Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
Note 1 at Col 1:15: The Greek noun for "image" used here is "EIKON." EIKON was used twenty-three times in twenty verses in the New Testament: Mt 22:20 [once]; Mr 12:16 [once]; Lu 20:24 [once]; Ro 1:23 [once], 8:29 [once]; 1Co 11:7 [once], 15:49 [twice]; 2Co 3:18 [once], 4:4 [once]; Col 1:15 [once], 3:10 [once]; Heb 10:1 [once]; Re 13:14-15 [four times], 14:9 [once], 11 [once], 15:2 [once], 16:2 [once], 19:20 [once], and 20:4 [once]. This Greek word means "a likeness, i.e. (literally) statue, profile, or (figuratively) representation, resemblance" (Strong's Concordance).
It was not in the physical realm that Jesus was the image of God. Jesus' physical body was plain. Isaiah said that there was no beauty in Jesus that we should desire Him (Isa 53:2). Paul said in Php 2:7 that Jesus' physical body was "made in the likeness of men." Jesus totally represented the Father in actions, nature, and character. Jesus said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (Joh 14:9). Jesus gave us an exact image (Heb 1:3) of the Father's heart.
We are predestined "to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Ro 8:29). As surely "as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1Co 15:49), and we don't have to wait for eternity for this to happen. As we now behold the glory of the Lord, we "are changed into the same image from glory to glory" (2Co 3:18).
Note 2 at Col 1:15: God the Father is invisible to our natural senses, but He has and will be seen (see note 5 at Joh 4:24).
Note 3 at Col 1:15: Some people have tried to use this term "firstborn" to argue that Jesus was a created being and not the Creator. That is not true. "Firstborn" is used here in the sense of first in importance (see note 3 at Ro 8:29). This is verified by the context of this verse (see Col 1:18) where Paul said Jesus was to have the preeminence in all things.
The Greek term for "first created" is "PROTOKTISIS," whereas the Greek word for "firstborn," used here, is "PROTOTOKOS." These are two entirely different words. It is significant that in this verse, the Apostle Paul deliberately avoided using the Greek term for "first created" and instead chose the Greek word for "firstborn." Jesus "is before all things, and by him all things consist" (Col 1:17).
In Bible days, the Jews understood the term "firstborn" to refer to position and rank. In other words, the firstborn (according to Jewish custom) was his father's heir. All that his father possessed was his. This term signifies that the Son is the "appointed heir of all things" (Heb 1:2). Taken in context, this passage clearly reveals that all things in heaven and earth were created by the Son and for the Son (Col 1:16-17). By virtue of this fact, the Son stands as Ruler, Creator, and Firstborn.
Note 4 at Col 1:15: The Today's English Version translated this verse in the following manner: "Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things." The German Common Language Version translated this verse as "In the Son the invisible God became visible for us."
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