COLOSSIANS 1:15-20

By Juan Baixeras

            These verses are considered by many clear proof that Jesus is God, the second member of the Trinity. The main reason being they say, is that these verses claim that everything was created by Jesus, and since God is attributed with creation in the Old Testament, Jesus must therefore be God. There are also a couple of other minor reasons that will also be addressed. This reasoning is extremely flawed. These verses have in some cases been mistranslated and in most cases been misinterpreted. When they are used in support of the Doctrine of the Trinity, they are in all cases taken out of context.

            Let us first write out these verses in their entirety so that we can study them more easily and because we will be referring to them throughout the study. Chapter 1:

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            15a. He is the image of the invisible God,

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                b. the firstborn of all creation.

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            16a. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,

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                b. the visible and the invisible, 

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                c. whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;

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                d. all things were created through him and for him.

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            17a. He is before all things,

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                b. and in him all things hold together.

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            18a. He is the head of the body, the church.

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                b. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,

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                c. that in all things he himself might be preeminent.

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            19a. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,

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            20a. and through him to reconcile all things for him,

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                b. making peace by the blood of his cross.

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This idea of Jesus having something to do with creation stems out of four horrendously misinterpreted passages, this one being one of them. The other three are Hebrews 1:2-3, Hebrews 1:10-12, and John 1:3. In order to show the fallacy of this idea, we are going to have to explain all three of the verses mentioned first, so that we can then approach Colossians 1:15-20 with the proper frame of mind.

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HEBREWS 1:2-3 & HEBREWS 1:10-12

 

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"Through a Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the world." (sometimes it is translated as universe).

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The word that is translated as "world" is the Greek word aion. It means ages, as in the present evil age and the Messianic age to come.

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Aion- This word has been translated as eternal, world, and universe. When this word is translated as "eternal," such as "you will have eternal life," it means "you will have life in the age to come." The following is Strong's Greek dictionary's (which is in the Strong's Concordance) definition of this word. It is number 165 in Strong's, please look it up.

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Age (aion) - 1. An unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity. 2. This word is also used to describe this age, i.e. this time period we are in now, and the time period to come, i.e. the Messianic age. 

 

Hebrews 1:2 is speaking of the world (age) to come, the Messianic world. The New Earth and New Heavens. Using Strong’s definition, it would be better understood as:

 

"Through a Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the Messianic age to come." 

 

Hebrews 1:2-3 does not mean that Jesus is the creator, or that the Father through Jesus created the universe. It means that God through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross has opened up a way for us to enter the New Earth and New Heavens of the Messianic kingdom when it comes in the future. This is how the age to come is created through Jesus. Notice also that the age to come is created through him (his death) not by him.

Hebrews 1:10 is a continuation of this thought. It is a passage of creation that was attributed to God in the Old Testament. Here it is used for the Son because through the Son’s sacrifice the New Earth and New Heavens will be created in the future. Some people might say, “Well how do I know for sure that it is speaking about the world to come and not this present world?” 

If we flip the page to Hebrews 2:5 it will clear up any doubt that you might have on what world we are speaking about.

 

Hebrews 2:5: " For it was not to angels that he subjected THE WORLD TO COME, OF WHICH WE ARE SPEAKING.

 

I cannot think of a better or clearer way of saying which world the author has been talking about. It is that simple when you keep verses in their context. This is now in agreement with Hebrews 1:2. If not we have a massive contradiction.

Jesus through his death is responsible for the creation of the Messianic age (world) to come. The universe and everything in it was created only by YHWH.

 

Isaiah 44:24: Thus says YHWH, your redeemer, who formed you from the womb: I am YHWH, who made all things, who ALONE stretched out the heavens; when I spread out the earth, who was with me?

  

John 1:1-3&14

 

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD

John 1:1-14 is the backbone of the Doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity is the outcome of a Greek philosophical interpretation of this verse in the 3rd and 4th centuries from the great intellectual center in Alexandria by such men as Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Tertullian of nearby Carthage. Their argument is that “the Word” in John 1:1-14 is Jesus. With this premise they ended up with a Jesus who has always existed and is part of a triune God. This is an incorrect interpretation of John 1:1-14.

Can we on the other hand prove that “the Word” is not a reference to Jesus? Yes we can, quite easily as a matter of fact. Surprisingly, the clarification comes from John himself in his first epistle that we will be discussing in depth.

