Who is Jesus Christ? Why is it that after 2,000 years of history having passed, He is still the central figure of all history? Was He merely a prophet as some claim? Was He just a historical influential philosopher, one of many? Or was He one among the many religious leaders we find listed in our history books? Was He a charleton? Was He a rebel? Was He a fraud? Or, was He a King, not of this world but rather another, as He told Pilate, the Roman governor?
Jesus told Pilate that He had come to bear witness of the truth, and everyone who is of the truth would hear His voice. Pilate then asked Him one of the most famous questions ever asked? “What is truth?” What Pilate didn’t understand or recognize is that he was asking his question of the One who embodied all Truth! The true identity of this One is what this study in Colossians 1:12-23 is all about.
Let’s begin with verses 12-14:
12“ Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:12-14
Arranged By Our Heavenly Father
In earlier studies, the study of GOD as a triune Being has been discussed and will not be dealt with in this study. It will, however, be important for us to remember that God is not merely a human being. God is a Spirit and exists as a Triune Being. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. All three personages of the Godhead are All Mighty (Omnipotent), All Knowing (Omniscient), and Present Everywhere (Omnipresent). Nothing has ever been done by God that did not involve all three Persons of the Trinity. We have many examples of this in the Scriptures. Now let’s take a look at Colossians 1: verses 12-14.
We find in verse 12 that the Father is the one who, through His divine administration, originally planned and initiated the plan of redemption for mankind.
It is also the Father who qualifies us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints spoken of in this verse. It cannot be earned by us through our own good works. There is not one human being who can earn their salvation or the eternal inheritance God has promised to true followers of Jesus Christ.
In verse 13, we are told that it is He, the Father, who has delivered us from the power of darkness. We have been delivered from Satan’s domain. The word for “delivered” in the original suggests the meaning of being rescued by a sovereign power.
- The same phrase for “power of darkness” was used by Jesus when he was betrayed and arrested in Gethsemane. His words to the mob who came to arrest Him were: “When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the “power of darkness.” (Luke 22:53) Jesus’ words refer to the sinister forces aligned against Him for decisive combat in the spiritual realm
- It is easy to see the work of the power of darkness in the lives of those who have not been delivered. Jesus had referred to the work of the devil, saying he comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Mankind is experiencing this all around the world.
- For those who have been delivered, these effects should become less and less, as God’s people live by His guidance. Although life in a fallen world still has its trials and tribulations, and temptations from the devil continue, God’s people know their God has them in the palm of His hand and will guide them through whatever lies in their path. And of course, the eternal reward waiting for the people of God is something that cannot be stolen from them.
- Verse 13 also says that we have been “conveyed” into the kingdom of the Son of His love. In the ancient world, the word “conveyed” had a special significance. One example was when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Israel. Much of the population of Israel was taken from Israel to Babylon by force. It was an ancient practice for the conquering king to take the people of the conquered nation back to his own kingdom. This is what was meant when the Apostle Paul said we have been “conveyed” into God’s kingdom. Everything we have and everything we are now belongs to Him.
- The term in verse 13, “The Son of His love” simply is a Hebraic way of saying “God’s dear Son.”
- In verse 14, we find the phrase, “in whom we have redemption through His blood.” “Redemption”, or to “be redeemed” carries the same idea as being released by means of a legal ransom. The price for our release was paid by the blood of Jesus. This gives great weight to the practice of “pleading the blood of Jesus” when dealing with the forces of evil—not in a superstitious sense because it is not magic, but because the blood of Jesus is literally the “receipt” of our lawful purchase as the “redeemed” of God.
- The last phrase of verse 14 says, “the forgiveness of sins”. In ancient Greek, the word translated “forgiveness” indicates a literal “sending away.”. Our sins are literally “sent away” because of what Jesus did on the cross for us. Psalm 103:12 says: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” This means that our past sins cannot ever be a barrier that separates us from God.
Let’s continue now with verses 15-20:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. Colossians 1:15-20
The Real Jesus And His Great Work
- In the 12th verse, Paul began by thanking the Father for His plan of redemption. He couldn’t do this without also thinking of the Son, who is the Great Redeemer.
- He is the “image” of the invisible God. The original Greek word translated “image” indicated two ideas.
“Likeness”, as in the image on a coin or reflection in a mirror.
“Manifestation”, with the sense that God is fully revealed in Jesus.
If Jesus were merely similar to the Father, the Apostle Paul would have used a much different Greek word in his original letter to the Colossian Christians. The weaker Greek term speaks to a mere similar appearance. The stronger word which Paul chose instead in this passage, proves that Paul knew that Jesus is God, just as God the Father is God. It means that “Jesus is the very stamp of God the Father.” In Philippians 2, we find these words about Jesus Christ:
5 Let this mind be in your which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8
God is invisible. This does not just mean that He cannot be seen by our physical eyes, but that He is unknowable. In the revealed “Son of God / Son of Man” the unknowable God becomes “known.”
