Image of the Invisible


BY DEVON PHILLIPS (@DEVONINMENA)


He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:15-20, ESV

The Glory Due His Name

Paul’s hymn praising the ultimate sovereignty of Jesus in the opening of his letter to the Colossians is perhaps one of his most beautiful and profound tributes to the ultimate preeminence of Christ, to the glory of the Father’s exaltation of His Son, and to the benefits of His transcendent rule. But what does it mean that Christ is, “preeminent”? 

In its most basic sense, preeminence means first in rank, influence, and importance. Not only is God himself infinitely above His creation, He is first in every conceivable category. God Himself is the most important being of all, and to treat Him as anything less is to be utterly divorced from the truth. This is why man’s chief purpose—indeed the point of all creation—is to glorify Him.[1] In listing the manifold superiorities of Jesus, Paul both fulfilling his own deepest call, and providing us with reasons why we should also “go public with the infinite worth of God.”[2]

From before creation, every atom and every eon was for His acclaim. The mystery, “Who is this King of glory?”[3] dominated the mind of patriarchs, prophets, and psalmists because it is the central question of all existence. This radiance of His being is more than an abstract manifestation of the Lord’s supreme character—this unveiled glory is a man, the Son of man, the image of the invisible God. Just as Caesar’s imprint on a coin marked his ownership and jurisdiction[4], so the exact imprint of God’s nature in Christ declares His firstborn inheritance rights over all things and upholds the galaxies by the word of His power.[5] All of heaven and earth, all of creation, ALL THINGS are for Christ’s glory.

So, when steadfast love and faithfulness met[6] in the cross of Christ, when the hour had come for the Son of man to be glorified,[7] He magnified His Father’s name by accomplishing the work that He was given.[8] When the crucified Lord of glory[9] then was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,[10] His resurrected body was saturated with the Spirit of glory,[11] and this first born from the dead reaped a glorious first fruits harvest.[12] It pleased the Father to create a world where the apex of His glory was displayed in the reconciling, peacemaking blood of His slaughtered Son for the redemption of His chosen people. Jesus is the head of this body of believers, and the rich and glorious mystery is that they are being conformed to His image,[13] carrying Christ in them, the hope of their own resurrection glory.[14] (Whew—that’s a lot of glory!) How can we do anything but give this one who is the First and the Last, this one who died and—behold!—is alive forevermore, the glory due His name?

The Insanity of Idolatry

In light of the all-surpassing worth of God, to worship lesser things than the preeminent Christ is to disagree with all that is real. It is to descend to a depraved kind of madness. Idolatry is insanity. 

From the fall of Lucifer who sought to be like the Most High,[15] to Eve who thought that the forbidden fruit would make her like God,[16] to the men of Babel who sought to make a name for themselves,[17] and to Israel herself, warned by the prophets and apostles to not exchange the glory of God for anything[18]—all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.[19] God made man to reflect His splendor, but when they chose to prize lesser things more than the Most High, they abdicated their cosmic role. Knowing God, but not honoring Him, they became futile in their thinking.[20] They became black holes, absorbing light rather than radiating it.  

When the consequences of elevating creation over the Creator are so dire, how is it that adulterous idolatry is so common? Why do the cares of this life seem to weigh more heavily than our eternal weight of glory?[21] Our fragile, forgetful, and fickle hearts need constant reminders of our joyful vocation: to delight in worshipping God, giving Him alone the glory, honor, and power.[22] The alternative is absurd. 

‘Do not be slothful in zeal’ 

Nothing we do can lessen the preeminence of Jesus in all of history and creation. Christ came to a sick, sinful planet, and took that sin onto Himself. Dying, He delivered us from our sin. Rising, He became the first born from the dead, a promise and forerunner of our own future resurrection. On His coming Day, our liberation from death will be complete. From eternity past, to eternity future, Christ is the glorious king—before all, over all, and in all. 

However, in this present evil age,[23] Jesus is rarely acknowledged as preeminent in the systems, societies, and souls of men. What is a disciple to do, when their very foundation is an all-encompassing passion to see God glorified in all things? Paul gives a helpful instruction in his letter to the Romans: “Do not be slothful in zeal.”[24] Be unceasingly zealous for the Lord to be rightly esteemed all-glorious. Be passionately jealous, as God is jealous,[25] that the Lord’s name would be high and lifted up. Worship God alone, and burn with desire that all would worship God alone. Exist to spread a passion for the preeminence of Jesus. Wise and diligent zeal for God’s glory is to choose the truth rather than a lie, to choose life rather than death, to choose sanity rather than madness, to choose endurance rather than stumbling – to be a grafted disciple rather than a broken-off branch.

 

Devon Phillips is a pilgrim longing for the Day of the revealing of the sons of God and the redemption of our bodies. Meanwhile, she is privileged to serve in the Middle East with Frontier Alliance International. She can be reached at devon@faimission.org


 

[1] The Westminster Shorter Catechism was a document prepared in the mid-1600s to help teach basic tenets of the Christian faith. The first question in the catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?” and is answered, “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
[2] Glory is “the going public of his infinite worth.” John Piper, “What is God’s glory?” 6 Jul 2009 (desiringGod.org/interviews/what-is-gods-glory) 
[3] Psalm 24:8
[4] Matthew 22:19-21
[5] Hebrews 1:1-3
[6] Psalm 85:10
[7] John 12:23
[8] John 17:4
[9] 1 Corinthians 2:8
[10] Romans 6:4
[11] 1 Peter 4:14
[12] Philippians 3:21
[13] Romans 8:29-30
[14] Colossians 1:27
[15] Isaiah 14:12-14
[16] Genesis 3:4-6
[17] Genesis 11:4
[18] Psalm 106:20; Romans 1:23
[19] Romans 3:23
[20] Romans 1:21-22
[21] 2 Corinthians 4:17
[22] Revelation 4:11
[23] Galatians 1:4
[24] Romans 12:11
[25] Exodus 34:14

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