There are some scholars who believe that John wrote his first epistle for the sole purpose of correcting the misinterpretation of John 1:1-14 that was occurring even in his own time. I believe they are correct in this assumption because as we shall see John goes into great detail to tell us exactly what “the Word” is. In John’s first epistle I see a strong effort by John to clarify his position and definition about “the Word.” He leaves us with no other way to interpret “the Word.”

In this paper we will be examining John 1:1-14 and comparing it to verses in

1 John. John’s first epistle will shed an incredible amount of light on John chapter 1.

 

Before starting one thing must be said, John’s gospel was not written to prove that Jesus is God, but that he is the Son of God, the Messiah. These are John’s own words.

 

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God...” (John 20: 31). 

 

           This is the context that John’s gospel must be read in. To take it out of this context is to interpret John in a way in which John did not intend.

In the beginning was the Word.

 

            The main argument with this verse is whether “the Word” is another way of saying Jesus, or whether it is what it has always been, a message from God. Yet, theologians have taken the liberty to substitute figuratively and literally “Jesus” for  Word” in this verse. Is this accurate? Judge for yourself. Let’s first see the definition of “Word.” It does have a real definition after all. 

 

“Word” in this verse is a translation of the Greek word  logos.” In the original Greek text, “logos” does not have the capital first letter given to “Word” in the English translation. It should properly be translated  word” (with a small “w”).

Another important point to be recognized is the fact that the same exact word (letter for letter) “logos” is used in other Scriptures and nobody has ever capitalized it, or claimed that it referred to Jesus.

Examples:

 

2 Timothy 2: 8 - 9

“This is my gospel, for which I am suffering to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.”

 

1 John 2:7

“Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.”

 

Revelation 20: 4 –5 - “I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus AND for the word of God”

 

Revelation 1:2 - “His servant John, who gives witness to the word of God AND to the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

 

The two verses above from John’s book of Revelation use the exact same word “logos” which is translated in English as “word.” It is important to notice that they were beheaded for their testimony of Jesus AND the word (logos) of God. John gives witness to the word of God (God’s message of salvation) AND to the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is obvious that Jesus is not the Word.  Logos is used in many places in the New Testament, and it is never used as a reference for Jesus.

 

The New American Bible has this to say about the word “logos” in a footnote:

 

May denote an internal reasoning process, plan, or intention, as well as an external word, speech, or message.”

 

In Greek, the word “logos” according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary means:

 

Logos - The expression of thought. As embodying a conception or idea.

 

According to Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon, it also means:

 

Logos - the inward thought which is expressed in the spoken word.   

 

This unfortunately is not what it meant to Greek philosophy. In Greek philosophies such as Stoicism, and Neo-Platonism, “logos” was considered divine. To a Stoic, logos means “the divine principle of life.” This is basically a definition of God. In Gnosticism “Logos” was the actual name of one of the intermediary gods.

 

Someone educated in one of these philosophies would interpret John 1: 1 in the following manner.

 

“In the beginning was the divine principle of life, the divine principle of life was with God, and the divine principle of life was God.” Verse 14. “The divine principle of life became flesh.”

 

Now you have God in heaven and in the flesh at the same time. The explanation came in the form of a dual natured Messiah who is fully God and fully man at all times (This definition of Jesus is in the Creed of Chalcedon which is the Trinitarian creed of all Trinitarian denominations). Thus the trinity.

 How you can be fully of two different things is a mystery in itself. You can be part Italian and part French at the same time, but you cannot be fully Italian and fully French at the same time. This is why people explaining the trinity always end up saying that it’s a mystery.

             To a Hebrew like John, the phrase “word of God” According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words means, “The revealed will of God.” In other words, “A message from God.” In 2 Kings 3:12 when it says:

 

He has the word of the LORD.

 

It means that God revealed His will to him. We can also compare other verses to verify this definition.

 

2 Peter 3:5: “that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water.” 

 

Revelation 4:11: “for you created all things, by your will they came into being.”

 

Sirach 42:15: “At God’s word were His works brought into being.”

 

As you can see, word and will are interchangeable. God’s word represents his thoughts, which is His will. Sirach 37:16 provides us with an excellent example:

 

“A word is the source of every deed; a thought, of every act.”

