The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 232)

In Him All the Fullness of God Dwelt

In Him All the Fullness of God Dwelt

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”

(Col 1:15-23)

Jesus Christ is the very heartbeat of Christianity, the central focus of the entire Bible. The Old Testament (OT) prepares readers for His first coming. In the New Testament (NT), the Gospels present Him as the Son of God incarnate, the book of Acts records the proclamation of Christ in the early Church, the epistles instruct in greater detail Who He is, then Revelation affirms to us that He will come again to establish His Kingdom. In Col 1:15-23 we will examine the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom sinners have peace with God.

Christ the Image of the Invisible God (1:15a)
God is invisible; He cannot be seen by the human eye unless He condescends to appear to man. But the Lord Jesus is the Son of God; He is Himself very God, who came into this world as man. He took on human flesh, was born in Bethlehem about 2000 years ago, and lived amongst mankind for 30+ years. In this way, Christ was in a very real sense God made visible. Moreover, the word “image” means an exact, precise, and full copy. Jesus of Nazareth was the exact representation of God Himself; He was and is, perfect and unblemished. He was God Himself walking amongst mankind as a man. In Him, all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in physical bodily form. Jesus was and is the full and complete revelation of God, nothing withheld, nothing amended.

Christ the Worthy Heir Over All Creation (1:15b)
Don’t misunderstand this, it does not mean that Christ was the first to be created. Indeed no! For a start, the Lord Jesus is self-existent; He was never created. There was never a time when Christ was not as He has always been – the God Who is.

The word “firstborn” in Greek refers to rank and position, not to chronology. The “firstborn” in Jewish culture is the one who has the double inheritance; he is not necessarily the first son to be born. So, what Paul is saying here is that Christ is the appointed heir of the entire universe, the highly honoured One who is accorded all prestige. He is the preeminent One.

Christ the Universal Creator (1:16)
Why is the Lord Jesus the worthy heir of all creation? This is because He is the Creator of all things, “in heaven and on earth”. The heavens and the earth together denote the sum total of all created existence. He also created the “visible and invisible”; this is yet another angle through which Paul asserts the universality of Christ’s creative act, that everything was made by Him, even things too small to be seen by the naked eye and things without physical form. The next type of “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” denote that even the angelic order and the spirit realm were created by Him.

Paul is making the point that Christ made all of creation. The last part of v. 16 states, “all things were created through Him and for Him” – not only did Christ make everything in His loving wisdom and creative genius, everything was created for His pleasure, and to His glory. All creation finds its reason for existence in glorifying Christ the Creator. For this reason, He has a primacy and a pre-eminence over all creation.

Christ the Pre-Existent Sustainer (1:17)
V. 17a says that, “He is before all things” which means that before anything was, Christ was already there. This is absolutely necessary as the Maker of all things must Himself be pre-existent, and self-existent; and Christ Jesus, the Son of God, exists uncreated, and He pre-exists all creation. This is a basic truth about our transcendent God. The story of Jesus Christ does not begin at Bethlehem; His life on Earth outside His mother’s womb began there, but His Personhood did not. He has always been, and will ever be.

V. 17b continues with, “in Him all things hold together.” This denotes that Christ is also the One who sustains creation. Hebrews 1:3 puts it positively that He upholds “all things by the word of his power.”

Christ the Head of the Church (1:18)
V. 18a says that the church is the body of Christ, and Christ Himself is the head. The rest of this verse elaborates on this, that “He is the beginning”; this means that Christ is the source of the Church and she owes her origin to Him.

Christ is also “the firstborn from the dead” which refers to Christ’s resurrection from the grave. To be “firstborn from the dead” means that Christ had to die first, and He did die on the cross to save sinners and make them a part of the Church. He then resurrected, and He is the “firstborn” meaning chief, of highest rank, amongst all who would experience resurrection unto eternal life. The latter refers to all who repent of their sins and turn to Him as their Lord and Saviour.

The last part of v. 18 explains the purpose of the preceding parts, “so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything”. The Lord Jesus will, in all things, have the pre-eminence, and especially in His Church.

Christ the Agent of God’s Reconciliation (1:19-20)
All the fullness of the glory and splendour of God dwells in Christ. This means that such a resplendence has a permanent residence in Christ. He is greatly and forever glorified. In Him resides the totality of the Godhead, all that comprises the divine – the powers, the attributes, the glories, the perfections. The fullness of all that is God abides fully and absolutely in Christ alone. The entire light of the glory of God is concentrated in Him. That is the measure of the reality of the glory that is wrapped up in the Person of our Lord Jesus; and He comes in all that glory to reconcile sinners to God. What an amazing truth!

The Concept of Reconciliation
The concept of reconciliation, when applied to two human beings, is simply the establishing of peace between two parties in enmity. When used of man’s relationship with God, it speaks of the restoration of a man to a right relationship with God. Reconciliation with God is never just the eradication of mutual animosity, it always includes the blessing of God’s steadfast love lavished on the sinner.

The reconciliation Paul speaks about is deep reconciliation. It is not half-hearted, it is not waiting to be fully completed, but an exhaustive, meticulous restoration – everything is now utterly well between man and God. What this means is that God has replaced His hatred of the sinner with a strong, sacrificial, unconditional, undying love for him. God is not satisfied to do anything less than that in His work of reconciliation.

