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.