 

Your thoughts are the source of your actions, a word (your will or wisdom) is your thoughts expressed. This is an important definition to remember in order to better understand “The Word was God” which we will explain in the next few pages.     

It would be easier if John were here right now to tell us exactly what he meant, but in a sense he is. He has left us so many clear verses of what he meant by “word” in his first epistle that sometimes I find it difficult to see how people have misinterpreted his gospel. Let us look at 1 John to find the answer.

In 1 John 1:1-3 it states:

                “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life – and the life was manifested; and we have seen, and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also.”

John 1:1 - “In the beginning was the Word.” 

1 John 1:1 – “What was from the beginning, what we have heard.”

Notice that in John what is from the beginning is the word, and in 1 John what is from the beginning is something that they heard (a message). Now let us tie in these other verses of John’s first epistle.

 

1 John 2:7 - “Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.”

 

In 1 John 1:1 what was from the beginning is something that they heard, here in 1 John 2:7 the old commandment is what they have had from the beginning, (sound familiar?) and the old commandment is the “WORD” that they what? Heard! The same as in 1 John 1:1. Your next question should be,

 

“What commandment is John speaking about?”

 

He is speaking about what Jesus called the greatest commandment, (Mark 12:29) the commandment of love which God gave the Hebrews from the beginning. The message of love that the proclamation of the Kingdom of God brings with it.

How do we know for sure that this is the message and/or the commandment that they heard from the beginning? Because John tells you so in 1 John 3:11 and 1 John 3:23:

 

“For this is the message you have HEARD from the BEGINNING: we should love one another.”

 

“And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another.”

 

Loving one another is how the world will know that we are followers of Christ.  

 

 John 13:30“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

According to Paul (Romans 13:9), the law of love is the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law and it is the Law in the coming Kingdom of God which the Messiah has come to proclaim. These are Jesus’ own words.

 

Luke 4:43 – “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.”

 

Is Jesus’ good news about the kingdom the same thing as “the word” that John speaks about in his writings? Yes it is, this is the word that they have heard. Look at the parable of the sower.

 

Matthew 13:19 – The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it.”

 

The message of the Kingdom of God is a message of love. In other words, “the word” is the message of love in the coming Kingdom of God in which love is the rule, not the exception. The New Age (the Kingdom of God) which Jesus will establish when he returns will be a kingdom of love. This is what proclaiming the word of the kingdom is about, a New World order (new heavens and new earth) based on love. This is the message (“the word”) that Jesus has brought us. This is the “word” Jesus spoke about.

 

John 16:20 “Remember the word I spoke to you.” 

 

John 17:8“Because the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them.” 

 

Because of God’s love for us, God has provided us with a message of hope, the hope of entering God’s Kingdom of love. He has demonstrated His love for us and at the same time provided a way for us to enter into his kingdom as His pure, sin-free children by sacrificing for our sins the only unblemished lamb of mankind, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

John 3:16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

 

We can also examine the writings of the Apostolic Fathers who are the men that the Apostles or the Apostles disciples put in place to see what they considered “the word” to be . One of the Apostolic writings, The Epistle to Diognetus in verse 8:11 says:

 

“But when he revealed it through His beloved Son, and manifested the purpose which He had prepared from the beginning.”

 

 When God revealed what? The word (message) that Jesus brought us. Notice that what was prepared from the beginning is God’s purpose, and it was revealed to us by Jesus.

 

Another of the Apostolic Fathers named Polycarp, who knew John the Apostle personally, wrote in his Letter to the Philippians in verse 7:2:

 

Wherefore let us forsake the vain doing of the many and their false teachings, and turn unto the word which was delivered unto us from the beginning.”

 

 Polycarp is urging the people to turn away from false teachings and turn unto the word. In other words, “Turn away from false teachings and return to the original message that was delivered to them from the beginning.” His usage of word is very Jewish, and identical to the way that John the Apostle uses it. This is fitting because Polycarp was a disciple of John, and one would expect his views to coincide with John’s, which they do.

            Polycarp has no idea of “the word” being Jesus. He even says that the word was delivered unto us in the beginning. Jesus was not delivered unto us in the beginning, He was revealed to us in the final days, the last days. Hebrews 1:2 states:

 

“In these last days He spoke to us through a son.”

