Image of Christ

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image—exact likeness and perfect Representative. Adam was made “in the image of God” (Ge 1:27). But Christ, the second Adam, perfectly reflected visibly “the invisible God” (1 Ti 1:17), whose glories the first Adam only in part represented. “Image” (eicon) involves “likeness” (homoiosis); but “likeness” does not involve “image.” “Image” always supposes a prototype, which it not merely resembles, but from which it is drawn: the exact counterpart, as the reflection of the sun in the water: the child the living image of the parent. “Likeness” implies mere resemblance, not the exact counterpart and derivation as “image” expresses; hence it is nowhere applied to the Son, while “image” is here, compare 1 Co 11:7 [TRENCH]. (Jn 1:18; 14:9; 2 Co 4:4; 1 Ti 3:16; Heb 1:3). Even before His incarnation He was the image of the invisible God, as the Word (Jn 1:1–3) by whom God created the worlds, and by whom God appeared to the patriarchs. Thus His essential character as always “the image of God,” (1) before the incarnation, (2) in the days of His flesh, and (3) now in His glorified state, is, I think, contemplated here by the verb “is.”

Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians & Colossians D. The Truth about Jesus (vv. 15–23)

Jesus is the image of God. The word for image was used in Paul’s time for likenesses placed on coins, portraits, and for statues. It carries the idea of correspondence to the original. It is the nearest equivalent in ancient Greek to our modern photograph. Jesus is the perfect representation of God. This verse and others (John 1:18; 1 Tim. 1:17) tell us that God is invisible. J. B. Phillips translates verse 15, “Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God.” Hebrews 1:3 tells us that the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.

Not only is Jesus the perfect picture of God, but he also holds the highest rank in the universe. Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. Firstborn is a term of rank more than it is a word of time (see Ps. 89:27). The right of the firstborn was the right of privilege and priority. It was the honored position in the family. In the case of the patriarchs, we know that the honored position didn’t always go to the first son born in time. Jesus is the firstborn—the highest rank—in all of creation.

15. The image (εἰκών). See on Apoc. 13:14. For the Logos (Word) underlying the passage, see on John 1:1. Image is more than likeness which may be superficial and incidental. It implies a prototype, and embodies the essential verity of its prototype. Compare in the form of God, Philip. 2:6 (note), and the effulgence of the Father’s glory, Heb. 1:3. Also 1 John 1:1.

Of the invisible God (τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου). Lit., of the God, the invisible. Thus is brought out the idea of manifestation which lies in image. See on Apoc. 13:14.

The image (εἰκων [eikōn]). In predicate and no article. On εἰκων [eikōn], see 2 Cor. 4:4; 3:18; Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10. Jesus is the very stamp of God the Father as he was before the Incarnation (John 17:5) and is now (Phil. 2:5–11; Heb. 1:3). Of the invisible God (του θεου του ἀορατου [tou theou tou aoratou]). But the one who sees Jesus has seen God (John 14:9). See this verbal adjective (α [a] privative and ὁραω [horaō]) in Rom. 1:20.

Opening Up Colossians and Philemon The Glory of Christ’s Person (v. 15)

Jesus Christ is ‘the image of the invisible God’ not only because he is man made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27; 1 Cor. 11:7), but also because he has the same nature as God (Heb. 1:3), being co-eternal with him. The Father is invisible to us, yet God manifests himself by his Son (John 14:9). Christ pre-existed with the Father before the world was created as ‘the first-born over all creation’ (v. 15), being the Father’s heir. This phrase does not refer to the creating of Jesus Christ before the rest of creation, as the Arians and the Unitarians teach, but to his eternal divine existence.

Colossians, Philemon 1:15 Christ, the Image of God

Verse 15 (in Greek) begins with the relative pronoun, corresponding to the English who, rather than with the definite pronoun he. The closest antecedent of who is Son in verse 13. Other NT passages with a similar confessional and hymnic quality also characteristically begin with a Greek relative pronoun (Phil. 2:6; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:3; 1 Pet. 2:22).

Image of the invisible God. Other texts also describe God as the invisible one (John 1:18; Rom. 1:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Heb. 11:27). We might think it is a logical contradiction to speak of a visible representation of what is invisible, but this is true to other biblical affirmations that God can be seen in Jesus Christ (John 12:45; 14:9). The point of image is not exact likeness, much less resemblance, but revelation and representation. The reality of God is in the image of God, in Christ. God is invisible, but not unknowable, or knowable only to an elite few. The means through which Jesus made the Father known include his incarnation (becoming flesh), life and example, ministry, teaching, response to evil, suffering, death, and resurrection.

Colossians, Philemon 1:15 Christ, the Image of God

Many interpreters have noted striking similarities between the terminology and thought forms of Colossians 1:15–20 and Jewish wisdom theology. [Sources, p. 318.] However, beyond the similarities, important differences mark Paul’s teaching as distinctly Christian. Wisdom theology has wisdom as the image of God and the creator of the world. Paul can utilize familiar thought forms for proclaiming the person of Christ. The Greek philosophers thought of the world (the cosmos) as God’s image. Paul does not say anything like that. He rises above all of those ideas and declares the Son of God to be the visible manifestation and presence of God. [Image, p. 298.]

