Colossians 1:15

Sermon preached on February 16, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

If I wanted to tell you how good someone like Bobby Orr was, how would I do it? I think that Bobby Orr is the greatest hockey player to ever lace on a pair of skates. But how would I tell you that? I could start with the awards he won. In his rookie year he won the Calder Trophy, the Rookie of the Year. He won the award for best defenseman, the James Norris Trophy a record 8 times—eight years in a row. He won the Art Ross Trophy twice, which is given to the player who leads the lead in scoring. He's the only defenseman in the history of the league to win it and he won it twice. He won the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the Most Valuable Player three years in a row. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy, the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs, twice. He won the Lester B. Pearson trophy, which is awarded to the most outstanding player as voted on by the NHL Players Association.

His statistics—goals and assists—were unbelievable. For a defenseman to lead the league in scoring was unheard of. Yet, when I read Bobby's autobiography last fall, at one point in it he said,

"Some of my best games… were ones in which I never even got on the score sheet…"

In some of his best games he never scored a goal or got an assist. How can they be his best games if he never did that? Well, hockey has many facets to it. You can contribute to your team in a variety of ways. For example, you can keep the other team from scoring. Preventing a goal is just as important as scoring a goal—yet that doesn't show up on the stat sheet. Bobby Orr often saved goals by blocking shots even before they got to the net. When someone would up for a shot Bobby would sacrifice his body by getting in front of the shot and blocking it. Bobby Orr always killed penalties. When his team was short-handed he would be on the ice and often he would control the puck, even though the other team had more men on the ice than his team. He would take the puck and stickhandle it as long as he could, not giving the other team a chance to get it. There was one thing that he did that I didn't see anyone else do before him. He would sometimes get the puck behind his own net and just wait there from someone from the other team to come and try and take the puck from him. When one person came he would go the other way, but instead of skating down the ice or shooting the puck down the ice, he would just circle the next and then go back behind it again and wait there again. So the other team had to send two men after him. And he would still get away from them.

He actually changed the way the game was played with other defensemen following his example and rushing up the ice and controlling the puck. One of the greatest stories I ever heard about Bobby Orr was that during one game Bobbly Hull, an opposing player, and now a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, said,

"In the first year that Bobby came into the league, 1966, we're in Boston, playing in the old Boston Gardens. The first period is over, the score is 3-1 for Boston. Bobby Orr had scored 2 goals and assisted on the other one and had the puck all first period. Buzzer goes I went over and Frank Advery was the referee. I said, 'Frank, what are we going to do with this blond haired kid.' He said, 'Bobby, what do you want to do.' I said, "Let's do this, when we come out for the second period, just throw Bobby that puck that he had all first period and just pitch another one out for us to play with."

Bobby Clarke, another Hall of Fame player, said about Bobby Orr,

"There should've been another league he could've gone to, he's too good for the NHL."

One statistic that is a somewhat accurate measure of a player's effectiveness is his plus-minus rating, where they add up how many goals your team scored while you were on the ice and they take away from that total the number of goals the opposing team scored while you were on the ice. Bobby Orr had the highest ever plus-minus (+124) and led the league in that category six times. His career season average plus-minus rating was over 80, the next highest player is at 44.

But besides all those statistics Bobby Orr played in pain for most of his NHL career. He was so good that as he was going by opposing players they would trip him, hook him, slash him so that his left knee finally gave out. But he had heart. In 1976, at the end of his short career, he played in great pain in the international Canada Cup series. One fellow player saw the pain he was in yet said that Bobby was better on one leg than the rest of them were on two. He was voted the Most Valuable Player of that series.

Or I could tell you what kind of person he was on and off the ice. How he gave his best every night. How he respected opponents. One of his teammates, Derek Sanderson said that before a game he would want to do something really fun and he would ask Bobby to come along, and Bobby would say something like,

"Let's drop by the hospital and see some kids."

He wanted to make some sick kids happy. I read Bobby Orr's autobiography last fall and I was actually a little disappointed in it. He was so modest that he didn't even mention some of his accomplishments. But that's Bobby.

