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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE COLOSSIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 15

Verse 15. Who is the image of the invisible God. eikwn tou yeou tou aoratou. The object here, as it is in the parallel place in Eph 1:20-23, is to give a just view of the exaltation of the Redeemer. It is probable that, in both cases, the design is to meet some erroneous opinion on this subject that prevailed in those churches, or among those that claimed to be teachers there. See the Introduction to this epistle, and See Barnes "Eph 1:20"

and Eph 1:20-23. For the meaning of the phrase occurring here, "the image of the invisible God," See Barnes "Heb 1:3, See Barnes "2 Co 4:4".

The meaning is, that he represents to mankind the perfections of God, as an image, figure, or drawing does the object which it is made to resemble. See the word imageeikwn—explained See Barnes "Heb 10:1".

It properly denotes that which is a copy or delineation of a thing; which accurately and fully represents it, in contradistinction from a rough sketch, or outline. Comp. Ro 8:29; 1 Co 11:7; 15:49. The meaning here is, that the being and perfections of God are accurately and fully represented by Christ. what respects particularly he was thus a representative of God, the apostle proceeds to state in the following verses; to wit, in his creative power, in his eternal existence, in his heirship over the universe, in the fulness that dwelt in him. This cannot refer to him merely as incarnate, for some of the things affirmed of him pertained to him before his incarnation; and the idea is, that in all things Christ fairly represents to us the Divine nature and perfections. God is manifest to us through him,

@1 Ti 3:16.

We see God in him, as we see an object in that which is in all respects an exact copy of it. God is invisible. No eye has seen him, or can see him; but in what Christ is, and has done in the works of creation and redemption, we have a fair and full representation of what God is. See Barnes "Joh 1:18"; See Barnes "Joh 14:9".

 

The firstborn of every creature. Among all the creatures of God, or over all his creation, occupying the rank and pre-eminence of the firstborn. The first-born, or the eldest son, among the Hebrews as elsewhere, had peculiar privileges. He was entitled to a double portion of the inheritance. It has been, also, and especially in Oriental countries, a common thing for the eldest son to succeed to the estate and the title of his father. In early times, the firstborn son was the officiating priest in the family, in the absence or on the death of the father. There can be no doubt that the apostle here has reference to the usual distinctions and honours conferred on the firstborn, and means to say, that, among all the creatures of God, Christ occupied a pre-eminence similar to that. He does not say, that in all respects, he resembled the firstborn in a family; nor does he say that he himself was a creature, for the point of his comparison does not turn on these things, and what he proceeds to affirm respecting him is inconsistent with the idea of his being a created Being himself. He that "created all things that are in heaven and that are in earth" was not himself created. That the apostle did not mean to represent him as a creature is also manifest from the reason which he assigns why he is called the firstborn. "He is the image of God, and the firstborn of every creature, for oti by him were all things created." That is, he sustains the elevated rank of the firstborn, or a high eminence over the creation, because by him "all things were created in heaven and in earth." The language here used, also, does not fairly imply that he was a creature, or that he was, in nature and rank, one of those in relation to whom it is said he was the firstborn. It is true that the word firstborn— prwtotokov —properly means the firstborn child of a father or mother, Mt 1:25; Lu 2:7; or the firstborn of animals. But two things are also to be remarked in regard to the use of the word:

(1.) It does not necessarily imply that any one is born afterwards in the family, for it would be used of the firstborn, though an only child; and

(2) it is used to denote one who is chief, or who is highly distinguished and pre-eminent. Thus it is employed in Ro 8:29, "That he might be the firstborn among many brethren." So, in Col 1:18, it is said that he was "the firstborn from the dead;" not that he was literally the first that was raised from the dead, which was not the fact, but that he might be pre-eminent among those that are raised. Comp. Ex 4:22. The meaning then is, that Christ sustains the most exalted rank in the universe; he is pre-eminent above all others; he is at the head of all things. The expression does not mean that he was "begotten before all creatures," as it is often explained, but refers to the simple fact that he sustains the highest rank over the creation. He is the Son of God. He is the heir of all things. All other creatures are also the "offspring of God;" but he is exalted as the Son of God above all.

{c} "image of the" Heb 1:3 {*} "creature" "The chief of all the creation"

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