 

1 Peter 1:20 says:

 

“He was known before the foundations of the world, but revealed in the final times for you.

 

But God’s message, or will, (the Kingdom of God based on love and ruled by the Messiah,) was delivered unto us in the beginning through the Patriarchs and the Prophets. What is from the beginning is God’s love and His message (logos) for our redemption and salvation that He revealed to us through Jesus. Ephesians 3:11 confirms this.

 

“This was according to the eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

                    

            What is God’s eternal purpose for us? That we live a life of love and not perish. This is provided for us through His Son Jesus. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice we are able to enter the Kingdom of God when Jesus returns. 

 

John 3:16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

 

 

And the Word was with God.

 

                        If John was really trying to say that Jesus is God, he would simply have written; “in the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.” I do not think that he would have written it in a kind of code that would not be understood until the 3rd century by Greek philosophers.

            When John says that the word was with God, he simply means that the “word” (message, plan) was present in His mind. It was with Him, just like a person’s thoughts are with them until they speak. The New American Bible defines “word” as:

 

“Was thought to be a reality lodging within the person, and that it goes out from that person when spoken or written and then lodges within the person to whom it is directed.” 

 

            This idea is confirmed by Jerimiah:

 

Jeremiah 4: 14:“How long must your pernicious thoughts lodge within you”.  

 

Now let’s look at 1 John 1:1-2 to shed some light on this verse. John refers to the Word as the “Word of Life.”

 

“Concerning the Word of life – and the life was manifested; and we have seen, and bear witness, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.

 

Notice that in the verse above it is the eternal life that was with the Father. In John 1:1 it is the Word that was with God. This is why John calls it the Word of Life in 1 John 1:1. Word of Life is another way of saying “The message that brings us eternal life.”

This is the message that they heard, this is the message that was with God from the beginning. God’s Word of Life (His plan for our salvation) was known to God from long ago. It was with Him from the beginning.

 

Acts 4:28 - To do what your hand and your will had long ago planned to take place.”

Acts 20:27 -“For I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.”

And the word was God.

 

                The word is God’s expressed will that He uses to communicate with us. God’s will is God. What John is saying is that God’s word expresses God’s mind.

 

Word = God’s Will = God’s mind = God.

 

The Trinitarian (Catholic) New American Bible states the following on this verse:

 

Lack of a definite article with “God” in Greek signifies predication rather than identification.”

 

According to Webster’s Dictionary, predication means, “to affirm as a quality or attribute.” Even the Roman Catholic Bible tells us that it does not signify identification. We can also cross-reference other Scriptures to prove that the Word (His thoughts, will) is God. Examples:

 

Jonah 1: 1 – 3 -  The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai, ‘Go to the great city of  Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish.”

 

It says the word (revealed will of God) of the LORD came to Jonah, then it says that Jonah ran away from the LORD. God came to Jonah and told him His will or plan (which was to go to Nineveh), and Jonah ran away from God. The Word (God’s will) is God.

 

Isaiah 55: 11 - “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”

 

In this verse, when God speaks, His thoughts and power (His word) go out from Him to do His will. God’s will is God. The Word is God.

 

The gospel, the good news of the kingdom of God which is based on love is God’s plan of salvation for us. This is His will. It reflects the mind of God. My mind is reflective of me. It reflects who I am as a person. The gospel is referred to many times in the New Testament as “the word of God,” or just “the word.” The gospel (His word) is the expression of God’s mind. In other words, the gospel is the mind of God. The mind of God is God. Another way of saying it is, “the gospel is God,” or:  “The Word was God.”

Through him all things were made

John is describing how God made the world and the universe through his word (his wisdom, Proverbs 3:19). In other words, because of his love for us, God created the world and the universe. Furthermore, although in Greek “logos” is a masculine noun, this is no proof of personality. This comes into play in this verse. The Greek word that has been translated as “him” can be translated as “it,” “he,” or “she” depending on the noun it is describing. In this case, since theologians were claiming that “Word” is a reference to Jesus, they obviously chose “him” instead of  “it.” This unfortunately reflects more theology than it does strict accuracy.  This is evident in 1 John 1:1-3 which is a parallel to John 1:1-3 in which “the Word of life” which is the same as “the word” is translated as “it”.

