In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
One of the most striking elements of the life of Jesus in the Gospels is His self-evident authority over the structures of creation. After He rebuked the wind and the waves - and they responded with calmness (!) - the disciples were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’ (Matt.8:27). There is something almost understated about the relationship between Jesus and Creation that is betrayed during His earthly life. He evidently feels it is entirely natural to bend any and all aspects of the created order to His will. Natural it may be, unique it certainly is.
As we saw in our previous Jesus-Centred-Life term (on Sin & the Fall), the loss of dominion over creation was part of the consequence of the entrance of human sin into that creation (Gen.1:26 / 3:17-19). But even in Eden Adam never held the kind of sway over creation that we see assumed by the second Adam in Galilee. That is, in part, because Jesus’ relationship with creation is of a fundamentally different order to that of any other human, fallen or otherwise. For Christ was there before creation began to be, and was deeply involved in the process of bringing it into being. ‘…there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live’ (I Cor.8:6).
For every other human there is a relationship of dependence on creation. We need creation to live. But when it comes to Christ, the dependence runs in the other direction: creation needs Him. Without Him, nothing was made that has been made (Jn.1:3). He is indispensable both to its being, and its continuing to be. It has its origins in Him, relies on Him for its sustaining, and finds its fulfilment and purpose in Him (Heb.1:3 & 10-12). We often read or hear something about Jesus, and ask: ‘But how is that relevant to my life?’ It’s an odd question when you realise there is no purpose for creation - indeed, there is no creation - outside of Christ. The much more obvious question to ask about anything we learn of Christ would be: ‘How is my life relevant to that?’ When we grasp the utter centrality of Christ to the life of creation, He becomes the sole standard of relevance - if it isn’t related to Him, it is irrelevant, cosmically so (II Cor.1:20).
At Christmas we can become so focussed on the way in which in His humanity Jesus enters into creation, that we forget how creation has its life and being within the life and being of Christ (Col.1:15-17). We’ll see in a later study that this is not diminished in His becoming human. His relationship with creation is unique, not only from the perspective of humanity (i.e. no other person in humanity has the same relationship with creation as Christ does), but also from the perspective of Deity (i.e. no other person within the Godhead has the same relationship with creation as Christ does). Creation is never spoken of as being ‘in’ the Father or the Spirit in the way that it is ‘in’ Christ. This is the reason why Jesus is the Mediator between the Trinity and the creation, and in creation as much as redemption; and why the Son has become part of creation in a way that neither the Father nor the Spirit do, although all Three remain deeply united and involved.
In every generation, the Church faces the temptation to ‘downgrade’ the God-ness of Jesus. The fact that He becomes human carries for some the inevitable suggestion that He is in some deep sense less ‘God’ than the Father. The reason why it is the Son who ‘became flesh and made His dwelling among us’ (Jn.1:14) is not that He was somehow less ‘God’ but that within the infinitely dynamic and multi-faceted life of God, His relationship with creation is distinguishable from that of the Father or the Spirit. But even as He becomes part of that creation He remains distinctly the Lord of it. And as Lord of it, He becomes part of it, fully part of it. As we shall see, this is the grounds of its redemption and its reconstitution. Here, in the life of this Man, is the re-dignifying of creation, and the sole source of its hope for the future. Insofar as Christians are ecologists at all, they are Christ-centred ones!
Do you think creation can teach us about God? Why do you think that is? Can you think of any passages from the Bible that support your answer? How does this fit with the idea that only Christ can reveal God to us?
Do you think that you could prove intellectually from the evidence of and in the world that there must be a creator, so that whether someone was a Christian or not, they could agree that ‘God created the world’? Would this be a useful evangelistic method?
What does it mean to say Jesus is the ‘firstborn’ over all creation (v.15)? How does this connect with Him being ‘firstborn’ from among the dead (v.18)? How does this affect your vision of Jesus?
What does it mean to speak of Jesus as the ‘head’ of the Church (v.18)? How should that affect what we do at MIE?
Why do ‘things in heaven’ need to be reconciled to God (vv.19-20)? Why does there need to be a ‘new heaven’ as part of the new creation (Rev.21:1)?
What is the significance of Jesus being Lord (and therefore Reconciler) of both the physical and spiritual dimensions of creation (v.20)?
Do you think Paul is teaching that in the end everyone becomes Christians when he says that through Christ, God reconciles all things to Himself (v.20)?
Is it legitimate to say people who aren’t Christians are ‘enemies of God’ (v.21)?
What difference does it make to know that God’s ambition for you is that you are to be presented ‘holy’ (v.22)? Is this how you think of being a Christian?
Do you think Paul is overstating his case when he says that the Gospel has ‘been proclaimed to every creature under heaven’ (v.23)? How does this affect the often heard question: ‘What about those who have never heard of Jesus?’
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
For further reflection:
Creation was not simply the moment when God created the world out of nothing (Rom.4:17). In that moment, He also created its purpose! Creation has an integral purpose and destiny… and it is critically interwoven with the reality of Jesus Christ. Without Him there is only chaos, darkness, death and meaningless incoherence. This is the meaning of the opening moments of Scripture.
To ask how there can be light in Gen.1:3 when the sun, moon and stars are not created until Gen.1:14-16 (Day 4), is to monumentally miss the point! The Apostle John’s commentary: ‘And God said…’ (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God); ‘Let there be light…’ (The light shines in the darkness). Only now can there be life. Christ is the Word through whom all things were created, and it is the Word that would become flesh and dwell among us. Both creation within Christ, and Christ within creation are key to understanding the purpose, the fulfilment of creation. Without Christ creation collapses back into chaos and non-being. ‘It were not worthy of God’s goodness that the things He had made should waste away’ (Athanasius, On the Incarnation, p.6). In His incarnation, Jesus would ensure that His creation would not fail to achieve its original and true destiny as conceived in the loving heart of the Father.
Christ is not only the means, He is the end, the culmination of all things. There is a deep unity and continuity between Christ’s role in creation and in His role in redemption. As we’ll see in a later study, there would never have been one without the other. You simply can never overstate the centrality of Christ to the life of creation, or it hopelessness and meaninglessness without Him.