Colossians 1:15a

The Image of the Invisible God



1. The book of Colossians is a book that exalts the Person of Jesus Christ.

2. It does so for a reason:

a. First of all—because He is worthy! Worthy is the Lamb!

b. But in context, Christ is exalted in order to combat a heresy that had reared its ugly head in this region: a seed form of Gnosticism.

3. The false teachers in taught that matter was evil and the spirit world was good.

a. They believed that matter was evil—the whole earthly, physical realm was evil and that contact with it was defiling.

b. This was the underlying principle… but two polar opposite practices grew out of this principle:
» Since matter was considered evil, one group became ascetic—and tried to avoid all contact with the world and physical things. (touch not; taste not; handle not)
» Another group arose which took the opposite view: hedonism. They believed that since matter was evil—and we live in the evil realm. There is therefore no escaping it in this life… therefore, we might as well live it up… and indulge in every form of sin imaginable.
» Both groups were equally wrong… and both practices are exposed and rebuked in this epistle.

4. Another ramification of this philosophy that matter is evil had to do with the PERSON of Jesus Christ.

a. These false teachers denied His true humanity.

b. They argued that if Jesus was good He must be a spirit being; if He had a physical body, He would be evil.

c. They believed that Jesus was a spirit being… an emanation from God—a sort of demi-god… half god; half angel or spirit.

d. Thus, Paul had to deal with the issue of angel worship… the root problem of which is a wrong concept of who Christ is.

5. This heresy also affected the doctrine of salvation.

a. They also tried to put believers under some of the ceremonial laws of Judaism… Jewish dietary laws. (touch not; taste not; handle not)

b. They also taught that the gospel was not enough. A special mystical “knowledge” was required.

6. Paul addresses each part of this heresy in the epistle to the Colossians.

a. His method of dealing with this heresy is primarily to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ… in every way.

b. He demonstrates that Christ IS the fullness of the Godhead BODILY… that He is the God-Man… the all sufficient One… He nailed the law to the cross… and that no secret knowledge beyond Christ and the gospel is needed: In HIM are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!

c. Look no farther than Christ.

The Invisible God

1. I Tim. 1:17 – God is invisible.

2. I Tim. 6:16 – God dwells in a light no man can approach to; and no man can see.

a. John 4:24 – God is a spirit.

b. Luke 24:39 – a Spirit does not have flesh and blood

c. Heb. 11:27 – by faith, Moses was able to “see” the invisible God. He is seen only by the eyes of faith.

3. Everything about God is above and beyond us.

a. Isa. 55:8-9 – His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are above our thoughts.

b. He is in heaven; we are on earth; He is infinite, we are finite.

c. He is invisible and immaterial, and we live in a visible, material world.

d. He could never be found in a space ship or a microscope…

e. He cannot be known by the physical world… only His existence and power.

f. I Cor. 2:9 – eye hath not seen; nor ear heard; neither have entered into the heart (mind) of man… things about God. If we are to know ANYTHING about God—it must be revealed to us. Knowledge of God could never be obtained through natural means…

g. Even His basic attributes are beyond our ability to grasp: omniscient; omnipresent; omnipotent; eternal; transcends time as the Great I Am…

h. God is invisible.

4. This is what has caused men throughout the ages to turn to idolatry…

a. God has stated many times over in the Old Testament that He is invisible… no man can see Him and live.

b. Yet, through the ages, men have attempted to MAKE God visible… by means of some sort of idol or image in His likeness.

c. Ex. 20:1-5 – God emphatically warned Israel NOT to make any likeness of Him. He is jealous.

d. Any attempt would always be a gross distortion of who He is…a degradation of His Person… a hideous caricature… even if painted by a master artist like Michelangelo…or formed by a master sculptor.

e. God commanded them NOT to make any image of Him—for the very best attempt to make His image or likeness would be a lie.
» Why? Because God IS invisible! Any attempt of man to make Him visible is a lie. It is NOT like God… who is invisible.
» God is omnipresent—not limited spatially—as any image would naturally be.
» God is omniscient—even a likeness with a computer for a brain would be a gross insult to God.
» God is LIVING—no man-made likeness could ever have life… eternal life…
» Isa. 46:5-10 – To what could we ever liken Him?

f. No image could ever suffice to adequately represent God.
» God is invisible, and men don’t like that. They want a god they can see…
» They prefer one that looks like them… not to big… not too powerful… one that can be stored away on a shelf for when you need it… one made in the image of man… (rather than vice versa!)
» Rom. 1:23 – (same word – eikon – image)—man changed the glory of God into an image made like to corruptible man.
» Man really is incurably religious. There is deep in the human breast a longing for God.
» Yet sinful man does not want God as He has revealed Himself: invisible. Sinful men want a god made after their degraded image… a god who is more like a creature.
» Hence, religious men worldwide make idols, icons, and images of one sort or another…
» There is something unnerving about an invisible God; an omniscient God; an omnipresent God… from whom we can never escape…
» And thus men make a visible god…an image of God… an idol of one sort or another… in hopes of satisfying that inner longing…
» The human heart is designed for fellowship with God… and without that fellowship it is empty… barren… hollow… and unsatisfied.
» Mere images of God can NEVER satisfy the human heart.
» Only God Himself can do that.