In our text we have the apostle Paul trying to tell us about Jesus. And, wow, he has a much harder task—because Jesus is so great, so amazing that no one else is even in his category. Bobby Orr is arguably the best hockey player who ever lived. But some people say that Wayne Gretzky is the greatest. But with Jesus, there can be no argument. What Paul is telling us in this section (verses 15-20) is that

there is no one else like Jesus—that He is preeminent in creation and redemption.

There are such great truths here. We should learn these truths and memorize them. These truths can increase our faith in Jesus and help us trust Him better. There are six things in verses 15-17 that show that Jesus is preeminent and that He is absolutely unique. This morning we're going to look at the first part of verse 15. We read about Jesus, (Colossians 1:15–17)

Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

Even though verses 15 through 17 are viewed as a unit and have to do with Jesus' relationship to creation—this first one also has to do with His relation with God. Peter T. O'Brien writes, (Colossians–Philemon (WBC 44)

"As the first title of majesty, 'image' emphasizes Christ's relation to God."

There are an least three things in Scripture that show that

when Jesus is revealed as the Image of God that He is totally unique in this way.

The first is the teaching of Hebrews 1:3.

We know from Genesis 1 that human beings were made in the image of God. But here we have something on a different level. Jesus is not the image of God the same way we are. For example, Hebrews 1:3 says,

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory
and the exact representation of his being…"

That is not true of us. We are not the exact representation of God's being. Hebrews 1 is showing that Jesus, as the Image of God, is unique, that there is no one else like Him. He has been appointed heir of all things. (verse 2) In the immediate context the writer goes on to explain that He is much superior to the angels of heaven—that Jesus is preeminent, totally unique.

It is also significant that in our text Jesus is said to be the Image of God, it is clear that He is the archetype. It is just stated that,

"He is the image of the invisible God…"

When man was about to be created in Genesis 1:26, he was made 'in' (NIV) or 'after' (ESV) the image of God. But here we are told that Jesus, 'is' the image of God. Herman Ridderbos says that Christ is, (Paul, An Outline of His Theology, p. 71)

"the Image of God in the absolute sense".

Jesus is the image of God in its 'highest form', the image of God 'par excellence'. (John Frame, ST, p. 896, 893). Ridderbos says that when Paul refers to Jesus here as the image of God he speaks of Him, (Paul, An Outline of His Theology, p. 71)

"as the Pre-existent One in his divine glory."

John Frame adds, (ST, p. 893)

"Even apart from his humanity, the Son is the perfect reflection of his Father and therefore the Father's perfect representative."

The second thing that shows us that Jesus is unique as the Image of God is the fact that

when we, fallen human beings, are renewed in the image of God, we are, renewed specifically in the image of Christ.

Romans 8:29 tells us,

"For those God foreknew
he also predestined to be conformed
to the likeness of his Son, that he might be
the firstborn among many brothers."

Again, He is the archetype—when we grow in holiness, righteousness and knowledge we are being conformed to Christ's image. John Frame says, (Systematic Theology, p. 893)

"it is clear that Jesus is the prototype, we the ectype. For man, even unfallen Adam, to be in the image of God is for him to be like Jesus."

2 Corinthians 3:18 is also significant in this regard. It says,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Herman Ridderbos comments on this and says that, when we are transformed into His likeness, (Paul, An Outline of His Theology, p. 70)

"this is to say nothing less than that in him the glory of God, indeed God himself, becomes manifest. By calling Christ the Image of God he thus identifies Christ's glory with that of God himself."

So as we grow in holiness, righteousness and love and other graces—we become conformed to the glorious likeness of Jesus—the One in who is God's glory. He is the image of God par excellence.

The third thing that shows that when Jesus is revealed as the image of God He is totally unique is the fact that

it is only in Jesus that God is revealed to us.

In John 1:18 we read,

"No one has ever seen God,
but God the One and Only,
who is at the Father's side, has made him known."

Jesus makes God known. In John 14:8 Philip said to Jesus,

"Lord, show us the Father
and that will be enough for us."

Jesus answered:

"Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have
been among you such a long time?
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?"

Jesus is the image of the invisible God. John Calvin writes,

"The sum is, that God in Himself, that is, in His naked majesty, is invisible: and that not only to the physical eyes, but also to human understanding; and that He is revealed to us in Christ alone, where we may behold Him as in a mirror. For in Christ, He shows us His righteousness, goodness, wisdom, power, in short, His entire self."

