Author: Ron Graham
Understanding the Messiah or Christ is the first and foremost requirement for spiritual enlightenment. Paul makes a most comprehensive statement of who and what Christ is.
Note —MESSIAH: The two titles, Messiah and Christ, are synonymous and interchangeable. “Messiah” is the Hebrew for which “Christ” is the Greek equivalent. The basic meaning of these titles is The Anointed One. See Strong: Hebrew 4899 (cf 4886), Greek 5547 (cf 5548).
These few verses contain one of the most comprehensive yet concise descriptions of Christ in the Bible.
Paul speaks of "the Father" in verse 12. In the following verses, he speaks of "His beloved Son" who is "the image of the invisible God". That is to say that the Son is exactly like his Father and shows us the Father. Jesus himself explained this in John 14:6-10.
The Son is God just as the Father is God. Paul confirms this by saying of Christ "He is before all things". This is a statement that can be made only of One who is God. Only God is "before all things". Jesus also confirmed this when he said, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:54-59 compare Exodus 3:13-14).
Paul says that "It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him" (Colossians 1:19). What fullness? Paul clarifies that later: "For in him all the fullness of the Deity (Godhood) dwells in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9).
From these points we understand that the Messiah has always existed, and he is God.
One of the strongest confirmations that Jesus the Messiah is God, is the statement that "in him all things were created... all things have been created through him and for him" (Colossians 1:16). Only God can be the Creator of all things.
This, incidentally, was clear to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, so they inserted the word "other" in their translation to kill the force of it, making the Messiah the creator of "all other things" —thus including him among the created things and excluding him from being God since God is not a created being.
John also said that Jesus Christ created all things, and his statement, like Paul’s, carefully places Christ outside of all created things. "All things came into being through him, and without him not even one thing came into being that has come into being" (John 1:3).
Paul not only says that Christ created all things and existed before them all, but he adds that "in him all things hold together" or literally "in him all things withstand" (Colossians 1:16-17). He not only brought all things into being, but in him all things endure and keep going. Were he to let go of the universe, it would immediately cease to exist.
From these points we understand that by the Messiah’s hand the entire created universe exists.
Paul speaks of "the kingdom of God’s beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13). If it is the Son’s kingdom, then obviously he is its King. This is what the terms Messiah and Christ really mean —the One who is annointed King of the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of God was already in existence when Paul wrote to the Colossians. Paul says, "God delivered us out of the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13). The King was already in power.
Paul makes a parallel statement, "He is also the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18). So Christ came "to have first place in everything" as the ruler of the church or kingdom of God.
From these points we see that the Messiah has been given preeminence and rule over the church, the kingdom of God. He is its king and head. No other, except the Father himself, is above or even equal to the Messiah.
Paul twice uses the expression "firstborn" with reference to Christ. First he calls him "the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15) and then "the firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18). Putting these together we see that Christ is the firstborn from the dead of all creation. Now "all creation" is used in the sense of all mankind. This is the same sense as in verse 23 where Paul speaks of the gospel proclaimed "in all creation under heaven" which of course means to all mankind in the world. Christ is the firstborn from the dead of all people on earth.
What does it mean to be the firstborn from the dead? Paul explains this when he speaks of being "buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with him through faith in the working of God who raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12). So being the firstborn from the dead means being the first to partake of the resurrection from the dead.
You might object that Christ was not the first to rise from the dead. That is true, since he himself raised people from the dead. However they were not raised to live forever, and they later died again. Jesus, after his resurrection, did not die again but ascended into heaven (Colossians 3:1). Christ has made the complete journey, resurrection, ascension, glorification. He is the forerunner (Hebrews 6:19-20), the firstfruits (1Corinthians 15:22-23), the firstborn (Colossians 1:18), and later we shall follow.
Paul says that we have redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation through Christ (Colossians 1:14,21-22). God "made peace through the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20). All who have been "buried with him in baptism" are in a happy state: "He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions" (Colossians 2:13). Our condemnation has been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). So this is where understanding the Messiah leads you. He is "Christ in you the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27-28).