1. Image Defined: eikon

a. The very substance or essential embodiment of something or someone.

b. The term speaks of “image” and “representative.”

2. In the New Testament there are four passages where the DEITY of Christ is presented clearly… and those 4 passages use four terms to describe Christ’s relationship to God the Father. They all speak of a likeness with God—and express some sort of manifestation of Deity.

a. Col. 1:15 – eikon – the image of God

b. Heb. 1:3 – character – the express image of God

c. John 1:1,14 – logos – the Word of God

d. Phil. 2:6 – morphe – the form of God

3. Image always implies a likeness.

a. But image and likeness are two different Greek terms:
» “Image” (eicon) involves “likeness” (homoiosis)
» There is a likeness or a resemblance in every “image.”
» An image looks LIKE that which it represents. (a coin with the emperor’s face; a statue of a horse; etc.)

b. But not every likeness necessarily involves an image.
» Two people may have a “likeness.” They may look alike… but they may have no relationship whatsoever to each other.

c. Image (eikon) is more than a similarity or likeness.
» Image always involves a prototype from which it was drawn or taken… an exact counterpart.
» Ex: coin stamped out of a dye; (the coin is an eikon. It was derived from the original dye; if you see the coin, you have seen the dye… they bear the same likeness.
» Ex: a king’s ring and a wax seal made from it…
» Likeness involves mere resemblance; but eikon/image involves an exact counterpart and derivation.

4. Image implies representation…

a. This term for image does not speak of a likeness that was accidental… (two unrelated people who happen to look alike).

b. It speaks of a representation from either natural causes (a son in the likeness of his father—the spittin’ image of his dad!)

c. Or it might speak of a representation by design (a statue of Geo. Washington—designed to be in his likeness).

d. As the image of God, Christ represents God… there is a likeness that is not accidental.

e. And the likeness is not bodily or physical, but in His nature, character, and attributes.

f. He perfectly represents the Father because He came from the Father. There is a relationship between Him and His Father. They are the same in nature. He is the IMAGE of God.

5. Image implies visible manifestation…

a. God is invisible. No man can see God and live.

b. But Christ is the image of God – a visible manifestation of an otherwise invisible God.

c. The dye from which coins were stamped was never seen by the population. The coin is what they see. And to see the coin was to see the dye. They are the same. The coin is the image of that dye.

d. “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father” (John 14:9; 12:45).

6. Image contrasted to a shadow

a. Heb. 10:1 – the Old Testament sacrifices were mere shadows of Christ and not the very image.
» Image was a CLEAR representation… a shadow was but a vague outline…
» Col. 2:17 – here a similar contrast exists between the shadow and the Body (the actual body is a much better representation of the substance and essence than a mere shadow)
» Christ is a perfectly CLEAR representation of the Father.

The Image of God in Man

1. The Bible uses this term of men also.

a. I Cor. 11:7 – man is the “image” of God.

b. Jas. 3:9 – even fallen, sinful men are said to be in the image of God.

c. But (and this is a huge difference!) men are said to be MADE in the image of God.
» This certainly does attribute deity in men!!!
» We were made in the image of God. (Gen. 1:26-27)

1. Jas. 3:9 – we were MADE after the similitude of God.

2. I Cor. 11:7 – man is the image and glory of God BECAUSE He was “made” in that image.

3. Christ was never MADE in the image of God. He eternally IS the image of God!
» Man is made in the image of God in that, like God, man possesses: intellect; emotion; will—in this sense we are made in the image of God…
» But each aspect of our personality has been affected by sin… depravity reaches to every part of our being.
» Morally, the image of God has been spoiled by the fall. He is holy and we are sinful.
» Men do NOT reflect the image of God in the sense of His divine attributes: omniscience; omnipotence; omnipresence; immutability; etc.

d. However, when a person is SAVED, God begins a process of restoring that marred image.
» Col. 3:10 – the new man is renewed in knowledge after the image of God.
» II Cor. 3:18 – in the meantime, during our earthly pilgrimage, we are gradually being transformed into that image… from glory to glory.
» Rom. 8:29 – we were predestinated to ultimately be conformed to His image.