- Verse 15 calls Jesus “The Firstborn over all creation.” The original Greek word for “Firstborn” used by the apostle can describe either “first in time” or “supremacy in rank.” The way Paul used the word here referred to both. Jesus was before all created things and Jesus is of a supremely different order that all created, and, as such, the ruler over the kings of the earth, and all things in Heaven.
Several other passages of Scripture refer to the “Firstborn”:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29
But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, HE says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Hebrews 1:6
And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…Revelation 1:5
In no way does the title “firstborn” indicate that Jesus is less than God. Even the Jewish Rabbis called Yahweh Himself (GOD), the “Firstborn of the World.” Ancient Rabbis used the term “firstborn” as a Messianic title.
- Verse 16 goes on to say: “For by Him all things were created.” The evidence is quite clear. Jesus is not a created being. He is the author of all creation. As we see the wonders of creation and the intricate design of the creation God has given us to live our lives in, it causes us to worship Him all the more.
- As we read further in verse 16, it says: “Whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.” No matter how many types or ranks of angels there are, no matter whatever powers or dominions there are, they were all created and they will all answer to their creator Jesus Christ at His appointed time.
- “All things were created by Him and for Him.” We find many passages in the Bible that refer to Him as Creator and having existed before anything. The Apostle John put it this way in his gospel as well as in the Book of Revelation.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. John 1:1-3
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the last”……17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Revelation 1:10-11; 17-18
There have been many heresies taught over the centuries concerning the identity of Jesus. Nearly all of them deny the divinity of Jesus Christ; one of them even claiming that Jesus is the spirit brother of the fallen Lucifer. Another teaches that Jesus is really the Archangel Michael. Others say Jesus was merely one of the prophets, although possibly one of the greatest. Still others say He was a great religious leader. All these are heretical teachings and must be rejected.
- Verse 17 continues: “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” This tells us that before Him, there was nothing. And then after creation, it is the power of Jesus that holds it all together, functioning as it should. This means that He, as Creator, is also the “Preserver.” The important point to recognize is that Jesus Christ, Himself, is specifically pointed out as the “Preserver”, or “Continuing Power.”
- Verse 18 of this passage tells us that Jesus is “The Head of the Body.” This describes Jesus’ relationship to the Church. Here, being the Head not only speaks to His role as the ultimate Authority in the Church, but also its very life source—just as the head of a river is the source to the river flowing out of it.
- Reference is made once again in verse 18, that He is not only the beginning of all things, but is also the firstborn from the dead…that in all things He might have the preeminence.” This statement is a good summary for all that was proclaimed in verses 15-18. In order to fulfill all the qualifications listed in these verses, Jesus Christ could not be anyone less than Almighty God.
- Verse 19 confirms the Deity of Jesus by using another important Greek term.. “All” the “Fullness” dwelt in Him. Note those two very important descriptive words: “All” and “Fullness”. This means , including everything. Again, the apostle makes it clear that Jesus Christ was God. Nothing less. The word “dwell” here is used in the sense of a permanent dwelling. The Greek language has another word for a “temporary dwelling.” The Apostle Paul wanted to emphasize the fact that Jesus was not temporarily God, but is permanently God.
The phrase “in Him should all the fullness dwell” brings together a grand list of previous statements: Image of God, First-born of all creation, Creator, The Eternally Pre-existent, The Head of the Church, The Victor over Death, The First in all things.
John, as the beloved disciple, knew Jesus as He had revealed Himself for 3 ½ years as the Messiah, but then He died as the suffering Messiah, which was hard to comprehend, even after Jesus had predicted what had to happen. John was also witness to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension back into Heaven. But when John saw Jesus for the first time as the Eternal Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End, as he did in the first chapter of Revelation, He dropped as a dead man. This was because he now saw Him for whom He really was. Almighty God.
It was God’s plan to insert Himself into the human race by taking the form of a man. It was all the plan of God, the Father, as we read in verse 12. Jesus grew up in the manner all men do and the Father then equipped Him with all the fullness of His Deity. The “fullness” was not put into a church; not into a priesthood; not into a building; not into a sacrament; not into the saints; not into a method or program, but in Jesus Christ Himself. He is the source, nothing else.
- Verse 20 continues by saying, “and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” It is important not to mistake this statement as saying that all humans will be “saved” in the end. Some even teach that the devil and all the fallen angels and demons will eventually be saved. The Bible does not teach this. “Universalism” as it is labeled, is a false teaching. From the front cover of the Bible to the back cover, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that human beings have a choice; in fact, they must make a choice. The story of the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel is a good example. Elijah faced the people, some who were serving God, most who were not, and many who were trying to serve both God and the pagan entity Ba’al, and said: “Today you will decide whom you are going to serve, either God or Ba’al.” This has always been the choice, either accept God according to His terms, or decide to spend eternity in hell without Him.
- How is the choice made to accept God on His terms? There is only one way, and that is through the blood of the cross. This is what the end of verse 20 tells us. We cannot make our own peace with God no matter how good or upstanding we think we are. We can’t earn it by good works, nor can we make peace with God through religious rituals.