           

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of Life, for the life was made visible; we have seen IT and testify to IT and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us, what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you.”

 

The translation “through him” should be “through it” (His word). Here are a few more examples:

 

Isaiah 55: 11 – “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”

           

Hebrews 4: 12 –13 - “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

 

These two verses are excellent examples. In both verses “word” is not capitalized. You can also see that the “word” is referred to as it. This is the correct way to translate the Greek word that was translated as “him.” This is the way it should have been translated in John 1: 1 - 3. It should be noted that the  “Word” was not assumed to be a second person in Bible translations prior to the KJV. The Bishop’s Bible of 1568, replaced by the KJV in 1611, understands the word to be impersonal, and uses the pronoun “it,” as does the Geneva Bible of 1560.

 

It is through God’s word, which is his expressed will that all things were made, through “it” not “him.”

 

2 Peter 3: 5 “But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed.”        

           

Revelation 4: 11:  “for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created.”

 

Ephesians 1:1: “In accord with the purpose of the one who accomplishes all things according to the intention of His will.”

 

Wisdom 9:1 says, “God of my fathers, LORD of mercy, you who have made all things by your word” (will).

 

Sirach 42:15 says, “At God’s word (will) were His works brought into being.”

           

 Everything was created by God’s word (His will), not by Jesus. In other words, God has a plan (logos) to create the universe. When He speaks (word), he is expressing His thoughts. His thoughts are His will, and whatever God wills happens. This is how everything was created by the word (His will).

John 1: 14

The Word became flesh

 

                What John is saying is that the prophecies that God had spoken of in the past to the fathers and the prophets about the Messiah were fulfilled when Jesus was born. In order to better understand this verse I am going to use an analogy that most of us can relate to. Say that you and your spouse decide to have a child. You have an idea, (logos) a plan in your mind to have a child. That plan becomes flesh when your child is born. God’s logos (plan) became flesh, became a reality when Jesus was born. We can see this type of expression used again by John in 1 John 1:1-2.

 

                “Concerning the Word of life – and the life was manifested; and we have seen, and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.

 

Notice that in John 1:14 it is the Word that became (is manifested) flesh, and in

1 John 1:1-2 it is the life, the eternal life that is manifested.

 

The life is not Jesus, it comes to us through Jesus. John 1:2:

 

“What came to be through him was life”

 

So if we use the definition that Word = Jesus, then we have the Word being manifested in John’s gospel and the life being manifested in John’s epistle.

 

Now we have two different things being manifested, the Word and the life. If Jesus is the Word then who is the life.

If we understand “Word” to mean a message that brings life (Word of life), then there is no conflict, we are speaking of the same thing.  

 

 In other words, God’s message of love that brings us eternal life was manifested (revealed) to us by Jesus.

 

1 John 4:9 – “In this the love of God was MANIFESTED toward us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through him.

 

In other other words, by seeing Jesus, how he lived, how he loved, how he perfectly followed God’s will, God’s word (His message) was no longer an abstract idea, it was being acted out in the flesh. It was manifested in the flesh. You could actually touch it.

 

God’s works are also said to be manifested. A good example is the blind man that Jesus cures in John 9:3.

 

(The blind man) “Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

 

The outcome of the Greek philosophical interpretation of the Word becoming flesh is Dualism.

 

Dualism - The view that reality may be divided into two essential forces. There are two forms of this understanding. From a cosmic perspective, the world struggles between two opposing forces - typically, one of evil and one of good. From a philosophical approach, the essence of a person is divided between two incompatible natures - that of the body and that of the soul. Early Christianity incorporated both views from those religions and philosophies with which it came in contact.  This is the same concept used not only in Greek philosophy, but also in Greek mythology. Hercules is the son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene. He had a dual nature, he was a man that had supernatural strength which he inherited from his father Zeus. The Pharaohs were godmen and so were the Caesars. The Bible even provides us with an example of this belief in Acts 14:11 when God healed a crippled man through Paul and Barnabas:

 

"When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they cried out in Lycaonian, "The gods have come down to us in human form."

 

The idea of gods becoming men was very prevalent in the Roman-Greco world. This is why it was so natural to inject this belief into Christianity. As you can see, the idea of Dualism  is the exact definition that Trinitarians have used for Jesus, that he has two natures. He is fully God and fully Man. This is stated in the Chalcedon Creed of 451 AD. Jesus is not a godman, he is the Anointed (the Messiah).

