Colossians 1.15 – 20
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. 17He himself is before all things, and in* him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Paul moves from prayer for the Colossians into a hymn to Christ – whether a hymn written by Paul at this point, or one borrowed from others, it is intended to remind the Colossians that Christ is above all things. We will see in coming parts of the letter that Paul is concerned about false teachings and rituals among them; the hymn reminds them, and us today, that it is Christ Jesus whom we worship.
Jesus is the image of the invisible God – meaning that he reveals to us the face of God, as the human Jesus, he reveals to us the character of God, in ways human beings could not see or understand before. And yet, the divine Jesus is the firstborn of all creation – God’s Son, not created as a part of creation, but coming before creation; indeed, all things were made through him and in him all things hold together. This hymn celebrates Jesus as both fully human and fully divine, long before any Church Council met to spell that out.
Jesus is the head of the church; it is his body. We forget that sometimes, trying to make it a human institution. But Christ is the beginning – he is the firstborn from the dead, and in him we have the resurrection for we get to follow him.
In Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Jesus was fully God – as well as fully human. His character was the character of God. There is not a mean, fierce, angry, judgmental God, who is the Father, and a loving Son, who is vastly different – both share one Spirit, one character, that of love. Jesus, the Son, came to us from God the Father, to show us his love. All the fullness of God, the love of God, dwelled in Jesus. And through Jesus, God reconciled all things to himself, through the blood of Christ on the cross. We, who are sinful, unworthy human beings without him, can approach the throne of God and can have an ongoing relationship with God, through what Jesus did for us – he died for us; no one can love more than that. And in his resurrection, as he is the “firstborn from the dead”, we too can be reborn after death.