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Walking Points

Christ Above All: Lesson 3

This Week's Bible Study: Colossians 1:15-23

Introduction

The passage in Colossians 1:15-23 is a profound declaration of the preeminence of Christ in a religiously pluralistic world and one in which there were many competing philosophies. This Christological hymn, likely used in early Christian worship, echoes themes from Jewish wisdom literature and Greek philosophy, but it redefines them in the light of Jesus Christ. The Apostle John did something very similar by reinterpreting the divine Logos in John 1.

The Image of the Invisible God (v. 15)

Jesus is described as the “image of the invisible God.” This term, “image” (Greek: eikōn), reflects Genesis 1:27 where humanity is made in God’s image. However, Christ is the perfect representation of God, embodying his nature and character fully (Hebrews 1:3). The philosopher Plato spoke of the cosmos as the image of God, but Paul proclaims that Jesus is the true visible representation of the invisible God.

The Firstborn of All Creation (v. 15)

The title “firstborn” (Greek: prototokos) signifies supremacy and priority. In Jewish tradition, the firstborn son holds a place of honor and inheritance (Psalm 89:27). Jesus, as the firstborn, is preeminent over all creation, not as a created being, but as the eternal Son who has authority over all.

Creator of All Things (v. 16)

Paul asserts that through Christ all things were created. This includes all realms and powers - visible and invisible. The wisdom literature personified Wisdom as being present at creation (Proverbs 8:22-31), and here Paul identifies Jesus as the divine agent of creation, echoing John 1:3: “All things were made through him.”

Sustainer of the Universe (v. 17)

Not only is Christ the creator, but he is also the sustainer. “In him all things hold together.” This statement counteracts the Greek philosophical notion that the cosmos is held together by impersonal forces. Instead, it is Christ who actively sustains and maintains the universe (Hebrews 1:3).

Head of the Church (v. 18)

Christ is the head of the body, the church. This metaphor highlights his leadership and authority over the redeemed community. As the firstborn from the dead, he is the pioneer of the resurrection, guaranteeing our future resurrection and eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Fullness of God Dwelling in Christ (v. 19)

In Jesus, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. This profound truth signifies that Jesus is fully divine. The early church father Athanasius said, “He became what we are that he might make us what he is.” The incarnation means that God himself entered into our world to bring reconciliation.

Reconciler Through the Cross (v. 20)

Through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, peace and reconciliation have been made possible. This echoes the peace offerings of the Old Testament but brings it to its ultimate fulfillment in Christ’s atoning work (Romans 5:1).

Transformation of Believers (vv. 21-23)

Paul reminds the Colossians of their previous state of alienation and hostility towards God. Yet, through Christ’s death, believers are reconciled and presented as holy and blameless. This transformative process requires steadfast faith and hope in the gospel.


Key Principles

1.      Christ’s Supremacy in Creation and Redemption: Jesus is not only the agent of creation but also the sustainer and redeemer. His supremacy spans from the cosmos to the church. 

2.      The Fullness of God in Christ: All divine fullness dwells in Christ, making him the perfect revelation of God and the source of reconciliation.  

3.      The Call to Steadfast Faith:  Believers are called to remain steadfast in their faith, grounded in the hope of the gospel, and living out their new identity in Christ.


Bible Study Questions

1.      What does it mean that Christ is the “image of the invisible God?” 

2.      How does the term “firstborn of all creation” highlight Christ’s supremacy? 

3.      In what ways does Christ’s role as Creator impact our understanding of the universe? 

4.      How does Christ sustain all things according to Colossians 1:17? 

5.      What is the significance of Christ being the head of the church? 

6.      How is the fullness of God expressed in Christ? 

7.      What does it mean for Christ to reconcile all things to himself? 

8.      How does Paul describe the believers’ former state before reconciliation? 

9.      What transformation occurs in believers because of Christ’s death? 

10.   Why is it important for believers to remain steadfast in their faith?


Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection

1.      How do you personally view Christ’s supremacy in your daily life? What real difference does acknowledging that make in your life?

2.      In what ways can you acknowledge Christ as the sustainer of your life and circumstances?  

3.      How does understanding Christ’s role in creation enhance your worship? 

4.      How can you better appreciate the fullness of God dwelling in Christ?  

5.      What areas of your life need reconciliation and transformation through Christ? Be as honest and specific as possible.  

6.      How can you remain steadfast and grounded in your faith amidst the various trails and challenges you face on a regular basis?  

7.      How does Christ being the head of the church shape your involvement in the church? How ought it shape your involvement in the church? 

8.      In a world of identity politics and culture, what steps can you take to live out your new identity in Christ more fully?   

9.      How can you share the hope of the gospel with those around you in practical ways?  

10.   In what ways can you model or reflect the peace and reconciliation that Christ offers in your relationships? What might be some of the biggest obstacles for you in pursuing this?


Action Steps

1.      Daily Acknowledgement: Begin each day by acknowledging Christ’s supremacy and asking him to sustain and guide you through your day. Spend time each week studying a different aspect of Christ’s character as revealed in Colossians 1:15-23, and reflect on its impact on your life and faith.

2.      Church Involvement: Actively participate in your local church, recognizing Christ as the head and seeking ways to contribute to the body of Christ. 

3.      Sharing the Gospel: Share the message of reconciliation and hope found in Christ with someone who does not yet know him. Who are one or two people in your personal mission field you have been praying about, but have yet to follow through by reaching out to them? Do so today.

READ MORE DEVOTIONS, BIBLE STUDIES AND OTHER OFFFERINGS FROM DALE TEDDER BY CLICKING HERE

Dale Tedder

Dale Tedder is a Global Methodist pastor in Jacksonville, Florida. If you would like to keep up with his online ministry or read other things Dale has written, you can check out his website, Walking Points. You can check out his author’s page for books he has written. Finally, Dale’s podcast, Walking Points, can be heard wherever you listen to podcasts.

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