e. It is possible for men to be a dim reflection of God’s character. Glimpses of holiness and goodness are demonstrated in the lives of Spirit filled Christians as we walk by faith.

f. This is God’s work of restoring that broken image in man…

7. BUT — Jesus Christ is entirely DIFFERENT from other men. He IS the image of God innately. It is His nature… it is who He is.

a. He was not ever in a process of being “changed” into the image of God.

b. He was the express image of the Father from eternity!

c. Nor did He become the image of God when He took on human flesh in Bethlehem. He was always the perfect image of God.

d. His essential character is “the image of God.” It is who He is.

e. Man is only a finite image of God… subject to many limitations.

f. But Christ is the infinite image of God—perfectly and eternally reflecting ALL of the divine attributes, qualities, and character of the Godhead.

g. Thus, there is an infinite difference between man being “made” in the image of God, and Christ BEING the image of God.

h. At a point in time, man was MADE in the image of God. At a point in time, God STAMPED His image in man.

i. But Christ eternally IS the image. There was never a time when this image was “stamped” in Christ. Forever He is and was and will be that same image of the Father.

j. Calvin: The question is as to the perfect wisdom, goodness, righteousness, and power of God, for the representing of which no creature were competent.

k. Christ revealed the Father perfectly… whereas, as men, we are but imperfect reflections of His life and character.

The Image of God in Christ

1. The perfect and complete image of God the Father is seen in Christ and in Christ ALONE.

a. Thus, we are not to look elsewhere for THE image of the Father than in the Person of Christ.

b. Anything else that claims to be THE image of God is an IDOL.

c. Some claim to find God on the golf course… or on the ski slopes… or lying on a beach looking up into the sky to see the glory of God!

d. Now it is true that there is something about God that can be seen in nature… His existence and power.

e. BUT God can NEVER be known through nature. There can be no fellowship or communion with God through nature.

f. Rom. 1:20 – the invisible things of Him are clearly seen… but that revelation is extremely limited.

g. Nature reveals the existence, power, and wisdom of God; but nature cannot reveal the PERSON of God to us.

h. It is only in Jesus Christ that the invisible God is revealed perfectly.

i. God as a PERSON cannot be known through nature.

j. To seek God in nature is to be seeking an idol.

k. God’s image is to be found in the Person of Jesus Christ… and nowhere else. He is the ONLY visible manifestation of the Father.

2. “The express image of His Person” (Heb. 1:3).

a. “express image” = character = the impress left by a die on a coin or a seal on wax; (typewriter)…

3. “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).

a. This is tantamount to saying, “You want to see God? Look at Me.” It is a claim of equality with the Father.

b. This would have been the height of arrogance (and blasphemy) for a mere man to say!

c. We can say, “May a glimpse of Christ’s indwelling life be manifested in some feeble way through my mortal body”… but that is a far cry from what Jesus said!

d. We can say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the work of God in progress in a clay pot.” That is a far cry from saying, “to see Me is to see God… the Father!”

e. We bear the image of God and were made in the image of God. Christ IS the image of God.

4. No man can SEE the invisible God, but Jesus Christ has revealed Him to us (John 1:18).

a. It is in Christ alone that the invisible God is able to be revealed… perfectly and accurately… and is manifested to men.

b. Christ—the image of God—makes the invisible God known.

c. Christ “declares” God (declares: (exegesis— to lead out, metaph., to draw out in narrative, unfold a teaching; the things relating to God; used in Greek writing of the interpretation of things sacred and divine.)

d. Christ is the exegesis of God. He came forth from God. He is the same as God. And He reveals God… because He IS God!

e. He is the image of God—the visible manifestation of Deity.

5. And we BEHELD His glory — the glory as of the Father (John 1:14)

a. The same essence as the Father…This is what is taught in these passages…

b. No one who did NOT share the essence of deity could genuinely be the “express image” of the Father… or the “image of the invisible God.”

c. Christ is able to manifest the Father’s nature and glory because He SHARES that nature and glory… that divine essence.

d. John 17:5 – they shared the SAME glory…

e. The glory of the invisible God is seen in the person of Jesus Christ.

f. That glory was veiled in human flesh—but at times radiated right through His humanity—that men might BEHOLD the glory of God… not the full blazing glory, but a veiled manifestation of it.

