The phrases "in Him" and "out of Him" suggest a much closer union than the "through Him" (Rom.11:36). What a man makes with his hands has come into existence outside of him and has no vital relationship to him. But with his descendants, who were in him and are out of him, he is in a close and vital union. To him they are the nearest, loveliest and best, his greatest and most valuable possessions. Such a relationship with the universe has been established by God by the fact that, at first, He carried all in Himself. His ownership of the creation is not, first of all, based upon its creation, but this is because it was first included in Him. That is what gives Him the original title to the whole universe. He is its only true Owner. Based upon this truth it was that Paul justified the statement of an unbelieving Greek poet, "For of that race also are we" (Acts 17:22). But this by no means involves the so-called "universal fatherhood" of God outside the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.
In this primeval revelation is found the necessity and root of universal reconciliation, for on these, the earliest divine declarations concerning the universe, God's glorious purpose of love is based and anchored. A clear conception of these inmost relations between the Creator and the creation, as evident in the statement that all is of God, leaves room for no other conclusion, for the establishment of such an esoteric union can be founded only on love.
Seen in the beams of these earliest unfoldings the doctrine of endless damnation of most of God's creatures becomes impossible of belief, for it overlooks and altogether ignores the essential love of God's heart, which has already made itself manifest. But this must be given the greatest consideration, all the more as God has given the same imperishable love to His creatures, to be with them and in them on their way.
The divine institution of the family for the propagation of the human race is the means by which God reveals His creative love to His creatures. Because children are the fruit of the bodies of their parents there results a wonderful and unique love of the generators for the generated, of parents for their offspring, which proves to be a strong and mighty bond. The breaking of such a bond through the loss of a child is the cause of greatest sorrow. Even if children are led astray by Satan or deceived by the world, and are severed from their parents, or are in distress, it breaks their hearts. If the misfortunes of their offspring do not cause them any pain, and they continue in pleasures without the least show of sorrow, we would rightly condemn them as unloving and heartless.
We take for granted that sinful humans feel such losses deeply, and we understand them when they no longer have much joy in living. It is considered proper among men, or at least good form, to express sympathy to those who suffer the loss of relatives. We can see this evidence of sorrow even among animals. It is touching to behold the grief of one robbed of its young.
Yet to God, Whose love for His creatures is unutterably greater than parental love (which also comes out of Him), such feelings are supposed to be foreign! Shall we charge Him with being more heartless than His creatures, that He can with equanimity look upon the great majority of them in endless agony? When Zion said
"Jehovah has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me."
He answered His erring people with the words:
Forgets a woman her unweaned child,
Not to have compassion on the son of her belly?
Even these a woman is forgetting,
Yet I will not forget you, says Jehovah,
Behold, on my palms I tattoo your walls,
And you are in front of me continually.
Here already, in the prophets, although the whole of His plan of salvation had by no means been made known, God assures us that He will never forget those who have been in Him.
In the bright light of God's love, the doctrine of eternal torment of the most of His creatures is exposed as a false deduction and heresy, greatly dishonoring Him.
To the enormous loss that He would suffer we must add the inconceivable pain of His loving heart. Why is not this pain pressed in discussing this theme, as well as God's deep and genuine compassion? Men treat their fellows more considerately than even some of God's saints talk of Him! It is astonishing how hard and cold is their insistence on this doctrine, and they defend it as if it brings God great honor and glory. Few realize the effects it would have on God's loving heart.
The misled faith in eternal torment, on the part of those who trumpet it abroad, as well as those who prefer to put on the soft pedal, is consequently an unintentional and partly an unconscious defamation of the Deity's disposition and a distortion of His limitless love. The consummation of God's creation presented by this doctrine would transform heaven itself into a house of mourning. Should the majority be robbed of the happiness which God desires for them, then He, the most loving of all, would be the most sympathetic and the chief Sufferer. If parents are deeply moved by the sight of their children's misfortune, how much the more is God affected! His heartache and the grief of His Son for the innumerable hopelessly suffering beings which He once carried in His heart, as well as the sorrow of the few who are saved over their relatives, would be so great that probably none could really enjoy heaven's happiness themselves.
Anyone who has tasted of God's grace, yet nevertheless thinks he can enjoy the fullness of bliss under such conditions, has not earnestly considered the nature of such a consummation, for it would be a conclusion with endless agony, not only for the damned, but also for God and Christ and those who are His, for "love never lapses" (1 Cor.13:8).
