“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15 NIV).
When you look into a mirror, what do you see? Well, unless you are in a carnival funhouse or peering into a mirror that is cracked or distorted, you will see an exact image of yourself. A good mirror is one that reflects our exact likeness, even when that image reflects something less than our best. This is why the use of a mirror is often essential when applying makeup, shaving, or checking our personal appearance.
While these things may seem obvious, they are relevant to the passage quoted above. You see, the word “image” is used to describe Jesus in this verse. In the original language of this passage, this word refers to “that which resembles an object and represents it, as a copy represents the original.” (1) In light of this, we can say that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God.
For instance, have you ever considered the apparent dichotomy between the following New Testament verses…
“No one has seen God at any time…” (1 John 4:12).
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father…” (Jesus speaking of Himself in John 14:9).
We find the answer here in Colossians 1:15: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (NLT). Jesus doesn’t simply resemble God, He is the exact counterpart or image of God. He is the perfect visible expression and representation of the invisible God like an image on a coin or a reflection in a mirror.
One author explains why this information was so important in context of first-century Colossae…
“We do not know exactly what the nature of Paul’s opposition is in Colossae, but its general features can be surmised even if we are only permitted to listen in to Paul’s side of the conversation. Some kind of challenge to the true nature and deity of Jesus Christ had been put forward.
It may have involved the worship of angels (2:18) or some other beings (1:16; 2:15, 20) who minimize if not negate the preeminence of Christ as Lord of all (1:18–19). It may have been an incipient form of a Christian heresy called Gnosticism by writers in the second century A.D. It was more a philosophy (2:8) than a religion and challenged the intellectual credibility of Christian faith, declaring that salvation was achieved by knowledge rather than faith and that the knowledge (Gk. gnosis) was a gift of God to the predestined few who claimed to have it.” (2)
(1) “Image” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor
(2) McRay, J. (1995). Colossians. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 1053). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.