6. Note that Paul states that Christ (continually) IS the image of the invisible God.

a. This was true in the incarnation. (I Tim. 3:16 – God was manifest in the flesh…)

b. But this does not refer to the incarnation only. (Or it would have said, “He became the image of God.”

c. Rather, it refers to His eternal relationship to the Father…

d. It speaks of the very nature of deity that Christ has always possessed.

e. Even in the Old Testament, when God manifested Himself, it was the SON of God’s role… as the Angel of the Lord. The Rock in the wilderness… and that Rock was Christ. When God manifested Himself, it was through the eternal Son. He is and always was the image of God.

f. Ellicott wrote: “that Christian antiquity has ever regarded the expression “image of God” as denoting the eternal Son’s perfect equality with the Father in respect of His substance, nature, and eternity.”

g. Christ IS the image of God. This was true in His pre-incarnate state. It was true during His earthly incarnation. And it is true in His present heavenly glorified state… the glorified God-Man at the right hand of the Father.

h. He eternally IS the image of God… the very nature of deity.

i. There never has been, nor ever will be a point in time when Christ is NOT the image of the invisible God.

7. The IMAGE of God is necessary because the finite (us!) cannot understand the infinite (God).

a. We are thus dependent upon this image of God (in Christ) that we might KNOW God.

b. Through Christ we can know God… and there is no other way to know Him.

c. II Cor. 4:6 – salvation is described as coming to the knowledge of God in the FACE of Jesus Christ.

d. An idol of any sort—a man-made image can NEVER satisfy the human heart…

e. That inner longing for God is not satisfied by US making an image of God in our likeness. (That’s what the gentiles did in Rom. 1:23.)

f. Rather, that inner longing for God is satisfied only in the Person of Jesus Christ—THE image of God.

g. As men, we seem to need an image to be able to relate to God who is invisible: Here is God’s means of dealing with that: His Son—the image of the invisible God!

h. Christ gives expression to the invisible God.

i. We can SEE God through the Person of Jesus Christ. (John 14:9)

j. Christ came to earth and dwelt with men… talked to men… mingled with men…

k. As our Great High Priest, He has experienced every aspect of being human… in our humanity and frailty, we can relate to God through Jesus Christ… who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities…the image of God became flesh!

l. In the person of Christ, the human and divine were united in one theanthropic person — the image of God—God manifested in human flesh—that we might KNOW GOD…

8. Christ is the image of the Father.

a. Christ is the image of the Father — the Father is the prototype; Christ the exact counterpart.

b. As Christians, we can reflect Gods’ image to a limited degree.

c. But Christ did not merely reflect the glory and image of the Father. He IS the image of the Father… the express image.

d. Man was “made” in the image of God. Christ eternally WAS the image of God.

e. This speaks of the fact that He is the perfect representation of the Father.

f. This speaks of His superiority OVER all of creation… including spirit beings.

9. Christ is the mediator between God and man. He is the image of God – a visible manifestation of the invisible God to man. He is the logos of God – communicating an infinite God to finite men.

a. Throughout His earthly life, Jesus Christ manifested who God is to mankind. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; for the life was manifested and we have seen it.” (I John 1:1-2)

b. Somehow, someway, the divine and the human were perfectly blended together in the person of Jesus Christ—in such a way that did not diminish His deity one iota… nor did it diminish His true humanity. He was truly the God-Man.

c. As such, He is the image of God – a visible manifestation to the human race of what God is like… of who God is…

d. God is KNOWN only through the person of Jesus Christ.

10. Consider the importance of this truth to the theme of the book… Paul is proving that:

a. Christ is NOT one of many emanations from God as the false teachers were declaring. He was GOD HIMSELF! The eikon of God—exact image.

b. He is the STAMP of God… the same stamp He always was.

c. The Colossians didn’t need to be initiated into the special knowledge of the Gnostic cultists. The knowledge of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ! He is all sufficient!

d. They didn’t need to look anywhere else for salvation. Christ is the Redeemer… the Savior… the God-Man.

e. HOW did Paul combat the error of the Gnostics?
» His primary means of combating the error was to hold forth the glory of the Person of Jesus Christ!
» Sure, there is a time and a place for hammering away at the evil and false doctrine.
» But it is FAR more effective to exalt Christ. He is the answer.
» Sometimes in our zeal to see people avoid worldliness, sin, and error, we harangue folks about the evil. How much better to exalt our Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ. Cause folks to fall in love with Him… and want to please Him.
» Separation FROM evil will never be accomplished by constantly hammering away at the evil.
» Separation FROM evil is accomplished by encouraging folks to be separated UNTO Christ.

f. II Cor. 3:18 – When it came to spiritual growth—they could gaze upon Christ—and as they beheld His glory, they would be transformed into that same image even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

g. Christ is all they need. Christ is all you and I need too.

h. It would take forever and be extremely confusing to try to point out and warn against ALL the false religious systems that have arisen over the years.

i. How much better to simply preach the truth… point men to Christ… Neither is there salvation in any other. (Acts 4:12)

j. Have you received Him by faith? Is He YOUR Savior?

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