Drop Down MenusCSS Drop Down MenuPure CSS Dropdown Menu

23 August 2019

Firstborn of the Dead – Resurrection Hope in Colossae

Gravestone - Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash
In his letter to the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul lays stress on the exalted position and sovereignty of Jesus Christ that resulted from his obedient death and subsequent resurrection. Apparently, some members of the congregation remained ignorant of or confused about the Risen Savior’s authority even over hostile spiritual powers, therefore, Paul reminded them of just how highly God had exalted Jesus, the now “firstborn of the dead.”
(Colossians 1:18-19) – “And he himself is before all things, and in him all things adhere. And he himself is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
The pronoun rendered “he himself” (twice) is emphatic in the Greek; the stress is on Jesus and what God accomplished in his death and resurrection. Jesus is now “before all things” (present tense) and in him, all things “adhere” or “hold together.”

Implicit in this language is that Christ did not always have this preeminent position; his high status is the result of his death and resurrection and, consequently, his triumph over all hostile powers. But, even more so, the passage emphasizes what he has achieved on behalf of the church, including the (presumably) small congregation at Colossae.

The Greek term rendered “body” is used by the Apostle metaphorically for the church. The metaphor is fitting because in his theology a human and physical “body” is something created by God and, thus, inherently good regardless of its present weaknesses.  The concept of embodied existence is something to be embraced, not shunned.
Firstborn” points to Christ’s preeminence as the “firstborn of many brethren” but, also, refers to him as the “firstborn” from the dead; that is, the first man to be resurrected and receive a glorious immortal body. It links Jesus to the saints; his resurrection is a forerunner of their own; his resurrection body is of the same nature as the one that believers receive at the return of Jesus. John also refers to Jesus as the “firstborn from the dead” in reference to Christ’s resurrection in the opening paragraph of the book of Revelation (Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 15:49-57, Revelation 1:5).
(Colossians 2:9-14) – “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power: In whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made-without-hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, in which also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Paul does use the term “resurrection” metaphorically in this letter, though this usage stems from Christ’s actual resurrection from the dead. On some level, water baptism symbolizes the saints being “buried” with Jesus in his death so that, now, they should live in the newness of his resurrected life.
One result of the exaltation of Jesus is the cancellation of ordinances from the Law that had to do with dietary restrictions and calendrical observations. Such things were not evil and they were required by the Torah; however, their time came to an end with the death and resurrection of Jesus; they amounted to “shadows” of the “substance” that cast them – Jesus (Romans 6:4-5).
Because of the victory of Christ, believers must not allow anyone to enslave them again to the very “rudiments” to which they died already in Christ (“For you died, and your life is hid with Christ in God”). Since they have been raised together with Christ, they must pursue the things above, “Where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.”
When Jesus is again “manifested,” his people will, likewise, “be manifested in glory.” This “manifestation” refers to his coming in glory at the end of the age. This “glory” is received collectively at the advent of Jesus, not when an individual believer dies (1 Peter 5:4, 1 John 2:28, 3:2).
The talk of future “glory” for believers that Paul associates with the present glory of Jesus links bodily resurrection to that event, especially, considering his designation of the Risen Christ as “the firstborn of the dead.”
As in many of his letters, the future resurrection of the righteous is foundational to the Apostle Paul’s understanding of the Christian hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We encourage free discussions on the commenting system provided by the Google Blogger platform, with the stipulation that conversations remain civil. Comments voicing dissenting views are encouraged.