Who is the Beginning

To the Colossians, Paul emphasized the exalted position of Jesus that he has held since his death and resurrectionColossians 1:18-19

Field of Flowers - Photo by Paolo Robaudi on Unsplash
In
Colossians, Paul stresses the exaltation of Jesus following his resurrection. It seems some congregants were confused about his authority over the spiritual powers that remain hostile to his people. So, Paul reminds the church of just how highly God exalted the one who became the “firstborn of the dead.” -[Photo by Paolo Robaudi on Unsplash].

Implicit in Paul’s statements is the assumption that Jesus did not always possess his present preeminence. His high status is the result of his obedience unto death, as well as his triumph over all the hostile spiritual powers achieved on the Cross.

But the Apostle especially emphasizes that the Son of God achieved his supremacy and victory over all the hostile powers on behalf of the church.
  • (Colossians 1:18-22) – “And HE is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, firstborn from among the dead, in order that he might become in all things himself pre-eminent; because in him was all the fullness well pleased to dwell. And through him fully to reconcile all things to him, making peace through the blood of his cross, through him, whether the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens. And you who at one time were estranged and enemies in your mind in your wicked works, yet now has he fully reconciled, in his body of flesh, through his death, to present you holy and blameless and unaccusable before him.”

PRESENT STATUS

In the Greek text, the pronoun rendered “HE” in the first clause is emphatic. It stresses what God has accomplished in Jesus in his death and resurrection. He is now - at present - “before all things” (present tense).

Moreover, in him, all things now “adhere” or “hold together,” and this includes his subjugation of and rule over all hostile spiritual powers. For this reason, his people are no longer under the dominion of the “principalities and powers.” In fact, all such powers were “created” to serve him.

The Greek term rendered “body” is metaphorical for the church (sōma – Strong’s - #4983). In Paul’s view, a physical human “body” is something that God created, and therefore, it is inherently good regardless of its present mortal state. The problem was never its physicality, but its enslavement to sin.

FIRSTBORN

Firstborn” points to Christ’s preeminence as the “firstborn of many brethren.” He is the firstborn from the dead. The Son of God is the first man to be resurrected and receive a glorious immortal body.

And that is why he also is labeled the “beginning.” In his death and resurrection, Jesus began the general resurrection of the dead and inaugurated the “new creation.” All the benefits that God has bestowed on the church are the direct result of Christ’s self-sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection “from among the dead.”

His past resurrection links him to believers. His resurrection is the model and the “first fruits” of the future resurrection of the saints, and his glorified body is of the same nature as the one that his disciples will receive when he returns.

Likewise, the book of Revelation labels him the “firstborn from the dead,” also in reference to his past resurrection:
  • (Revelation 1:4-5) – “John, to the seven assemblies which are in Asia, Grace to you and peace, from Him who Is, and Who Was, and who is Coming, and from the Seven Spirits which are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the Firstborn of the Dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

In Colossians, Paul also uses the term “resurrection” metaphorically. On some level, water baptism symbolizes the saints being “buried” with Jesus in his death so that they should live now in the newness of his resurrected life - (Colossians 2:9-14).

HIS VICTORY

One result of his exaltation was the cancellation of the ordinances from the Law that governed food and the calendar. Such things were not inherently evil, and they were required by the Torah. But their time came to an end with the death and resurrection of the Messiah. Such rituals amounted to “shadows” of the “substance” that cast them, namely, Jesus - (Romans 6:4-5).

Because of his victory, believers must not allow anyone to enslave them again to the very “rudiments” to which they have died in Christ (“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”).

Since they have been raised together with him, they must pursue the things above - “Where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.”

When Jesus is again “manifested,” his people will also “be manifested in glory.” This “manifestation” refers to his return, and his people will receive “glory” at the “advent of Jesus” when they are raised from the dead.

Paul links this future “glory” to the present glory of Jesus and the future resurrection of the righteous. The connection is especially prominent in the designation “firstborn of the dead” - (1 Peter 5:4, 1 John 2:28, 3:2).

As in many of his letters, the bodily resurrection of the saints is foundational to Paul’s understanding of salvation and the disciples’ hope of life in the age to come.



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