It is important to understand, as briefly mentioned earlier, that the blood of the cross should not be seen in a superstitious manner. It is not a magical potion, nor is it the literal blood of Jesus, literally applied to save or cleanse us. If that were true, Jesus’ Roman executioners, splattered with His blood, would have been automatically saved, and the actual number of molecules of Jesus’ literal blood would limit the number of people who could be saved. The blood of the cross speaks to us of the real, physical death of Jesus Christ in our place, on our behalf, before God. That literal death in our place, and the literal judgment He bore on our behalf, is what saves us.
Let’s continue with verses 21-23
21 And you, who were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight; 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:21-23
Once Alienated, Now Reconciled
- Verse 21 says we were “once alienated.” This is an interesting description because in the original Greek translation, this refers to a transfer from one owner to another. This is speaking of a transfer of ownership from God to Satan and self. It affected us both in mind and behavior.
This transfer of ownership happened in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s one command he gave them, following the advice of the demonic serpent, they broke fellowship with God and literally “died” just as God had said they would. The spiritual death happened at the breaking of fellowship but the actual physical death of Adam and Eve’s bodies came many years later. Adam and Eve were never intended to die but their “life-force” depended on their spiritual union with their Maker.
Their spiritual death brought about a genetic problem. Their genetics, now defiled through their disobedience, had death inserted into the sequence. This would then be carried through to all their descendants, right on through to every human alive today.
Before we blame everything on Adam and Eve, in all honesty, would we have done differently? Probably not. Let’s apply this to our lives today. Do we know right from wrong? Of course we do. Yet…do you always choose the right? Do I? We all know the answer to that question. This means that we, as humans, choose to accept and embrace that alienation from God with our wicked works. We need a supernatural rescue! This is where the life and work of Jesus Christ, our Messiah, has become our supernatural rescuer.
Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? Because the bloodline is carried by the father to his children. What was birthed in Jesus’ mother Mary was not through a physical union with Joseph. The seed was placed in Mary’s womb by God Himself (the Holy Spirit). This bypassed the genetic issue and Jesus was not born with blood contaminated by the sin which had defiled the blood of the entire human race. This is why the miracle of the virgin-birth is so very essential to understand.
It is through God’s intervention into the affairs of mankind that mankind’s genetic sin problem, which alienated him from God, was solved. Jesus died for the sins of the world. The only thing required is for man to recognize Him for who He is, and accept the free gift of salvation—which isn’t just a gift of complete forgiveness, but even more importantly, a complete change of status—no longer alienated from our loving God…all through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus.
- “Now Reconciled.” God gives us the opportunity to trade our status of being alienated to the new status of being reconciled. It is a trade that not only gives us the complete assurance of forgiveness, but also changes our eternal destiny. Our eternal destiny as God’s children, bought with the high price of Jesus’ blood, is a never ending eternity with our loving God in His glorious kingdom. Forever!
In order to accomplish this, God did not merely meet us halfway. He went all the way to where we are and now invites us to accept His free gift. His free gift of salvation leads to life eternal whereas rejecting the free gift of salvation leads to eternal damnation. God has promised to honor each individual’s personal decision.
We have two ways we can view God. We can face Him as Judge, due to our guilt and alienation from Him, or we can see Him as Friend, by accepting His free gift of reconciliation through the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood on our behalf.
- Through His death, we can “be presented holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” This is the result of God’s work of reconciliation. If we examine the descriptive words above, we, now the children of God through our repentance and acceptance of His free gift of salvation, are seen by God through the blood of Jesus. This means we have been made pure, without stain of sin, and spotless in His sight!
This description of us as being presented holy and blameless before God reminds us of how the priests in the Old Testament were instructed to inspect potential sacrifices. They had to be without imperfections. We are presented to God as living sacrifices, and because of the perfect blood of Jesus, are seen as without imperfections or blemishes!
Some say they are willing to “make a deal with God” so that they, on their own terms, can avoid hell. It doesn’t work that way. We don’t become “believers” in order to escape hell. We must have the desire to be made holy, blameless, and above reproach. Being promised an eternity in God’s Heaven is one of the benefits God wants to lavish His people with.
- Verse 23 continues with these words: “If indeed you continue in the faith…” There is no getting around it, those who are truly “reconciled” must truly “persevere.”
The apostle’s burden is that the people continue in the faith, becoming strong, not moved away from the hope of the gospel which they have received. His hope is that they become well grounded and steadfast, not moved by winds of strange teachings or doctrines of devils, nor moved by the difficulties they are bound to encounter as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.
It has been said, “If the gospel teaches the final perseverance of the saints, it teaches at the same time that the saints are those who finally persevere—in Christ. Continuance is the test of reality.”
- In conclusion to this study, I would like to add three final passages of Scripture to ponder.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. Ephesians 4:1
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Hebrews 10:35-39
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne on God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Forever in His Service,