Article The New Creation in Colossians 1:15-17

Lori Jane

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The New Creation in Colossians 1:15-17



Reviewing the fact That Jesus Was Not

the Creator of the Universe​

Isa. 44:24:

“I am Yahweh who made everything. I stretched out the heavens by myself. Who was with me?”



Isa. 45:1, 12

Yahweh…I who made the earth…mine were the hands that spread out the heavens.”


(Also, Isa. 48:13; Jer. 10:12; Job 9:8; 38:4, 7; and Neh. 9:6)



Gen. 2:3: “God has been resting from all the work he has created.”

If Jesus were the creator he would have rested.



Mark 13:19: “The creation which God created.”

Matt. 19:4: “He [God] who created them from the beginning.”

Acts 17:24: “The God who made the world and everything in it.”

Heb. 3:4: “The builder of everything is God.” Not Jesus!



Furthermore, contrary to some Trinitarian statements, Jesus was not Yahweh. This fact is evident from Psalm 110:1 concerning: “A declaration of Yahweh to my lord, “Sit at my right hand” and where the separate “lord” (Heb. adoni) is the Messiah—Jesus.



Genre, Subject, Grammar, and Context​




Firstly, I present the text 0f Colossians 1:15-17 from the UBS Interlinear Translation, but in properly ordered English as presenting Jesus:



“…who is the image of the invisible God, firstborn of all creation, 16because in him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, the visible things and the invisible things, whether thrones or lordships whether rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him; and 17he is before all things and in him all things have been held together.”



GENRE AND SUBJECT OF THE PASSAGE


James Dunn (the leading christologist) reminds us that this is a pre-Pauline hymn, with its language being poetical and not conceptual, made up of two strophes. He tells us that the context indicates that: “the two strophes were not dealing with two clearly distinct subjects (cosmology and soteriology).”

The subject is, in fact, not that of the original creation as Karl-Joseph Kuschel notes when he says: “this text does not provide any encouragement for a hypostatization of Christ so that he becomes an independent ‘creator deity.’” So, whenever a passage is poetic, as this one is, and as shown in its layout in the New American Bible, then one has to be doubly careful in interpreting it by making a very careful examination of its grammar and context.



THE GRAMMAR AND IMMEDIATE CONTEXT OF THE PASSAGE


The use of the present tense in his passage indicates that this is about Jesus at the time Paul wrote the passage i.e., in his exalted position at Yahweh’s right hand. The context shows that the subjects of this passage are of Christ as “firstborn” in his post-resurrection glory and mankind’s reconciliation to God in the new creation. So, this passage is not about the past or any pre-existence of Christ but concerns Jesus at the time of writing after his exaltation, and further examination of the context will confirm this. Indeed, the immediate context shows that this passage applies to the New Creation i.e.:



Vs. 12: “…the inheritance of the holy ones” (NAB).

Vs. 13: “…transferred us to the kingdom” (NAB).

Vs. 14: “…in whom we have redemption (NAB)—which brings about the Kingdom creation.

Vs. 18: “…head of the bodyfirstborn from among the dead.”

Vs. 20: “…and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross whether those on earth or those in heaven” (NAB).



Indeed, this whole passage concerns the kingdom inheritance which has as its basis the reconciliation of humans to God through the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Because of this context the subject of verses 15-17 does not concern the physical creation. So, we shall now look at Colossians 1:15-17 point by point.


Analysis of Each Verse​


Verse 15: ♦

“…He is the visible image of the invisible God”

The present tense “is,” indicates that Jesus is spoken of here as “the image of God” in his exalted status since his resurrection. So, Jesus is only fully this image after his resurrection, having become immortal (Heb. 1:3, 1 Cor. 15). Here the Greek term eikon is of “a visible image” according to the Greek-English lexicons and so indicating that Jesus was not in the invisible realm. Indeed, the NLT, the Philips NT, and the Jewish New Testament correctly render eikon as “visible image.”



