Image of the Invisible God
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17, NIV)
Superheros are in right now. Ask a group of kids what superpower they want to have and one is likely to say, “the power of invisibility!” Perhaps a young boy is thinking of the character from “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, and all the pranks he could play on his friends. Or maybe a young girl is dreaming of saving the world like superhero Sue Storm in Marvel Comics. We all know what it means to be invisible, but what does it mean to be the image of someone invisible?
Jesus is given the name, “the image of the invisible God,” by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Colossae. Paul was writing to this church, a church he had never visited, to correct some of the false teachings that had taken root within the church. Mainly, the deity of Jesus Christ was being questioned. So when we consider Jesus as the Image of the Invisible God, we must consider it in light of the message Paul is attempting to reveal.
Most obviously, the name can be taken literally. God is invisible. We cannot physically see Him. In Exodus 33-34, Moses requested to see God. God shielded Moses in a cave while He passed by in all His Glory. Moses could not see God face to face. He could not even fully witness the Glory of God as God passed by. Like Moses, we can also not see God face to face. To us, He is physically invisible.
But Jesus was a person. A physical flesh and blood person. The disciples could see Him, touch Him. Some false teachers at Colossae were attempting to use this to claim that Jesus was not divine, but only human, made in God’s image as mankind has been since Adam. But we know that Jesus was set apart, different. While Adam and all his descendants were made in God’s image, Jesus was the image of the Invisible God. Jesus was and is more than a human manifestation of God.
If Jesus’ divinity is removed, as the teachers at Colossae were teaching, then He becomes nothing more than an idol, like any of the dozens of idols and false gods worshiped throughout Rome. Jesus was not an idol, a placeholder for the Lord God. He, as discussed last week, is the Son of God, the Image of the Invisible God. But Jesus is more than just a physical image of what God looks like. He came to this earth to pay the price of sin and offer salvation to all mankind. Therefore, Jesus also has the nature and attributes of God.
Since idols are prohibited by God, Jesus, as an Image of God, must therefore also be of the nature of God, a divine being. Since the church at Colossae was struggling with the deity of Jesus Christ, this was an important point for the Apostle Paul to make. It is evident by Jesus’ work and teachings that He loved mankind as God loved mankind. Jesus loved mankind so much that He was willing to die as the perfect sacrifice for our sins! Jesus was also devoted to His Father, willing to carry out His Father’s plans even when Jesus did not want to. While many of us may strive to be perfect, Jesus was perfect! He never sinned, never gave in to temptation.
So what does this mean for us? The meaning of a name of Jesus is never simple. To every name, there are layers of meaning to understand. You will not grasp the meanings all at once, but your understanding depends upon where you are in your journey with the Lord. That is the exciting thing about worshipping the True God. You can always grow, always learn! And as you learn, you grow closer and stronger in your relationship with Him. Meditate on this week’s Name of Jesus. What is being revealed to you?
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