With the proper definitions a proper understanding of John 1:1-3 & 14 is not difficult. The problem arises when you bring a lot of preconceived ideas with you when trying to interpret this verse.

We today have to do the exact opposite of what Bible scholars of the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries did. They injected Christianity with a huge and dangerous dosage of Greek philosophy. We have to remove all the erroneous interpretations that that philosophy brought with it in order to understand God’s message for us. These verses are a good starting point. As you can see many people have been falsely lead to believe that John 1: 1 - 3 is saying that Jesus is God, when in fact it has nothing at all to do with the deity of Jesus. 

Now we can proceed to Colossians 1:15-20 with a Scripture based background and not a tradition based background.

 

COLOSSIANS 1:15-20

To start with, Colossians 1:15-20 is not one of the easier passages to understand in the New Testament. We are going to have to approach it with much patience as we compare its verses to other verses in the New Testament in order to understand what Paul is trying to say. We are going to explain this passage verse by verse. First let us begin by reviewing what this passage is about. In other words, what is the context that we should try to understand this passage in? We can gather the topic that leads to this passage from Colossians 1:12-14. It states:

 

“Giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

 

The topic is the inheritance of the holy ones, which as the verse goes on to say is the kingdom of his Son (the Messianic kingdom). The topic in Colossians 1:15-20 is still the kingdom of the Son. It s purpose is to show the preeminence of the Son in his kingdom and how through Jesus’ sacrifice we become new creations in Christ.

This passage is neither about the creation of the universe nor the deity of Christ. To do so would be to take it out of context. If we did, it would contradict the first chapter of Hebrews which is very clear about which world Jesus is responsible for creating, the world to come.   

 

Hebrews 2:5: " For it was not to angels that he subjected THE WORLD TO COME, OF WHICH WE ARE SPEAKING.

 

 We are going to go verse by verse, let us begin.

 

15a. “He is the image of the invisible God,”

 

First we must discard the traditional idea that this verse implies that Jesus is God. It means that he is the image of God. An image is not the original but a representation of the original. A photograph shows the image of a person, but the photograph is not the actual person, it is a representation. Saying that Jesus is the image of God (2 Cor.4:4) or that Jesus is the image of the invisible God means the same thing. God is invisible, he is a spirit (John 4:4).

Let us first get a working definition of the word “image.” According to Strong’s Greek Dictionary # 1504, imagea likeness, i.e. statue, profile, or fig. representation, resemblance.

 

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words has this to say on the word “image” and its relation to how man (Adam), was made in the image of God:

 

“Man even after the Fall still has Godlike qualities, such as love of goodness and beauty, none of which are found in mere animal; In the Fall man ceased to be a perfect vehicle for the representation of God.”

 

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Volume 2 pg. 254-256 says the following on the phrase “image of God:”

 

“Linguistic studies bring out no sharp distinction between the two nouns, “image” and “likeness.”

 

“Seems to be attempting a very difficult idea in which he wants to make clear that man is in some way the concrete reflection of God.”

 

“Christ is the prototype of essential man perfectly reflecting God.”

 

“Adam was by nature endowed with original righteousness. He had a moral likeness to God; he possessed holiness although he was in no sense equal to God. What he lost in the Fall was original righteousness, and thenceforth the slant of his life was affected by sin. But there are elements in man which he did not lose-elements having to do with the image of God as a person or personality-traits such as self-consciousness, self-determination, superiority over nature, creativity, and the like. The restoration

(a process) of these human powers plus original righteousness awaits the new creation, the new birth, the indwelling of Christ, so that a Christian may say with Paul, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’ The hope of the Christian faith is the full attainment of that new nature...after the image of its creator." 

 

So what does it all mean? Christ is the image of God in that he possesses the righteous attributes which God gave man in the beginning, this is how God made man in His image (Genesis 1:26), he made him righteous and holy, living a life of love. After man sinned he lost those attributes, he is not therefore in the image of God anymore. But through Christ, God has given us the opportunity to discard the old self and put on the new self, a new creation which is again in the image of God as Christ is.

 

Colossians 3:10: “Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.   