“the firstborn

The following verses show that Jesus is firstborn in pre-eminence as well as time because of his resurrection and in his position in the Congregation: “…in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29 ESV) and “…He is the beginning the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18 Mounce) and this occurred, “…when He raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand (rank) in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:20 NASB). So, Jesus is elevated to become firstborn because of his personal worthiness which Adam lost. Indeed, here Jesus is not only firstborn in time but, as the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:47), he is firstborn in terms of rank. As God says of the Messiah: “I myself shall place him as firstborn” (Ps. 89:27). This was future from when it was written. Also, Messiah was to be granted or “placed” in the firstborn position. This means that Jesus replaces the first Adam as firstborn. In fact, The Zondervan Encyclopaedia of the Bible p. 540 states: “Christ is the ‘firstborn’ of the Father having the pre-eminent position over others in relation to him ... above those related to him in the new creation.”



of all creation” described in verse 15b is defined by several factors:

  1. As shown above, the immediate context of verses 12-14 and 18-20 concerns the kingdom inheritance which has as its basis the reconciliation of humans to God through the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus. It is not about the original creation, but entirely applies to the New Creation.


  1. Colossians 1:16 concerns creation of things in the heavens and on the earth” rather than the creation of the earth or of the heavens. The creation of “the visible things and the invisible things” spoken of in Colossians 1:16 are, “thrones or lordships or rulers or authorities.” The creating of an authority is not the physical creating of people. So, these are not things of the material creation, but, in harmony with the immediate context and the general forward-looking movement of the Christian Greek Scriptures they are of the New Creation. Similarly, the Apostle Peter wrote of, “angels, authorities, and powers” being made subject to Christ (1 Pet. 3:22) and so creating a new administration under him.


  1. The parallel letter of Ephesians (Eph.1:9-23 and 2:10) speaks only of the New Creation and gives a precise doctrinal correlation with Colossians 1. This further demonstrates that Colossians 1 applies to the New Creation. Nothing here applies to the inception of the original creation. (Please also note the parallel phrases: Col. 1:12/Eph. 1:11; Col. 1:16, 17, 20/Eph. 1:10, 21, 22). So, when we come to Colossians 1:15-17 we get the same picture of Jesus as the agent of ‘the new creation.’


Because the New Testament Scriptures look forward to what is coming i.e., “the New Heavens and New Earth,” that is, a new order of society and which will be based on “the New Creation” of godly people since Jesus’ sacrifice was made, so, too, Colossians 1:15-17 also simply describes that “creation”the new creation with its focus on reconciliation of man to God through Jesus.

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Verse 16:♦

“because for his sake all things in heaven and on earth were created [by God]—visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, rulers or authorities—all these things have been and are being created through him and for him.”



In context this verse does not mean creation ‘by’ or ‘by means of’ Jesus as in several translations, but is the Greek word en as basically meaning “in” and rendered in the following texts: “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), and “…to head up all things in Christ—the things in heaven and the things on earth. In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession” (Eph. 1:10, 11 NET). However, here in Colossians 1:16 en is in the causal sense as several linguists show and as meaning: “because of him,” “for his sake,” or “with him in view.”



NOTE: The phrase created [by God] is the aorist of “create.” The passive is the divine passive showing that it was creation by God. There are some 96 occurrences of the divine passive in the Synoptic gospels.



Also, the phrase, “all things” must be understood in context, which, in this case is in the normal limited sense concerning “thrones, lordships, rulers or authorities” and concerning, “the body, the church (verse 18). So, this phrase also does not concern the creation of the entire universe.

An important figure of speech used in Colossians 1:16 is called ‘encircling’ but which the Romans called ‘inclusio’ (Gk epanadiplosis). When this figure of speech is used, it marks out what is within a particular circle and so gives clear context. This means that in Colossians 1:16a the “all things” includes only “thrones or lordships or rulers or authorities” and not all things absolutely—not the universe. Furthermore, a parallel account in Ephesians shows Jesus, after his exaltation to God’s right hand, as seated:



“…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:21, 22 ESV).



So, at this stage of things there is no point for Paul to refer back to the physical creation of animals, flowers, birds etc. Hence the “all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible” are “thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities” i.e., the arranging or ordering of things and not the physical making of things which was the work of only Yahweh in, “stretching out the heavens alone, spreading forth the earth by myself” (Isa. 44:24).



