15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 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. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 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.
21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 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— 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. ~Colossians 1:15-23
“This is one of the great Christological passages of the NT, declaring as it does our Lord’s divine essence, pre-existence, and creative agency. Yet, high as the Christology is, it does not appear to be original to Paul himself; but rather part of what he “received” as primitive Christian teaching.”—F.F. Bruce.
Bruce makes the point that dominates most scholars thinking about this passage and its relation to John 1:1-4 and Hebrews 1:2-4, namely that these passages of Scripture are derivative from a “Christological Hymn” or poem written in the early days of the Church and probably recited or sung.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
“And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. 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 by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
“In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high;”
Bruce, noting the similarities between Col. 1:15-17, John 1:1-4 and Hebrews 1:2-4, says:
“All three passages have an OT background, which is seen especially in Prov. 8:22ff., where Divine Wisdom, personified, claims to have been with the Almighty at the beginning of His ways and to have been His assessor, if not His agent, in the work of creation.”—Bruce, NICNT, p. 192.
“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. … When He marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was beside Him, as a master workman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him …”
—Proverbs 8:22-23, 29c-30
Let’s note the things being said in this poem/hymn about Christ:
- Christ is the visible image of the invisible God
- Christ his Preeminence (firstborn/overall authority) of all creation
- Christ is the beginning of all Creation: things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities
- Christ is the active agent of Creation through Whom everything is created
- Christ is the end for and goal for which is everything is created
- Christ is the Center Who is Before all things in Creation and now holds all things together in Creation
- Christ is the Head of the Body which is His Church
- Christ is the Beginning of the Church the preeminent (firstborn/overall authority) of the dead/resurrected
- Christ has first place in everything for it is the Father’s good pleasure for the fulness to dwell in Him
- Christ is the Reconciler to Himself through the blood of His cross of things on earth and heaven.
And now, after all of that, Christ turns to us, this towering Christ turns and says “although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind to Me, engaged in evil deeds, yet I have now reconciled you in My body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.”