The Cross is Reconciliation
Reconciliation is necessary because there is enmity between God and man, and this animosity is in no way God’s fault. Mankind has sinned, and incurred the just and fearsome wrath of God. This is a necessary anger because His holiness has been violated, and His justice requires it. So, how can a holy God and a sinful man be reconciled? Two things must be done – God’s wrath must be appeased, and man’s sinful nature must be changed. And God did this through the crucifixion of Christ on the cross – that is what “making peace by the blood of His cross” means.

First, when Jesus died on the cross, He took upon Himself our punishment; and God, having expended all His wrath on Christ, is now appeased toward us. As 2 Cor 5:21 attests, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”.

Second, when man puts his faith in Christ, he is given a new nature, his sinful nature is changed, and he is given the righteousness of God Himself. This is stated in 2 Cor 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Behold what marvellous works were accomplished for us at the Cross! Christ bore our sins in His own body to appease God’s anger, and poured His life into us to transform our nature. So, by His death, both aspects of reconciliation were taken care of fully.

The Cost of Reconciliation
What did it cost Christ to reconcile us to God? The answer is, “by the blood of His cross”. This is a tremendous, unspeakable and indescribable cost. “Blood” in the OT is a metaphor for death, and it entails a violent death; it also speaks of substitutionary sacrifice. The death of the animal was understood to be in the place of the worshipper, who could then draw near to God only because an animal died in his stead. The OT animals sacrifices all pointed to Christ.

When “the blood of Christ” appears in the NT, it speaks of the death of Jesus as a substitute for sinners, and it also speaks of the violence by which He was killed. Reconciliation between a holy God and sinful men is possible only because Jesus died a brutal, violent death as a substitute for sinners.

When a man dies without Christ, he will suffer the eternal judgment of God in Hell for his sins. Then how is it that Jesus, suffering only for 6 hours on the cross, can fully pay for the sins of millions who call upon Christ for salvation? Because Jesus is the Son of God, the beloved Son of God, in Whom God is utterly satisfied. He is of infinite value to God. And God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him may be reconciled to God. The cost of reconciliation was absurdly exorbitant. But God the Father was willing to pay the price; and God the Son was willing to be the price. That is why sinners can be saved from their sins and this is the glorious Gospel of a glorious God who reconciles sinners to Himself.

The Consequences of Reconciliation
In v. 21, Paul tells us the state of those sinners who do not know Christ. First, they are “alienated” from God, cut off from Him, having no fellowship with Him. They are not in a relationship of blessing with the only God who is able to bless them. This goes against the religious fantasies of many people today who say that, “Oh, God is going to bless everyone, God is love, and He loves everyone and will let them go to Heaven when they die.” They think of God as a kind, grandfatherly figure in Heaven, distributing gifts and blessings. But this is not the God of the Bible.

Second, they are “hostile in mind”, that is, in their attitude as they vehemently oppose God. They are self-absorbed; their only concern is to advance their own wills; they turn their backs on God, and would never submit to His rule over their lives. Perhaps you don’t know Christ, and you say, “I am not hostile to God, I do not hate Him; I may be apathetic towards Him, or I may not believe He exists, but I am not in animosity against Him!” If that is your attitude, you are “hostile in mind” toward Him, because He is the Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, your Creator! He will not accept indifference. As God, He has a right to demand that every knee bow to Him; He demands total allegiance and total obedience to Him.

Third, they are also “doing evil deeds”, given over to sinful works. This may raise an immediate protest, “Hey! I am not all that bad; in fact, I did do many good works, and people around me regard me as a good person.” But God’s Word insists that non-believers are continually doing only “evil deeds”. Why? Because apart from Christ, we can never do good works with right motives, for the right reasons, with the right ultimate objective. Nothing we did was for the glory of God; it was always for our own glory. We do good works as men-pleasers, not out of selflessness. We are by nature self-centred; we are invariably disobedient to the Law of God.

So, how does reconciliation between God and man actually play itself out in the life experience of those who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus for forgiveness of sins?

The ultimate goal of reconciliation is so that we can stand in God’s presence holy, and blameless, and beyond reproach. “Holy” has to do with our relationship with God; it means to be cleansed from sin, separated from all that is evil unto God, altogether His, for His service. “Blameless”, or faultless, has to do with ourselves; it means in you, there are no blemishes whatsoever, no imperfections remaining. “Beyond reproach” or unreproveable, is in relation to others; it means there is absolutely nothing that anybody can find in you that is less than perfection. Oh, what a wonderful blessing this is!

God’s desire is not just to save us from Hell, He wants us to be in loving fellowship with Him. Man was made for eternal fellowship with God; but man sinned, and the holy God cannot fellowship with iniquity and evil. So, He reconciled us to Him through the awful price His Son paid on the cross. Our holiness is not an afterthought of our reconciliation but rather, it is the main point! God is working on our sanctification today, and one day, He will present us to Himself totally holy, blameless, and beyond reproach.

All in all, our salvation is an unbelievably wonderful thing that God does for us:

• We stood before God accused of sin, and He declared us righteous;
• We stood before God as slaves of sin, and He granted us freedom;
• We stood before God as undischargeable debtors, and He waived our debts;
• We stood before God as strangers, and He made us His sons;
• We stand before God wicked by nature, and He transforms us into Christlikeness;
• And one day, we will stand before God completely glorified, being in every way perfect as God intended man to be.

This sounds too good to be true – only that it is entirely true. So, we implore you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Tan Soon Yong

- Tan Soon Yong is a pastor of The 'Fisherman of Christ' Fellowship and an editor of Fishers.

Back to FISHERS 232's mainpage