Image of the invisible God

cain striking abel

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. ~ Colossians 1:15

In the book of Colossians, Paul is addressing the heresy of syncretism within the church in Colossae. So the struggle for many new believers in Colossae was seeing Christ simply as one of their many gods. Paul’s address to combat this heresy was then to highlight the supremacy of Christ by providing a proper perspective on who Christ is. Undoubtedly they knew that Jesus is the Son of God, yet to what extent remained a mystery for them. Paul addresses this mystery by stating, “The Son is the image of the invisible God…”

In the Old Testament (from which Paul would have used as a foundation for his address) the term “image” is often used to refer to sonship. For example, Genesis 5:3 states that Seth was the image and likeness of his father, Adam. Looking back even further, we see this same language used in reference to Adam in Genesis 1:27.

Adam was the son of God, called to have dominion over all creation as the Father had dominion in heaven. As the image of God, he was to reflect God within creation, to be God’s representative on earth. Ruling and reigning justly and perfectly in creation so that all of creation would know and see the perfect righteousness and holiness of God.

However, Adam failed to rule and reign justly. He failed to judge the devil and instead gave into temptation and sinned against God. The imago Dei (or image of God) corrupted with all of creation. Now, it’s important to note that the imago Dei is not something that Adam bears, but it is him. And just as Adam is corrupted by sin, so too is the imago Dei corrupted.

In Adam’s disobedience, we see that he is not the true son of God. And this is the point that Paul is trying to make. That the image of God has been corrupted in the first Adam and his posterity. There is no faithful representation on earth, no one to display the perfect kingship of God. The world is walking in darkness, following the prince of this world, enslaved to their own desires and sin. That is, until the one true Son, Jesus Christ appeared.

The second Adam, who came to establish God’s rule and reign on earth binds Satan. He lived as the perfect image of God and was crucified by sinful men. Yet he did not remain in the grave, for God raised him from the dead, rightly giving him the title Son of God, firstborn over all creation. The Son comes to usher in a new creation–a restored imago Dei. He alone is the perfect representation of God, the perfect image of the invisible God.

What does this mean for us then? Because of Christ, the imago Dei is restored for all who are in him. God, through the work of the Spirit, has made us alive with his firstborn Son.

The true imago Dei (Christ) is who gives us sonship with God. In Christ, who is the perfect image of God, we call out Abba Father and receive grace and mercy. Apart from the true imago Dei, we are strangers to God. For example, if a stranger walks into your house. I’m sure you’d be on full alert and defensive. Likewise, we are strangers to God if we do not come clothed in the imago Dei who is Christ.

We’re told in John 17:1-3, that God the Father is glorified in the Son. That is our goal as well, that we become more like Christ. To glorify God and enjoy him forever. How do we do this? By delighting in God’s written word, and in the incarnate Word. Christ, being the true Son of God, has invited us into his family, whereby we can truly know what it means to be a son and daughter of God.

Firstborn from the dead

He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
~ Colossians 1:18b-22

As we reflect on Christ’s resurrection during this uncertain time, let us be encouraged by Apostle Paul’s words of hope to believers in all times and in all places—He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. The term firstborn is rooted in the Old Testament and is a statement of position and role. In Exodus, we see it as a reference to Israel.

Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’ ~ Exodus 4:22-23

The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. ~ Exodus 12:13

Unlike Israel, Christ is the true firstborn, perfect and blameless, serving his Father in faithful obedience. And yet he was raised up as a jester king upon a cursed cross by man. Out of love he cast out fear, resolving to reconcile us to God the Father, and was crushed. His body without blemish poured out as a peace offering, so the wrath of God against man will not touch us as we take shelter in his blood. 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved… ~ Ephesians 2:4-5

As we sit at home, in the midst of a pandemic, we’re easily reminded of how unstable and short life is. But to look at the world from the perspective of the world will only bring about more fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and despair. But to look at the world from the perspective of where we are seated, that is, in the heavenly places in the resurrected Christ, we see that the world is already dead through the disobedience of man’s federal head, Adam. Man is corrupted by sin, living with hearts of stone, and slaves to sin and the desires of the flesh. 

And Christ’s death reminds us that as believers, we too have died, but to a greater death. We have died with Christ in our baptism. We have died to sin. We have died to the fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and despair that sin brings. And we know that we have died to these things because we have been raised with Christ, who is sovereign over all things. He is our King, our hope is laid up in him for he holds our resurrected heavenly bodies.  

Brothers and sisters, just as God raised Christ, so too has he raised us up with him, that we may be holy and pleasing to God. We are alive, not that we may continue in this world as if we were of it. Instead, let us live new heavenly focused lives; living as sojourners, submitting to God’s Word, being in fellowship, and delighting in the sacraments. Recognizing that we will one day go to sleep, and appear before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His resurrection marks the reality of the new creation, and it brings a restoration of all things. For Christ is made sovereign over all things, and reigns as king over all things. And if Christ is king to you, then sin no longer reigns. 

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Although we are faced with circumstances that prevent us from seeing and enjoying fellowship with one another, we place our hope in Christ, who is king over all creation. He rules and reigns with love, and his kingdom is beyond time and space. In him, there is no uncertainty, no disunity, no scattered church. We are all united with him in the heavenly places by the miraculous work of the Spirit, though invisible, yet soon to be visible. Let us put our trust in his words and our hope in Him who is seated at the right hand of God, the Father. For he has certainly prepared a place for us there. Let the longing we have to be with one another in fellowship, reflect the longing we have for Christ. 

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
~ John 14:1-4