The Visible Invisible God.
Colossians 1: 15 – 20.
Yahweh’s invisibility to humans is a Biblical fact, and since no man can see God and live (Ex 33:20), the only option left to the writers of Scripture, who perhaps had caught a glimpse of His glory or had some sense of it, was to describe Him in anomalous human imageries, both in the Old and New Testaments (Ex 33:22; Heb 1:3). It would be intolerable for the human soul to be deprived of the presence and sight of our loved ones, what more for One who has loved us since time immemorial! However, the returns of love to our invisible Creator challenge our present motivation and spirituality. Simply put, it could well be out of sight, out of mind, until Sunday or another holy day comes around! Hence, Christian icons predominated during the early centuries to aid man’s visualisation in attempting to capture the ordinary looking God-Man (c.f., Isaiah 53:2-3; Isaiah depicted Jesus not as someone we could pick out from a crowd, contrary to most ancient and modern graphics). Perhaps Jesus as the image of the invisible God, as conveyed by Paul’s words in his Epistle to the Colossians, might provide us some clarity (Col 1:15-20; c.f., John 1:2-3; John 10:30; John 14:6-11).
It is inevitable that any Scriptural descriptor for Christ relates to Yahweh as well, and these contrasting Colossian imageries reveal what He is like. The initial rendering of Christ as the perfect quintessence of the unseen God transcends the spiritual and earthly reality of the form of God in Christ (Col 1:15). For first century Christians, this interpretation offered an unexpected comfort, as many would have had at least a second-hand portrayal of their Messiah. He is also the criterion and instrument of creation, the first in precedence and power (Col 1:15; ‘firstborn’ does not imply a creation of God), where everything that was made fit and function together in Him; in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, thrones and angelic domains, rulers or authorities, all that had been created was through Him and for Him (Col 1:16-17). Christ’s preeminence in creation from the genesis of time, with His status as the sinless One resurrected from the dead, justifiably renders Him, in a metaphoric sense, as the head of the church’s body, (Col 1:18). Of necessity, as living sacrifices in Christ, with our faith in the One whom all the fullness of God dwells (Rom 12:1-2), our individuality becomes contradictory in a faith relationship, and a restructuring is vital: where nothing (i.e., in body, soul, and spirit) is withheld from Him; for to acknowledge Him as Lord and Master is to explicitly obey Him. Without this high calling, He would certainly not be our God! (c.f., Matt 7:21-23).
Moreover, it was the Father’s prerogative that all His own fullness dwelt in Christ: characterised by the substance of His glory and the entirety of His presence dwelling in Jesus, and never leaving Him (c.f., Eph 4:7-16). In this respect, the Father defined creation’s goal and worth through His Son (Col 1:19; c.f., Eph 1:8-10; Eph 2:10-22). Henceforth, reconciliation (connoted as an economic exchange, implying the costs that was paid by Christ’s blood) and peace, not only respecting the human soul, will influence both the earthly and heavenly realm one day, unifying the all-inclusive range of schisms within creation (c.f., Rom 8:18-23; Col 1:20), due largely to the determinate counsel of God’s will and His eternal grace. The crux of our obedience to God has been modelled by Jesus’ absolute relinquishment of His own rights in preference to His Father’s plan for the salvation man and His creation. Paul further demonstrated it in his desire to align his will with Christ in order to gain Him (2 Cor 8:9; Phil 3:7-16). Is the irrevocable upward call of God in Christ Jesus in our lifetime here on earth worth following?
This remarkable Colossian expose of God’s persona in Christ Jesus, despite Yahweh’s invisibility, aids us in seeing Him with a tint of transparency. Human life is such that despite its shortness, few pay much attention to its obvious time-limiting priority, beguiled by a distracted mentality and subverting God’s goal for us in this present existence. The writer to the Hebrews has some advise for us: Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Heb 12:1-3). Jesus – downright selfless, inordinately sacrificial, and filled with lovingkindness – remains our eternal and demanding exemplar.