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The Supremacy of Christ

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.

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15. They who have experienced in themselves "redemption" (Col 1:14), know Christ in the glorious character here described, as above the highest angels to whom the false teachers (Col 2:18) taught worship was to be paid. Paul describes Him: (1) in relation to God and creation (Col 1:15-17); (2) in relation to the Church (Col 1:18-20). As the former regards Him as the Creator (Col 1:15, 16) and the Sustainer (Col 1:17) of the natural world; so the latter, as the source and stay of the new moral creation.

image—exact likeness and perfect Representative. Adam was made "in the image of God" (Ge 1:27). But Christ, the second Adam, perfectly reflected visibly "the invisible God" (1Ti 1:17), whose glories the first Adam only in part represented. "Image" (eicon) involves "likeness" (homoiosis); but "likeness" does not involve "image." "Image" always supposes a prototype, which it not merely resembles, but from which it is drawn: the exact counterpart, as the reflection of the sun in the water: the child the living image of the parent. "Likeness" implies mere resemblance, not the exact counterpart and derivation as "image" expresses; hence it is nowhere applied to the Son, while "image" is here, compare 1Co 11:7 [Trench]. (Joh 1:18; 14:9; 2Co 4:4; 1Ti 3:16; Heb 1:3). Even before His incarnation He was the image of the invisible God, as the Word (Joh 1:1-3) by whom God created the worlds, and by whom God appeared to the patriarchs. Thus His essential character as always "the image of God," (1) before the incarnation, (2) in the days of His flesh, and (3) now in His glorified state, is, I think, contemplated here by the verb "is."

first-born of every creature—(Heb 1:6), "the first-begotten": "begotten of His Father before all worlds" [Nicene Creed]. Priority and superlative dignity is implied (Ps 89:27). English Version might seem to favor Arianism, as if Christ were a creature. Translate, "Begotten (literally, 'born') before every creature," as the context shows, which gives the reason why He is so designated. "For," &c. (Col 1:16, 17) [Trench]. This expression is understood by Origen (so far is the Greek from favoring Socinian or Arian views) as declaring the Godhead of Christ, and is used by Him as a phrase to mark that Godhead, in contrast with His manhood [Book 2, sec. Against Celsus]. The Greek does not strictly admit Alford's translation, "the first-born of all creation."

16. ForGreek, "Because." This gives the proof that He is not included in the things created, but is the "first-begotten" before "every creature" (Col 1:15), begotten as "the Son of God's love" (Col 1:13), antecedently to all other emanations: "for" all these other emanations came from Him, and whatever was created, was created by Him.

by him—rather as Greek, "in Him": as the conditional element, pre-existent and all-including: the creation of all things BY Him is expressed afterwards, and is a different fact from the present one, though implied in it [Alford]. God revealed Himself in the Son, the Word of the Father, before all created existence (Col 1:15). That Divine Word carries IN Himself the archetypes of all existences, so that "IN Him all things that are in heaven and earth have been created." The "in Him" indicates that the Word is the ideal ground of all existence; the "by Him," below, that He is the instrument of actually realizing the divine idea [Neander]. His essential nature as the Word of the Father is not a mere appendage of His incarnation, but is the ground of it. The original relation of the Eternal Word to men "made in His image" (Ge 1:27), is the source of the new relation to them by redemption, formed in His incarnation, whereby He restores them to His lost image. "In Him" implies something prior to "by" and "for Him" presently after: the three prepositions mark in succession the beginning, the progress, and the end [Bengel].

all thingsGreek, "the universe of things." That the new creation is not meant in this verse (as Socinians interpret), is plain; for angels, who are included in the catalogue, were not new created by Christ; and he does not speak of the new creation till Col 1:18. The creation "of the things that are in the heavens" (so Greek) includes the creation of the heavens themselves: the former are rather named, since the inhabitants are more noble than their dwellings. Heaven and earth and all that is m them (1Ch 29:11; Ne 9:6; Re 10:6).

invisible—the world of spirits.

thrones, or dominionslordships: the thrones are the greater of the two.

principalities, or powers—rather, "rules, or authorities": the former are stronger than the latter (compare Note, see on Eph 1:21). The latter pair refer to offices in respect to God's creatures: "thrones and dominions" express exalted relation to God, they being the chariots on which He rides displaying His glory (Ps 68:17). The existence of various orders of angels is established by this passage.

all thingsGreek, "the whole universe of things."

were—rather, to distinguish the Greek aorist, which precedes from the perfect tense here, "have been created." In the former case the creation was viewed as a past act at a point of time, or as done once for all; here it is viewed, not merely as one historic act of creation in the past, but as the permanent result now and eternally continuing.

by him—as the instrumental Agent (Joh 1:3).

for him—as the grand End of creation; containing in Himself the reason why creation is at all, and why it is as it is [Alford]. He is the final cause as well as the efficient cause. Lachmann's punctuation of Col 1:15-18 is best, whereby "the first-born of every creature" (Col 1:15) answers to "the first-born from the dead" (Col 1:18), the whole forming one sentence with the words ("All things were created by Him and for Him, and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist, and He is the Head of the body, the Church") intervening as a parenthesis. Thus Paul puts first, the origination by Him of the natural creation; secondly, of the new creation. The parenthesis falls into four clauses, two and two: the former two support the first assertion, "the first-born of every creature"; the latter two prepare us for "the first-born from the dead"'; the former two correspond to the latter two in their form—"All things by Him … and He is," and "By Him all things … and He is."