Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Colossians 1:15 - 1:20

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Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Colossians 1:15 - 1:20

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

The Work of the exalted Christ through the Medium of the Ministry.

Jesus Christ all in all:

v. 15. Who is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of every creature;

v. 16. for by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him.

v. 17. And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.

v. 18. And he is the Head of the body, the Church; who is the Beginning, the First-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

v. 19. For it pleased the father that in Him should all fullness dwell;

v. 20. and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.

This passage is one of the most wonderful and comprehensive in the entire New Testament, for the apostle has crowded into these few sentences almost the entire doctrine of Christ's person and office. Of Jesus Christ, whose work of redemption he has just described in its chief parts, the apostle says: Who is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of the entire creation. God's essence is such as to place Him beyond the senses of man; no man has seen nor can see Him, 1Ti_6:16; 1Jn_4:12; Joh_1:18. But God had resolved to reveal Himself to mankind in Jesus Christ, His Son, as His image, in and through whom we can see the Father, Joh_14:7-10; 1Jn_1:1-3. In Jesus Christ the invisible, the unknowable God is both seen and known to us, in Him God has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2Co_4:6. in Him, who is the eternal and living and personal image of the Father, of the same essence with the Father, the eternal love, the gracious and merciful essence of the Father, has been manifested to men. Jesus is incidentally the Firstborn of all creation; He is before them and above them in time as well as in rank, He is superior to all creatures, Heb_1:6. Luther is right in stating that to be called the first-born in this connection is to be termed true God.

Just how much is included in these words the apostle shows in the following: For in Him was created everything in the heavens and upon the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; everything through Him and for Him is created, and Himself is before all, and in Him all things subsist. The entire creation rested in the creative power of the Son of God from eternity; the entire counsel of God with regard to the creation of the world was put into execution by Him. Everything, the whole universe with all that it contains, was brought into being by His creative power, the creatures in the heavens, the angels, as well as those on earth, both the organic and inorganic creatures, with man as their glory and crown. Or, to classify these creatures according to their essence and manner of being: to Christ's creative sphere belong the invisible creatures as well as the visible. The apostle enumerates some of the invisible creatures, the spirits: thrones and lordships and principalities and powers, both the good and the fallen angels being included. See Eph_1:21; Eph_3:10. Whether special ranks or orders of angels must be distinguished, cannot be determined from this passage; the apostle seems rather to have the object to bring out the great power of the spirits, which yet is not to be compared with the almighty, creative power of the Son of God. Therefore He summarizes once more that all things, with not a single exception, through Him, through His omnipotence, and for Him, dependent upon Him, for His glory, are created. He is also said to be the possessor of eternity: He is before all things, He was in existence before a single creature had life and being. He is Providence: all things, the entire universe, exist in Him, hold together through His providential power. He keeps all creatures in their proper place and in the right relation toward one another: He sustains the world in all its parts. Christ is thus the Creator of the world, the Preserver of the world, true God with the Father from eternity.

The apostle now describes the relation of the Mediator to the Church: And He is the Head of the body, of the Church, who is the Beginning, the First-born from the dead, in order that He Himself might become preeminent among all. Since Christ has brought about the cleansing of our sins through Himself, since the Father has rescued us from the rule of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son, since we have in Him the redemption through His blood, we now belong to His Church, the kingdom of Christ. The Church is the body of Christ, who is the Head. See Eph_1:23; 1Co_12:27; Eph_5:23. By their fellowship with Christ, by their union in Christ, all the believers, as members together of the body of which He is the Head, are partakers of all the blessings and glories which pertain to Him in His capacity as the eternal Son of God. He is the Beginning: without Him the Church could not exist, could not have come into being. He is the First-born out of the dead, from among the dead. Both according to time and in rank He is the first in the resurrection of the dead: He is the cause of the resurrection of the dead; through His righteousness justification of life is come upon all men, Rom_5:18; He is the First-born among many brethren, Rom_8:29; 1Co_15:20. Among all men, among all creatures, He is preeminent, supreme; that is the result of His resurrection from the dead, of His exaltation on high.

The apostle rises to ever greater heights of sustained eloquence: Because in Him it was the good pleasure that all fullness should dwell. This is the climax of the thought. Christ is the first before all creatures; Christ is the first in the redeemed congregation; Christ is the first in the resurrection and in the subsequent glory. He is the Ruler in the Kingdom of Power; He is the Ruler in the Kingdom of Grace; He is the Ruler in the Kingdom of Glory. So Christ is the vessel in which is contained, in which dwells, the fullness of all the divine counsels for creation and humanity; through Him the fullness of all divine thoughts should be expressed, so that His superiority, His preeminence, might be unquestioned in time and eternity. The thought is almost the same as in chap. 2:9.

Not only, however, is the supremacy of Christ emphasized, but also the dependence of the believers upon His work: And that through Him (Christ) everything be reconciled to Him (God the Father), He having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, whether things on earth or things in the heavens. This was also God's good pleasure. The apostle evidently does not refer only to the reconciliation which was made through the death of Christ, by which fallen mankind was brought back into the right relation with God. The statement is too broad for that. The culmination of Christ's work, in His state of exaltation, will be to remove the estrangement which exists ever since the evil angels first revolted against the government of God, to effect the reconciliation by which the sum total of all created things shall be restored to its primal harmony with the Creator. See Rom_8:21. The connection of thought, therefore, is this: By the fact that God reconciled us to Himself through the blood of Christ He brought about an adjustment of the relations which were thrown out of alignment by the first revolt, and this will finally result in bringing about harmony and unity between heaven and earth. Not only all those that confess the exalted Christ have entered into this state of proper relation with God, but all creatures that are now groaning under the effects of sin will finally, through the power of the exalted Christ, be delivered from their bondage, thus bringing about the union of heaven and earth, while hell with its occupants will be shut out forever from this glorious reconciliation. All this has resulted and will result from the fact that God has made peace through the blood of His Son's cross. When Christ was nailed to the accursed tree of the cross, it was in punishment for the sins of the world. But at the same time the shedding of His holy, innocent blood atoned for our transgressions, turned the heart of the Father back to us through our Substitute, and changed the state of warfare existing between the holy, righteous God and the sinful world to one of perfect peace. As a consequence of this sacrifice of atonement the union between God and the believers will be perfect and happy throughout all eternity.