What does Colossians 1:15 mean?
ESV: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
NIV: The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
NASB: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation:
CSB: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
NLT: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
KJV: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
Verse Commentary:
Verse 15 begins a new section, running through verse 23, focusing on the supremacy of Jesus. This idea of "image" is similar to the words used by John in the opening of His gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Jesus, who is God the Son, is equal with God the Father (John 10:30). Jesus is God in human form, the visible image of the invisible God. The unseen God became seen, in the form of Jesus.

The phrase "firstborn of all creation," has caused considerable controversy. Some have attempted to interpret this to mean that Jesus was God the Father's first creation, and afterwards everything else was created by or through Jesus. Taken this way, Jesus would be a created being and not equal to the Father. He would not be eternal. However, in this context, the term "firstborn" refers to supremacy, or priority. Jesus is the greatest over all creation. He is not a created being; He is the Creator.
Verse Context:
Colossians 1:15–23 is an extensive praise of Jesus Christ. In this passage, Paul explains that Jesus is eternal, just as God is eternal, and all created things were created by Him, and through Him, and for Him. After describing Jesus as absolutely supreme, Paul then explains that it was His sacrifice which allowed the Colossians—and all saved believers—to be reconciled to God.
Chapter Summary:
In chapter 1, Paul introduces himself, along with his co-author Timothy. As he often does, Paul gives thanks for what he hears about the faith of the believers in Colossae. Paul includes a prayer for their growth and spiritual strength. The letter then transitions to praise of Jesus, describing Him as absolutely supreme. All created things were made through, by, and for Him. And, since it was His sacrifice which saved us from sin, we can have confidence in our eternal destiny.
Chapter Context:
Colossians chapter 1 is mostly focused on describing Christ as supreme. Jesus is not only the God of creation, He is the ultimate authority over all created things. The penalty for sin has been completely removed because of His perfect sacrifice. These are foundational ideas which Paul will use to set up his later points. In chapters 2, 3, and 4, Paul will explain why contrary claims are untrue, and show the right way for Christians to live out what we believe about Jesus.
Book Summary:
The book of Colossians describes Christ as superior to all other teachers, faiths, and philosophies. In this letter, written from prison, Paul once again tackles false teachings. Among these errors are claims that Christians need to give up all physical enjoyments, that they should worship angels, and that they need to rely on the wisdom of an elite few. These problems are consistent with an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism. In response, Paul explains that Christ is supreme, and sufficient for our salvation.
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