NOTE: The phrase “all these things have been and are being created is in the perfect passive of “create” with continuing results as shown in Grammatical Insights into the NT p.125 by Nigel Turner who gives the rendering: “They have been and are being created”

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Verse 17:♦ “He is (not the past tense ‘was’) above (not “before”) everything; and in union with him (not ‘by’ or ‘by means of’) all things hold together.”

As in verse 15 it says “He is” i.e., in the present tense, and does not look backward to the past, so also in verse 17. Furthermore, the phrase usually rendered “before all things” (Greek pro panton) in many translations correctly means above all things” in this context i.e., ‘before’ in the sense of superiority or pre-eminence. In fact, in the Greek phrase pro panton the word pro has three common uses:



1) in the sense of place, i.e. in front of

2) in the sense of time, i.e. prior to

3) in the sense of pre-eminence i.e., above in importance



Karl-Josef Kuschel notes concerning pro panton when he says:


However, this ‘before’ is not a speculative temporal category, but a confessional category, indicating the status of the one who is ‘the first born of all creation.’ Born Before All Time? p.334.



Also, in 1 Peter 4:8 and James 5:12 pro panton is translated literally as “above all things.” In fact, in Colossians 1:17 neither place nor timing are involved contextually. Therefore, in this case pro has the sense of “above” and harmonizes with the statement that God seated Christ: “…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:21, 22 ESV).

Furthermore, the phrase “in him all things have been held together in verse 18 does not refer to any holding together of the physical creation. This is again because of the context that refers to Christ’s activity toward the Christian Congregation and is parallel to Paul’s reference to “the fullness of him who fills all in all.…” (Eph. 1:23).

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On verse 18 which says: “Yes, he is the head of the body, the community of believers—he is [now] the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he would become pre-eminent in everything” James Dunn notes that: “Christ only gained the status as ‘pre-eminent in all things’ as a consequence of his resurrection.”



Rendering of Colossians 1:12-21 Noting the Context​

and All Grammatical Points​



12I ask that you’ll give thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of God’s holy people in the light. 13He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His Son—the one He dearly loves—14the one through whom we have liberation, which means the forgiveness of [our] sins.



15He is the visible image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16because for his sake all things in heaven and on earth were created [by God]—the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions, rulers or authorities—all these things have been and are being created through him and for him, 17so that he is above everything, and in union with him all things hold together.



18Yes, he is the head of the body, the community of believers—he is the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he would become pre-eminent in everything.” 19For God, in all the fullness, was pleased to live in him, 20and through him to reconcile everything to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, having made peace through the blood of his cross.”



21In the past all of you were previously alienated and hostile in mind [toward God], as seen in your degenerate behaviour. 22But now He has, with His Son’s natural body, reconciled you through that one’s death, in order to bring you, holy, blameless, and irreproachable, into His presence”

The kingdom of God Version.


The conclusion is that Colossians 1:15-17 speaks of God’s New Creation made through Christ in providing the ransom by his shed blood to reconcile those who become God’s holy ones and are transferred into the kingdom. No physical creation is mentioned; not the creation of planet earth or the heavens, but rather it is the things upon earth and things in heaven: thrones, lordships etc. This may mean that Jesus has now been given authority to restructure the arrangements of angels as well as being the agent for the creation of the Christian Community on earth.



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LeeB

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Dec 3, 2022
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If Jesus was the first of a new creation that Yahweh is doing Then Jesus was created first…..Jesus was created. The saints are to be recreated in the image of Jesus who was the image of his God. Jesus is the FIRSTBORN of many, if he preexisted he could not be born or first born. If we are to be changed/transformed into the image of Jesus we are not being recreated to be Yahweh. Yahweh is not making more Yahwehs, Isaiah 43:10 Yahweh is making other beings after His image and according to His likeness, not as a shadow but as sons of light. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 The trinity idea would demote Jesus rather than promote him as scripture plainly says Yahweh did.