9 August 2013

Colossians 1:15-20

"Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross." (v. 20)


This wonderful, awe-inspiring hymn, as part of Paul's letter to the Colossians, is introduced by reminding the readers that God has rescued them from the powers of darkness, and transferred them into the kingdom of Christ - redeeming them from whatever was before, and forgiving their sins. And, in a world of so many gods, so many lords, so many powers and authorities, all vying for attention and devotion (much like today), Paul slips in this song (which may have been already being passed around the young churches and used in worship - or may have been written by Paul himself) to present to them with the stature and supremacy of the one they worship. He's not just a 'god-among-equals'. There is no equal to the one they know as Jesus Christ. He is first.

There is no one higher than the one invisible creator God, but Jesus Christ is the "image" (v. 15) of God: less like the head on a Roman coin is an image of the emperor, and more like a stark and shining mirror image: when we look at Jesus, we see what God is like! This is a remarkable claim that leads some other respected religions to accuse Christianity of blasphemy, but it is one of the core beliefs of the faith echoed in many places in the New Testament including the words of Jesus in the Gospels (John 10:30-39; John 14:7-13; Hebrews 1:1-4; 1 John 5:20).

"He's the firstborn of all creation" (v. 15) "In the beginning was the Word," says John, "and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). When God said "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3), Jesus the Word was present already in relationship with the Father. He was the expression of God's divine will and creative love. John continued "All things came into being through him…." (John 1:3). And all of this is so hard to imagine when we consider God's son as 'just' a man, born of Mary, but the writers of the New Testament invite us to trust in the Word who spans all time and history, and beyond. Our faith is not just in a man of 33 years, with a wonderful legacy. Our faith is in this wonderful creative expression of God's grace and truth - whom we now call Jesus. "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father's only son…" (John 1:14). All of the authorities we bow down to, all of the governments who have ever ruled, and all of the spiritual powers we don't yet understand - they all fall under the lordship of God's firstborn Son - and all of this was created through him and for him.

He is the head of the Church, but not just the Church as we know it. Jesus is the firstborn of the new creation too. Because we might notice that for all the good Jesus has brought into the universe - in creation and salvation - the world is not as it should be. It's as if it's been infected with something else. But a new creation is happening according to God's saving plan, and Jesus is leading that too. And so, his resurrection heralds a new beginning, where death and sin will not have the final word: Jesus is the firstborn from the dead!

In all things, Jesus Christ is the first, the head, the all-time number one.

But this is not detached from humanity. It's not detached from the pain and shame we know. He's not the Lord despite all that is happening on earth. He is the fullness of God in our midst, inviting us into that reconciling relationship that transcends time and space, heaven and earth, and seeks to make peace, with each and every soul that would come near. The head of all history, the champion of the universe, holds out his hands to us and invites us to make peace. But not detached and proud like the kings and rulers we know: his hands once dripped with the blood of his loving sacrifice and even now bear the scars of his cross. And he is pleased to have done so that we, and all creation, could be reconciled to God.

To Ponder

  • Read through the words of this passage slowly reflecting on each line. Meditate and pray and ask God to open up your heart to the greatness and glory of Christ.
  • This passage is not about how to live, or how to be 'church', or how to please God. It's not about the things we worry about, or the things we discuss in our meetings. It's about the glory of our beautiful saviour. Paul, in his writings and work, was always focused on putting him first. What can we learn from him about getting our priorities right? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Murphy

Andrew Murphy is married to Emily and they have two children, Phoebe (aged 4) and Benjamin (aged 18 months). Andy is the superintendent minister of the Market Harborough Circuit (a small circuit in the south of Leicestershire, and over the border into Northants). Previously, Andy’s ministry was based in Barwell in the Hinckley Circuit for eight years. And before that, he trained at the Wesley Study Centre in Durham, close to his home-town of Consett. Andy has a passion to help God’s people grow in faith, and occasionally writes hymns, sketches and songs. Spare time includes trips to play parks, watching Disney films or Postman Pat, reading Mr Men books, visiting Middle Earth, and reminiscing over the good old days of supporting Newcastle United. In the picture, Andy is the one in blue (and the snowman’s name is Olaf)!