 

This is why we are told to conform to the image of God’s Son. To be righteous and loving like Christ. When we reach that point, then we also will be in the image of God.

 

Romans 8:29: “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

 

1 Corinthians 15:49: “Just as we have born the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.”

 

2 Corinthians 3:18: “All of us are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory as from the Lord (Jesus).”

 

1 Corinthians 11:7: “A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image of God.”

 

Ephesians 5:1: “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us.”

 

    If we took this verse to mean that because Christ is the image of God that he is therefore God, then we would also have to conclude that man, especially Adam, is also God because he and they were made in the image of God. We would then have to conclude that we are also Christ because we will bear the image of Christ, or that we will also become Gods at some point in time because we are being transformed into the image of God. After reviewing the verses above you can see how absurd these ideas really are.

In this passage all verse 15a means is that in his kingdom, Jesus is the representation of God. A lot of writing to explain something basically simple.

 

15b. “The firstborn of all creation.”

 

Trinitarians will claim that this verse is proof that Jesus preexisted before his birth to Mary as the second member of the Trinity. This of course, is based on tradition not Scripture. This passage is not about the time-frame of the birth of Christ nor of the Trinity, it is about the Messianic kingdom and Jesus’ position in it. Firstborn does not mean the first to be born, it is used in the sense of the superiority of position. The firstborn is the one who inherited the majority and most important holdings of a family. In Jesus case he is inheriting the promises that God made to Abraham, which together are the basis for the kingdom of God, or the Messianic kingdom. This is exactly what Colossians is referring to in the verse that leads up to Colossians 1:15-20. Let us review Colossians 1:12-14 once again. Notice the word “inheritance.”

 

“Giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

 

Let us see what a few sources say about the meaning of firstborn. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says the following about “firstborn”:

 

“Is used of Christ as born of the virgin Mary, Luke 2:7; further, in his relationship to the Father, expressing his priority to, and preeminence over, creation, NOT in the sense of being the “first” to be born.”

 

Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible on pg. 540 states the following on “firstborn.”

 

Firstborn – He enjoyed prerogatives over his brothers, like receiving the father’s blessing (Gen. 27:1-4, 35-37), preferential treatment by the father (43:33) respect as leader among the brothers (37:22), and a double portion of the inheritance, twice that of any other son.

Christ is the “firstborn” of the Father (Heb.1:6), having preeminent position over others in relation to him. He is the firstborn over many brethren (Romans 8:29) as one sovereign above those related to him in the new creation.”

 

Notice how Zondervan’s Encyclopedia mentions “inheritance” just as it is in Colossians 1:12-14.

 

Zondervan’s Encyclopedia then goes on to say specifically about Colossians 1:15:

 

The proper meaning is that Christ stands in a relationship of priority or sovereignty over all creation.”

 

Vine’s Expository Dictionary and Zondervan’s Encyclopedia both mention in their explanations the preeminence of the firstborn, which is echoed in Colossians 1:18c:

 

“That in all things he might be preeminent.”

 

So what does it all mean? It means that Jesus as God’s firstborn in the Messianic kingdom holds the preeminent position as our king. 

 

16a. “For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,

                b. the visible and the invisible, 

                c. whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;

                d. all things were created through him and for him.”

 

            Here is the main argument for the deity of Jesus. Creation. Some people will claim that this verse means that Jesus created the universe. As we mentioned earlier, this passage has nothing to do with the creation of the universe. It is about the kingdom of the Son and his role in it.

The key words in this verse are “in him.” Make no mistake, the words are “in him” and not as a few translations have it as “by him.” Most translations have it correctly as “in him.” Zondervan’s Greek and English Interlinear Bible has it in the Greek as “in” and not “by”. You can judge yourself which word it should be by comparing it to 16d which says that all things were created “THROUGH” not “by” him.

This is the same thought that we covered in Hebrews 1:2 in which we proved with very strong evidence that the author was speaking about the world to come and not the present world.  

 

            “Through a Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the world (age to come). 

 

Notice that in Hebrews 1:2 we have the mention again of “heir” as in Colossians. We also have the thought that God through Jesus has created the world to come. This parallels Colossians 1:16. If Colossians 1:16 is speaking about Jesus creating the present universe, then we have a massive contradiction in the Bible. Right off the bat either Hebrews chapter 1 is wrong or Colossian chapter 1 is wrong, but they both cannot be correct.