In Christ, the invisible God becomes visible. God's very nature and character are perfectly revealed in Him. Or as John Frame puts it (Systematic Theology, p. 893)

"Jesus is the supreme theophany of God…"

Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He reveals God to us.

Now to sum all this up, we can say that

in relation to the Creator—Creature distinction, Jesus, the image of God, stands squarely on the Creator side.

He is God. He is the One who reveals God. It is in Him that we see and know God. In Him we see what God is like. In Him we are conformed to the image of God. In Him the glory of God is revealed.

So what is the significance of this? What does it mean for us?

First of all, it means that

we should look only to Christ for God's will.

In Christ God is revealed. If you want to know what to believe you look to Christ. This does not mean that I'm pushing the red letter editions of the Bible, with the words of Jesus in red, as if they were more important, or more the will of God than the other words in the Bible. No. We find Christ's will in all the Bible. He is the Word of God (John 1) as revealed in the prophets and the apostles. John Frame says that the truth here, Christ being the image of the invisible God, (Systematic Theology, p. 893)

"is essentially the same relationship expressed in a different figure in John 1, where the Father is the speaker, the Son the Word he speaks."

All other religions get it wrong. They don't have Jesus and this means that they don't have a clear view of the character of God. We must get our ideas of God from Christ. John Calvin writes,

"We must, therefore, take care not to seek Him [God] elsewhere, for outside Christ, everything that claims to represent God will be an idol."

What about you? Do you believe in Jesus? He tells you that you need to trust in Him in order to be saved. Are you going to trust Him or are you going to believe something different? Maybe your wisdom tells you that you're good enough as you are. That's not true. You'll perish unless you go to Christ. You need to submit yourself to Christ's word.

Secondly, this means that Christ is the One who shows us how to live.

Why are you here? Why were you created? You were created to be like God. Sin has ruined us, but because of Christ, we can be conformed to the image of God again.

Yet some of the time we don't even try to be conformed to Christ's image. What excuses we make for our sin. One of the excuses I've often heard is with relation to sin is,

"Everyone is doing it."

What? Where in the Bible does it tell us to get our ideas of what's right and wrong from what the majority of people are doing? It doesn't.

We shouldn't look to other people for our ideas about how we are to live. Jesus told us to love one another as He has loved us. (John 13:34) He told us to forgive one another as we have been forgiven. (Colossians 3:13) He tells us to be holy as He is holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16)

How you should be seeking to be like Christ—to be like God. We should not let anything stop us.

I've also heard it said that,
"What God requires is impossible for us while we are in this body." Yes, that's true. But what? Does that mean we shouldn't try with all our might, that we shouldn't be zealous to be like God? In Ephesians 5:1 the apostle Paul told us to be like God. He wrote,

"Be imitators of God, therefore,
as dearly loved children…"

Jesus told us the same. In Matthew 5 He told us how we have been told to love our neighbor and hate our enemy. But Jesus said, Matthew 5:43–48

"But I tell you: Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you,
what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your brothers,
what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

That's what we should be striving for. As Paul told us in 2 Corinthians 13:11

"Aim for perfection…"

We won't attain it until Christ comes for us—but that's what we're to strive for.

Consider the Olympic athletes. One thing that is true for so many of them—they're trying to be perfect. Whether it's in figure skating, or those skiers who do acrobatics in the air, or the lugers, or the biathletes racing on their skis and shooting. They're all aiming to get it exactly right, to be perfect in what they do.

But the things they're trying to get right are inconsequential—they're not important in the grand scheme of things. But you living for Christ. That is so important. Aim for perfection.

Not only should you be striving to be like Christ, being conformed to the image of God,
but you are to be an example to others in this. In 1 Corinthians 11:1

"Follow my example,
as I follow the example of Christ."

Are you an example to others in the graces of Christ, in the fruits of the Spirit, the unity of the Spirit? Do we care about the body of Christ, the church, like we should? So often we're like our society, so individualistic, and little caring that other parts of the body suffer.

Jesus is the Image of God. You are to be like Him. You are to be like Him inwardly and outwardly. How seriously do you take this duty? I need to do better. You need to do better. May God gives us grace to do so.