The Bible Exposition Commentary Chapter Four: Crown Him Lord of All! (Colossians 1:13–20)

He existed before Creation (v. 15). The term firstborn does not refer to time, but to place or status. Jesus Christ was not the first being created, since He Himself is the Creator of all things. Firstborn simply means “of first importance, of first rank.” Solomon was certainly not born first of all of David’s sons, yet he was named the firstborn (Ps. 89:27). Firstborn of all Creation means “prior to all Creation.” Jesus Christ is not a created being; He is eternal God.

Paul used the word image to make this fact clear. It means “an exact representation and revelation.” The writer to the Hebrews affirms that Jesus Christ is “the express image of His Person” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus was able to say, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). In His essence, God is invisible; but Jesus Christ has revealed Him to us (John 1:18). Nature reveals the existence, power, and wisdom of God; but nature cannot reveal the very essence of God to us. It is only in Jesus Christ that the invisible God is revealed perfectly. Since no mere creature can perfectly reveal God, Jesus Christ must be God.

The Gnostic teachers claimed that God made the worlds through a series of “emanations” from Himself and that Christ was one of these emanations. Paul asserts that Christ is not an emanation from God, but God Himself! “Image” means “the exact reproduction.” Christ is not one of God’s creatures, but the highest (firstborn) of all creation

I. CHRIST IS THE IMAGE OF GOD. Image signifies that which represents another, and as things are variously represented, so there is a great variety of images. 1. Some are imperfect, and express but some particular, and that defectively. (1) Artificial images, whether drawn, sculptured, or embroidered, represent only the colour, figure, and lineaments, and have nothing of life and nature. (2) Adam, who was called God’s image because the conditions of his nature had some resemblance to the properties of God—intellect, will, and lordship; but he had not God’s essence. 2. Some are perfect. We call a child the image of his father, inasmuch as he has not merely the colour or figure of his parent, but his nature and properties, soul, body, life, &c. So a prince has not only the appearance of his predecessor’s power, but its substance (Gen. 5:3). 3. In which of these two senses is the figure true of Christ? Surely not in the sense that man is the image of God. For intending to exalt Christ and to show that His dignity is so great as to capacitate Him to save us, it would ill suit his design if the apostle attributed no more to Him than what holds good for any man. Read our Lord’s own testimony (John 14:9; 12:45). Now where is the portrait of which it may be said that he who has seen it has seen him whom it represents? This can only be found in one which contains the nature of the original (Heb. 1:3). (1) God’s nature is perfectly represented in Christ. Hence He is called God over and over again. (2) Christ represents the Father in His properties, eternity, immutability, wisdom, &c. (3) In His works (John 5:19; Heb. 1:10; John 1:3, &c.). 4. Now no child perfectly represents his father; there are differences of manner, disposition, feature: but Christ represents the Father in everything. 5. This sacred truth overthrows two heresies—the Sabellian and the Arian. The former confounded the Son with the Father, the latter rent them asunder. Those took from the Son His person, these His nature. Paul demonstrates the Sabellian error here, for no one is the image of himself; and the Arian, for Christ could not be a perfect image unless He had the same nature as the Father.

II. GOD, WHOSE IMAGE JESUS IS, IS INVISIBLE. 1. The Divine nature is spiritual, and hence invisible, inasmuch as the eye sees only corporeal objects. For this cause, Moses, in teaching that there is nothing material in the Divine essence that might be represented by pencil or chisel, remonstrates to them that when God manifested Himself they “saw no similitude” (Deut. 4:12, 15). Whence He infers they must make no graven image. 2. But the meaning here is also that God is incomprehensible. Seeing is often put for knowing. The Seraphim cover their faces to embody this truth (Isa. 6:2). Through His grace indeed we may know something of His nature (Heb. 1:1); but however clear it does not amount to a seeing, i.e., an apprehension which conceives the proper form of the subject. 3. Why is this quality mentioned here? To show us that God has manifested Himself to us by His Son. There is a secret opposition between image and invisible. God has a nature so impenetrable that without this His Image men would not have known Him. (1) By Him He made, preserves, and governs the world. To Him we must refer the revelations of God under the Old Testament. (2) But here the reference is to what took place in the fulness of time. In Christ we see all the wonders of the invisible Father—His justice, mercy, power, &c., in all their completeness, whereas creation only shows the edges. (J. Daillé.)

The image of God:—We believe in many things we never saw, on the evidence of other senses than sight. We believe in music, invisible odours, nay, in what we can neither hear, taste, smell, nor touch—our own life, our soul. Thus it were irrational to disbelieve in God because He is invisible. Still we are tempted to forget His existence, and as for the ungodly “God is not in all their thoughts.”

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