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He who made all things restores all things!

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Steven McKinion’s Hermeneutics class, with the constraint that it be between 600 and 625 words.

Colossians 1:13–23

The meaning of the text

Christ is supremely worthy of worship. The Father made all things by and through Christ, for Christ, who now sustains all things. In Christ, the Father is reconciling all things to himself, making peace for us by the blood of his cross. He is the very image of God, and in him God dwells fully. He is the firm foundation of believers’ salvation and sanctification, and his person and deeds are the center of the gospel to which believers are called.

Intratextual links

Paul structures this Christological doxology as a set of parallels: Christ is creator and sustainer, and he is also eschatological redeemer of his creation. Christ is the firstborn of all creation (1:15) and the firstborn from the dead (1:18); the image of the invisible God (1:15) and the one in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (1:19); creator of “all things… in heaven and on earth” (1:16) and the agent of God’s reconciliation of “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (1:20). His reconciliation covers exactly the same ground his creation did; nothing is left out.

This universal reconciliation is foundational to the believers’ gospel hope (1:21–23). Paul’s Christology is also foundational for the rest of the book: He reiterates that all the fullness of God dwells in Christ (2:9). He emphasizes that the “rulers and authorities” he created (1:16) he also conquered and put to shame (2:15). He expands on the reconciliation Christ accomplished through the cross (1:20) in God’s nailing our debt to the cross (2:14).

Intertextual links

The creation language naturally calls to mind Genesis 1, John 1, and Hebrews 1. The call to continue in the faith, stable and steadfast is reiterated in Hebrews (3:14–19, 4:11–16, 10:19–39, 12:1–2) and as a warning in James 1.

Paul ties our peace with God (1:20) with our justification in Romans 5:1–2. He emphasizes God’s reconciling us when we were hostile to him in Romans 5:6–8 and Ephesians 2:1–10. He discusses Christ’s triumph over rulers and authorities (1:16) and the domain of darkness (1:13) in Ephesians 6:12 (and see also Ephesians 1:21). His headship of the body, the church (1:18) is in view in Ephesians 1:22–23.

Christ the image of God appears in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Hebrews 1:3. Christ the “firstborn of all creation” alludes to the Messianic meditation of Psalm 89 (see Psalm 89:27), which Paul also draws on in Romans 8:29. Christ the firstborn from the dead appears in in Paul’s testimony to Agrippa (see Acts 26:23), and his lengthiest resurrection discussion (see 1 Corinthians 15:20) and at the opening of the apocalypse (Revelation 1:5).

John 1 and Ephesians 1:23 both show the fullness of God indwelling Christ and Ephesians 3:19 shockingly extends this to believers as we participate in Christ through the indwelling of the Spirit. Christ presents us holy and blameless (Jude 24, Ephesians 1:4, 5:27).

The significance of the text

The call to believers to endure is grounded in Christ himself. It is not as though we endure simply because we are commanded to, but because in Christ we have been reconciled to God and will be presented holy and blameless and above reproach before the Father. Believers must continue steadfastly to reach that end – we cannot shift from the hope of the gospel that we have heard. It is one thing to be told that we must hold fast to the gospel; it is another entirely to be shown a picture of the glorious Christ’s person and deeds and then to hear the injunction not to shift away from the gospel.

The text

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

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.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Pipe up!

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