Once we can see past this false tradition, we can now start to try and understand the true meaning of this verse. What did Paul mean when he said,

    For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,

                the visible and the invisible, 

                whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;

                all things were created through him and for him.”

When you are “in Christ,” it means that you believe in and follow the teachings of Christ. When you are in Christ you are born again (John 3:3). Being born again means that you are a new creature, not of the flesh (following your own desires) but of the spirit (following the will of God). It is this new self that is in the image of God.

 

Colossians 3:10: “Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.  

 

2 Corinthians 5:17: “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”

 

Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”

 

Just as those of us are created new in Christ, so will the earth and heavens. This is what is referred to as the New Earth and the New Heavens in the Messianic kingdom.

 

Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away.”

 

Creation was also made subject to sin, but in Christ, in his kingdom, it too will be a new creation.

 

Romans 8:20-22: “For creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

 

Creation will be set free and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God in the Messianic kingdom, the age to come.

 

This is how everything is created “IN CHRIST.”

 

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Volume 2 pg. 254-256 sums it up best:

“Adam was by nature endowed with original righteousness. He had a moral likeness to God; he possessed holiness although he was in no sense equal to God. What he lost in the Fall was original righteousness, and thenceforth the slant of his life was affected by sin. But there are elements in man which he did not lose-elements having to do with the image of God as a person or personality-traits such as self-consciousness, self-determination, superiority over nature, creativity, and the like. The restoration

(a process) of these human powers plus original righteousness awaits the new creation, the new birth, THE INDWELLING OF CHRIST, so that a Christian may say with Paul, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’ The hope of the Christian faith is the full attainment of that new nature...after the image of its creator." 

17a. “He is before all things,”

This has nothing to do with time. It does not mean that Jesus preexisted before his birth to Mary. It has to do with rank or position. It is an echo of 15b and 18c.

Strong’s Greek Dictionary # 4253 states the following on the word “before:”

Before – in front of (fig. superior).

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament states:

 

Before – of superiority or preeminence.

Thayer’s definition mentions preeminence. Where have we heard that word before? That’s right, 18c.

 

So what does it all mean? It means that Jesus is above all things, preeminent in the Messianic kingdom.

17b. “and in him all things hold together.”

Let us compare this verse to Ephesians 2:21-22:

“Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you are also being built together into a dwelling place for God.”

Notice in the above verse that it is through Jesus that it is held together, and that “in him” we are being built into a dwelling place for God.

So what does this all mean? It means simply that in the Messianic kingdom everything will be based on Christ and his teachings. Christ is the cornerstone of the kingdom. Without him the whole structure falls apart. Without Christ there is no Messianic kingdom.

18a. “He is the head of the body, the church.”

 

Just as the body follows the head, the church follows Jesus.

18b. “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.”

He is the first to resurrect.

18c. “That in all things he might be preeminent.”

Because Jesus is the first to resurrect due to his sacrifice, he is preeminent in the Messianic kingdom.

 

19a. “For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,”

Let us compare this verse to Colossians 2:9-10:

For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily, and you share in this fullness in him.”

This is what Messiah means. Messiah means “anointed.” Anointed by the Spirit of God. This is how God dwells in Jesus. Notice in the verse above that we also share in the fullness. If we are in Christ we will also share in the benefits of Jesus’ anointing

Combine the next two verses together and you have the meaning of 19a.

Acts 2:22: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power. He went around doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

 

 John 14:10: “The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.

What does it all mean? It means that God dwells in Jesus because He has anointed him with His Spirit.

20. “And through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.”

That through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we have been reconciled to God. Those in heaven might be a reference to fallen angels.

CONCLUSION - Colossians 1:15-20 has been distorted in its meaning for centuries now by most of mainstream Christianity. This is in turn due to the fact that most of mainstream Christianity still holds the Doctrine of the Trinity to be true. It is almost a catch 22. Which came first the chicken or the egg? In this case the chicken, a.k.a. the Trinity. When the Doctrine of the Trinity became dogma, Trinitarians looked for any verses to back up this new idea. Unfortunately, these verses were one of their victims.

                May God always bless you in your search for truth.

 

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact us at:

767juan@compuserve.com

 

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