Notes on Colossians 1:16,17
Some people see Christian faith as something wholly internal and spiritual. It is an inward experience of meaning and hope.
Certainly it is that — or it should be.
But, that is not all it is. It is also a perspective that embraces all of life. Christianity is a belief about what life is all about. It is not just about what is within us — it is about what is all around us. It is a faith in the God who is the Creator of all that is. The God to whom we pray is not just our God. Our God is the God of all people — and all things.
Notice the following verses: Colossians 1:16,17:
... ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, τὰ ὁρατὰ καὶ τὰ ἀόρατα, εἴτε θρόνοι εἴτε κυριότητες εἴτε ἀρχαὶ εἴτε ἐξουσίαι· τὰ πάντα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται· καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν,...
"...for 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. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (NRSV)
These verses teach us that Christ is the One through whom God created all things, both the things in the universe that we know and the things we do not know, were created in Christ — and Christ is the source of their unity.
We are reminded of the claims made in the Gospel of John: "Through [Jesus Christ] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:3 NIV). Christ does not belong to us alone. Christ is the Savior of all. Christ is not only found within. Christ is found all around.
Why is this particular teaching so important to the apostle Paul? Why is it so important for this letter to the Colossians? He is laying a theological foundation for his reply to the false teachers of Colossae.
You see, the false teachers at Colossae were saying that there were many intermediaries between ourselves and God. Spirituality was a matter of worship and knowledge of these intermediate divine beings. This is what the apostle is talking about when he speaks against the "worship of angels" in Colossians 2:18.
His point is the greatness of Christ. His point is that we cannot go higher than Christ. When we call on the name of Christ, we name the One who is the architect and Goal of all Creation. Even the "invisible things" — whatever mysterious beings there might be in whatever realms they might exist — were created in him. And, in him, they all come together.
Alexander Maclaren comments:
So [Paul] groups together the whole universe of created beings, actual or imaginary, and then high above it, separate from it, its Lord and Creator, its upholder and end, he points to the majestic person of the only begotten Son of God, His Firstborn, higher than all the rulers of the earth, whether human or superhuman.
Both John Wesley and Adam Clarke saw these verses as teaching the Deity of Christ.
Thus, Clarke comments:
Four things are here asserted: 1. That Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe; of all things visible and invisible; of all things that had a beginning, whether they exist in time or in eternity. 2. That whatsoever was created was created FOR himself; that he was the sole end of his own work. 3. That he was prior to all creation, to all beings, whether in the visible or invisible world. 4. That he is the preserver and governor of all things; for by him all things consist.
Now, allowing St. Paul to have understood the terms which he used, he must have considered Jesus Christ as being truly and properly God.
Christ is the self-revelation of the Creator God. In Christ we see God's will and purpose for all people.
Christianity should not close us off from life. It should not close us off from other people. It should open us up to all of life and to all people.
The false teachers at Colossae saw the material world as evil. Only by looking inward could they hope to find God and true goodness.
But, Paul reminds the Church that the God we meet inwardly through faith in Christ is also the God who created the world — in and through Christ.
And, all creation finds it's true unity in Jesus Christ.
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