Who is Jesus?
Is he the “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” that we first became acquainted with as children, singing “Jesus Loves Me” in Sunday school. Is Jesus the man with long-flowing hair who cradles a small sleeping lamb in his arms?
During the 1960’s, liberation theologians enshrined Jesus on posters along with Fidel Castro and Che Geuvara. Is Jesus the ultimate revolutionary? Is Jesus merely an important prophet, as Islam teaches? Is he the first one God created, as Jehovah’s Witnesses believe?
In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago, and more than 21 million people visited the exhibits. Among the features was a “World Parliament of Religions,” with representatives of the world’s religions, meeting to share their “best points” and perhaps come up with a new religion for the world.
The friends of evangelist D. L. Moody wanted him to attack the “Parliament of Religions,” but he refused. Instead, he saw this as a great opportunity for evangelism. “I am going to make Jesus Christ so attractive,” he said, “that men will turn to Him.”
Moody’s approach was similar to what Paul did in his letter to the Colossians. In Colossians 1:15-23, Paul addresses the question of “Who is Jesus?” Paul describes the person of Christ (15-18) and the work of Christ (19-23). In 15-18, Paul explains that Jesus is the image of God, the ruler of all creation, and the leader of the church. Jesus is preeminent in everything.
In verse 15, we see that God revealed himself through the person of Jesus. Paul said that Jesus is the image of God. He used the word, icon, which means “an image or representation.” Christ represents God in the same way a portrait represents a person. The portrait is not intended to be seen as an inferior copy but an actual representation of the real person. Christ is not just a plaster statue of God, but the revelation of what God is really like.
In Christ the invisible God became visible. He shared the same substance as God and made God’s character known in this earthly sphere of existence. The revelation of God in Christ is such that we can actually see him, even with all of our limitations. Jesus is the full, final, and complete revelation of God. He is God in human flesh.
In addition to being the image of God, Jesus is the ruler of creation (15-17). Rather than refer to time, “firstborn” (15) refers to position or rank, place or status. The title connotes both priority and sovereignty. Jesus existed before the world was created and he is the ruler over that creation. He is of first importance, of first rank.
In verse 16, Paul states that Jesus created all things—in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, and every rank of angelic being. In addition, Jesus is the goal of all creation. All things were created for him. Creation has meaning only when it points to Christ. Not only did Jesus create the universe, He also sustains it. He maintains the delicate balance necessary to life’s existence. He quite literally holds all things together.
As head of the body (18a), Christ has authority over his people. The church forms his body, his church, and his sheep.
The term, beginning, has two concepts, “to rule” and “to begin.” Christ is the beginning in that he originated both the natural and the spiritual creations. He created the worlds and he redeemed the church. He qualifies to be the ruling head in both areas.
Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. During his earthly ministry, Christ raised at least three people out of physical death. The apostles also raised the dead in their ministry. Jesus, however, was the first to come out of death in an immortal, incorruptible body. This event established Christ in his rightful position as the supreme ruler of the realm of the dead. Christ is the most important of all who have been raised from the dead.
Who is Jesus? He is the image of God. He is the ruler of creation. Jesus is the leader of the church. Paul’s point in describing these characteristics is not just to give us a random collection of facts. He is not giving us a list to memorize. The last phrase in verse 18 shows the purpose for the works of creation and redemption. “. . . so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”
Supremacy means to have first place. It denotes a permanent position of priority and authority. Christ should have first place in every area of our lives. We are to bow down in worship and recognize him as Lord of our lives.
Who is Jesus? He is the image of God. Jesus is the ruler of creation. He is the leader of the church. Jesus is preeminent in everything.
The only question that remains is, “Does he have first place in your life?”