Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

Who Is Jesus?

Colossians 1:15-20

Who is Jesus? This is the single most important question every human must answer. Who Jesus is to you will help determine your eternal destiny. It?s not a test question saying that if you don?t have a complete and full understanding of all the permutations of Jesus you can?t get to heaven?but there are some fundamental things you must know, or you will place your faith trust and reliance in the wrong thing.

For example: if you think Jesus is a divine genie that you can summon and command to get stuff, you will be sorely disappointed. Jesus isn?t that. Perhaps you think He is simply a person who had a lot of great ideas to share about how to live life?sort of the divine Tony Robbins. If you rely solely on that?listen to Jesus? advice and live a better life?it won?t do you any good.

The Colossians were having an identity crisis about who Jesus is. Some folks had some into the fellowship and implanted some ideas that sounded great but ran counter to what they?d heard from the Apostle Paul through Epaphras. So in verses 15 ? 23 of Chapter 1, Paul tries to set the record straight. In particular, verses 15 ? 20 could be an early Christian poem or worship song.

You can sum up what Paul is saying in three simple words: Jesus is Lord. It is perhaps the earliest and shortest creed known to Christianity. The Greek: Kurios Iesous is found in 1 Corinthians 12:3 and Romans 10:9 ?If you confess with your mouth, ?Jesus is Lord,? and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.?

But what does that mean and why is it important? Let?s find out. Each of these six verses has a piece of this picture to help us understand the idea of Jesus is Lord. Keep in mind that Paul is talking about Jesus as the ?rescuer? of mankind.

15a He is first and He is God

In John 14, Philip said to Jesus: ?Show us the Father and that?s enough for us.? Jesus said to him, ?Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ?Show us the Father?? 10 Don?t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.?

If you?ve seen Jesus you have seen God. This holds true for both Old and New Testaments. It?s likely that it was Jesus, as the pre-incarnate Christ, that walked the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Jesus is the One who spoke to Moses ?face to face? (Exodus 33:11). Here, Paul says He is the ?image? of the invisible God. Jesus is God made flesh. The word ?image? means ?an exact representation of something or someone.?

?So why is there a Father, or a Holy Spirit then? Aren?t they God?? you might ask. That?s a great question ? and delves into the mystery of the Trinity?that three persons can have one essence. We get some hints in Scripture and in creation but nothing definitive that explains something that is simply too much beyond our human minds to grasp. One example: water. Water can be liquid, solid, or gas. In some instances it can be all three at the same time. This happens at something called the ?Triple Point? which is zero degrees Celsius. Some of the water is changing from liquid to solid and vice versa?but can also evaporate as a gas. With that very simple illustration we can see three states at once?and it is this way with God. He can be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - three distinct persons and yet One.

But the point is the same?Jesus is the exact representation of God. Other passages that tell us this include: John 1:18, 2 Cor 4:4, and Hebrews 1:3.

Something else too: we are being ?transformed? into that image: ?And just as we have borne the image of the man made of dust, we will also bear the image of the heavenly man? (1 Cor 15:49).

15b ? 16 Jesus is the author and purpose of creation

Secondly, Paul says Jesus is ?firstborn of all creation.? The idea of firstborn in the New Testament doesn?t mean: ?born first? as if Jesus was created. It has to do with preeminence. Jesus has first place over all of creation. Why? Because He made it.

I don?t know how you can much clearer than this. The creation of heaven and earth is by, through, and for Jesus. This includes the visible universe and the unseen spirit realms. One of the problems facing the Colossians was the worship of ?lesser spirit? and angels. Paul?s reference to ?thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities? could involve rankings of angelic beings. He could also be referring to earthly powers but the point is the same: whether in heaven or on earth, all are under Christ.

17 Jesus holds the universe together

The word ?before?, like ?firstborn?, means to have supremacy. But notice the next phrase: ?by Him all things hold together.? Jesus actively holds the universe together and if He stopped thinking about it, it would fly apart. This is supremacy not only at the macro level, but at the sub-atomic level as well.

There is a hint that one day Jesus will stop holding the atoms of this universe together. 2 Peter 3:12 says: ?as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat.? Science has shown us that when an electron changes its orbit around the nucleus, known as changing its state, energy is one of the byproducts. That energy often takes the form of heat, so when Jesus let?s go, the whole thing goes up in flames.

One of the wonderful things about this poem is that it ties together the old and new creations. Up to this point we?re talking about the creation of the present universe. But now we start talking about the new thing Jesus did starting at His resurrection.

There?s a parallel verse in 2 Cor 5:17 ?Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 18 Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself??

Let?s look now at this ?new? thing that Jesus is doing:

18 He Gives His kingdom life

Being the ?head of the body? means the church?those that have put their faith, trust and reliance on Jesus as Savior and Lord. ?Head? means both the chief, but also the supply, just as a body can?t live without a head?Jesus supplies what we need for life.

He is the beginning and firstborn means that when Jesus came back from the dead after the cross He was the first of the ?new creation? that Paul talked about in 2 Corinthians 5. This new creation is a new kingdom that won?t pass away when the heavens melt but will go on into eternity.

This is what Peter (2 Peter 3:13) and John (Revelation 21:1) referred to in speaking of a ?new heavens and a new earth.?

Paul then asserts that whether it is the current creation or the new heavens and earth, Jesus is numero uno. He is number one.

19 Jesus is fully God

The two vital words in this verse are ?fullness? and ?dwell.? The word ?fullness? means: the sum total of all the divine power and attributes.? It was actually a word in the Gnostic vocabulary. Paul uses it 8 times in Colossians. He is saying that Jesus is the sum total of who God is. Today people can seek to steal words from the gospel and re-use them, but it doesn?t change the essential truth of who Jesus is.

The Greek word ?dwell? means: ?to be at home permanently?. Being God was not something added to Jesus, it was always an essential part of who He is.

20 Jesus is about saving

Because Jesus is God He could do what a mere man could not: save us. In the Garden of Eden we declared war on God, but He did not declare war on us. We became His enemy, He was not ours. Instead, God sought us out, became one of us, then died in our place to bring us back to peace with Him. The false teachers in the day said that angels could help bring man closer to God but it was only part way. In Jesus we can come permanently close to God?all the way. And this reconciliation involves the whole universe?the things on earth and the things in heaven!


So what do we make of this? The material here calls for us to answer some questions about how we feel about Jesus.

  • If you want to see God, look at Jesus (the visible manifestation of the invisible God)
  • A lot of religions and cults today want to make Jesus something less than God.
  • Cop in the sky
  • Just a man
  • A prophet only
  • An example
  • Genie
  • Mascot
  • Advisor
  • A buddy
  • Expert
  • Master
  • Hero
  • King
  • Brother
  • Husband
  • Lord?

Who do you see Jesus as?