the primary elements of spiritual life, and the key to spiritual development (vv 3-8). Christ is present when His gospel is declared. When the message is received, He is received. We are “begotten again” into a new life, having His own character. Christ is in us, and His life is reproduced in us. Contemplation of our hope will lead to further development of faith toward our Lord, and deepening love toward fellow saints. We share the same prospect; we will be glorified together with the Lord Jesus in heaven. In view of this, Paul’s intercession for the saints is that we might be filled with wisdom and understanding of His will (v9), which centers upon Christ pre-eminent in all things (v 19), and His fulness bringing us to final perfection (v 27). Christ pre-eminent in our lives enables us to “walk worthy of the Lord” (v 10). The following four elements describe a life that pleases Him: being fruitful in active goodness, increasing in knowledge of God, strengthened to endure and suffer long joyfully, and being thankful to the Father (vv 10-12). Already we have been fitted to share His great inheritance; already rescued from Satan’s jurisdiction and transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son, by Whom we have been redeemed – our sins already forgiven, so that we might experience His gracious favor forever (vv 12-14)!
1:15-19 The Glory Of Christ: Absolutely Supreme
“Who is this King of glory” (Ps 24:8)? In the context of the beloved Son as both Sovereign and Savior in the preceding verses, the main thrust of his declaration relates to Christ’s present glorified manhood, and embraces His relation to God, to creation, and to the new creation, especially the Church. “Image of the invisible God” (v 15) is a key concept expressing man’s special relation to God – made after the pattern of God Himself, a visible, physical representation of the invisible Creator and Sovereign (Gen 1:26; 1 Cor 11:7). Associated terms such as ‘”likeness” and “glory,” express manifestation as well. We were designed to represent and reveal His loving care, justice, generous provision, faithfulness, goodness, along with His authority and creative abilities in management of the creation placed under our jurisdiction. “Image” may also describe essential nature, actual substance or being (Heb 10:1). In this sense, only Christ in His glorified manhood, is the very image of God, possessing the exact substance, the essential being of God.
“Firstborn of all creation” (v 15): priority of rank, rather than time, is emphasized. Christ is the Creator of “all things” including the spiritual realm, and the ultimate reason for creation’s existence. From the smallest particle of matter to the greatest galaxy, and every element of command and control in both the physical and spiritual realms – all have been caused, and are being controlled and sustained by Him. “In Him … through Him … for Him” (v 16) attributes infinite creative wisdom and power, and ultimate creative purpose to Christ, in full equality with the Father.
In resurrection, Christ manifests His absolute supremacy and saving fulness as Firstborn from the dead, and Originator of a new creation, as its unfailing foundation and infallible Head (v 18). The Church possesses a unique relationship as His body and will be manifested with Him in glory when He asserts His kingdom rule in the visible realm (3:4). He must become pre-eminent in every realm. In Him reside all the fullness of deity and the all-sufficiency as Savior to reconcile all things back to God (v 19).
1:20-23 The Work of Christ: All-Sufficient To Save
God could have righteously crushed all rebellion, but He has chosen to be the Peacemaker, upholding His righteousness at the cost of the death of His beloved Son, to reconcile all things to Himself. Every realm of creation will be brought back into harmony with God, fit for His manifested presence (v 20). Each believer in Christ will be presented before Him with a perfect absence of evil by virtue of His accomplished reconciliation at the cross. Paul appeals to the saints to remain firmly on this glorious foundation and “true hope of the gospel,” of eternal blessedness and perfection in a creation redeemed and reconciled to God through Christ (vv 21-23).
1:24-29 The Body Of Christ: Focus Of Service
His glorious accomplishment of reconciliation through suffering in His physical body, has a vital counterpart in His unfinished work and suffering in and through His servants on behalf of His mystical body, the Church. Paul rejoices in his experience of suffering for the saints, realizing it is Christ in him Who is the object of the hatred (v 24). The greatest divine secret has been committed to him, now to be communicated freely to all the saints – “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (vv 25-27). Paul’s ministry should also be our pattern: Christ in all His wonderful fulness, producing genuine spiritual growth. We must counsel and instruct each one, in the great truths of Christ and our relationship to Him, with the ultimate goal of being able to present each one to Him, fully developed in His fragrant beauties (v 28). Are we fulfilling His work through us (v 29)?