1:15 image. This is a clear affirmation of the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. Christ is whatever God is—spiritual, omnipotent, omniscient, holy—all the attributes of the eternal God. The word “image” (Greek eikon) conveys this meaning. Jesus Christ represents—indeed is—“very God of very God.” Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). God in His essence is invisible (John 1:18) but we see all His attributes in Christ.
1:15 firstborn. Christ is “the firstborn,” not in the sense that He ever came into existence from a prior condition of non-existence, but rather as eternally proceeding from the Father, the only begotten Son, always manifesting the Father. This truth can be called the doctrine of eternal generation. He is from eternity to eternity in relation to the Father as a Son. Some are sons of God by creation (e.g., angels; see Job 1:6), and we can become sons of God by adoption (e.g., Romans 8:14-15), but He is the Son, by eternal generation (or eternal relation) the only-begotten of the Father. He also has the right of inheritance of the firstborn (Hebrews 1:2) and is “the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18).
1:16 all things created. Jesus Christ certainly is not a created being—not even the first created being—as many have argued, for the obvious reason that He Himself is the Creator of all things in heaven and earth, material and spiritual, visible or invisible. Only God can create, and God did not create Himself! Note also John 1:1-3; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 1:2-3.
1:16 powers. The “thrones, dominions, principalities and powers” clearly are in reference to the spiritual creation of the vast host of heaven. The pagan world, whether of the ancient Greeks or of the modern New Agers, has always believed in angels, demons or spirit beings of various types and powers, and it is vital for us to understand that such beings do exist and can wield great influence in the visible world as well as the invisible. Even these, however, were created by Jesus Christ! Many have rebelled against Him, both men and angels, always justifying themselves by maintaining they are the products of some cosmic evolutionary process instead of creation by the eternal, transcendent God.
1:16 for him. All things were not only created by God in Christ, but also for Him (see also Romans 11:36; I Corinthians 15:28; Ephesians 1:10). We cannot comprehend all this now, but even the evil that God has allowed will somehow eventually redound to His glory (Romans 9:21-23).
1:17 before all things. Note the frequent occurrence in Colossians 1:16-20 of the words “all things” and “by Him” (or “in Him”). By Him all things were created in the past, by Him all things consist in the present, by Him all things are to be reconciled in the future. Therefore, in Him all fullness dwells. “Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things” (Romans 11:36). He is Alpha and Omega, all and in all.
1:17 consist. The Greek word translated “consist” is sunistano, from which we get “sustain.” The things created by Christ are now being sustained, or conserved, or held together, by Him. He is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). “In Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The most basic of all scientific principles is implied in these two verses (Colossians 1:16-17), that is, the principle of conservation of mass/energy, or “all things.” According to this principle, nothing is now being either created or annihilated—only conserved, as far as quantity is concerned. One state of matter can be changed to another (e.g., liquid to solid); one type of energy can be converted to another (e.g., electrical energy to light energy); and under some conditions, matter and energy can be interchanged (e.g., nuclear fission); but the total quantity of mass/energy is always conserved. This law—also called the First Law of Thermodynamics—is the best-proved law of science, but science cannot tell us why it is true. The reason nothing is now being created is because Christ created all things in the past. The reason why nothing is now being annihilated is because all things are now being sustained by Him. If it were not so, the “binding energy” of the atom, which holds its structure together, would collapse, and the whole universe would disintegrate into chaos.
1:20 made peace. Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). He did not say: “Blessed are the pacifists,” those who give in to evil just to avoid fighting for the right. But how does one make peace? God “made peace through the blood of His [i.e., Christ’s] cross.” Man has utterly alienated himself from His Maker by his rebellion against Him, and it took nothing less than His own Son’s atoning blood to reconcile sinful man to a holy God. Because of His shed blood, God in Christ can forgive sins and save sinners. Thus, Christ is the great Peacemaker between man and God. Before peace can truly prevail between man and man, there must be peace between man and God. But although God has now been reconciled to man, man still needs to be reconciled to God. Therefore, the best way Christians can be peacemakers on earth is to beseech men to be reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:20).
1:20 reconcile all things. Christ’s death on the cross not only paid the price for man’s redemption, but also for that of the whole universe. Because of sin, the creation is under the great curse, as it “groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:22), so it also must be reconciled to God. Again, note the past, present and future aspects of the work of Christ with respect to the entire universe. First, by Him all things were created. Note that creation was a completed work of the past (Genesis 2:1-3); He is not now creating anything, as theistic evolutionists would suppose. Whenever the Bible mentions the creation of the heaven and the earth, it is always in the past tense. Secondly, He is now conserving what He created. Finally, He will reconcile everything back to God. creation, conservation, consummation: that is the cosmic scope of the work of Christ.