Now if parents, as above stated, in their unfailing love go after their children, discipline them for their offenses, and the children find their way back to their parents with a constant immutable devotion, with deeper affection than before, surely no one would have anything to say against it. On the contrary, all would rejoice with the parents and consider them as exemplary in such a case.
This simple example is a feeble illustration of what God has in view with His creation. His longing for the return of His erring creatures will also be satisfied. It may not be without heavy and severe judgments. But these are used only as means to gain His end. The joy that will fill God's heart is evident in all the promises which have already predicted the triumph of His love. And it is even now the portion of all who have believed His Word concerning the sublime conclusion with the reconciliation of all.
From this it is evident that God's Word, with its deep declaration that all is of God, desires to reveal much more than the origin of creation and the resultant connection with a Creator. It involves His love relation to it. His love for His creatures did not begin after they had fallen away from Him, but existed while they were still included in Him. This primitive and esoteric union of the Creator with His creatures must necessarily have had an effect on them. It must have impressed and endowed them with some sign of their high pedigree. And this seal, which is immanent in them, is All is for God.
In a few words this verse in the eleventh of Romans,- "out of Him and through Him, and for Him is all" - embraces the commencement, the course, and the consummation of creation. It is God's great motto, which binds together the origin with the object, and illuminates the beginning with the light of the conclusion.
"All is for God," by revealing the mark at which God is aiming, shows us the inner disposition which God implanted in His creatures, and the constitution which leads them on the way. It brings them back to the Creator. It may be that they have detoured on a road which leads away from God, but this hidden trend can never be entirely lost. What is all the endeavor in the world for something better, but the unconscious groping and seeking for the lost paradise? It is not the longing of the heart for happiness which is wrong, for this was implanted by the Creator Himself, but the slavery to sin which has His creatures in its grip, and which leads them to seek to satisfy their cravings apart from their Creator. Even before creation God's heart harbored in itself the great Leader Whose steady hand will bring all those astray to His glorious goal. This will not be gained by sidestepping sin, but with a restoration, a homecoming to the Father's house. It is a deep reality, as will be seen in the literal rendering of the original, which reads "all is into Him."
Righted by means of severe judgments for wholesome discipline, and conquered by God's love, his creatures do not literally return into Him as their blessed beginning was, but with a heart subjected to Him as their Father, in Christ, and in response to His great love, they harbor Him in their hearts, so that He becomes their All. This renewed union of heart to heart is summed up in a few words in 1 Cor.15:28: God All in all.
In fullest harmony, free from any discord, the beginning and the end of God's plan for creation and reconciliation are connected together as follows:
In the beginning: All in God.
In the conclusion: God All in all.
These are the two all-embracing poles on which the universe rests secure, and by which the whole development is already determined by the glorious goal. And truly, we cannot imagine or conceive of a more sublime and exalted consummation, which will harvest so much honor for God, as this, that all the creatures who were in Him in the beginning, and came out of Him, should reach their destiny with willingness and acquiescence, giving God His proper place in their hearts, so that He may be "All in all."
Even if the way which leads to this illuminating end should be ever so frightful, so hard and dark and sown with sin and judgment, at long last all of this must serve in reaching this glorious goal and in revealing God's adorable operations.
If we should seek to cross the boundaries set by "all in God" and "God All in all" on both sides, we would find a sublime contrast to that phase in which God, coming out of the past, was alone. His love-filled heart could never be satisfied with this condition. If we ask what it was that He longed for, we will find the answer in the glorious goal in wondrous reality presented to our spirit, that is, God with His renewed and reconciled creation, which serves Him voluntarily, all united into one.
Already, by the creation of His Son, God began to end His aloneness. It came to a full conclusion when He, through His Son, called forth creation. The following estrangement between God and His creation by means of the entrance of sin is being gradually overcome by the sacrifice of Christ. After His resurrection He began His great task of leading all back to God. Through His wise and effective operations, every administration brings forth fruit. Continually creatures, conquered by His love, are eager to enter into fellowship with Him. To begin with, there is only scattering success, but gradually a greater proportion are reached. Then, at the conclusion of the eons, we see the work of Christ crowned with complete success, for not a single soul is found out of harmony with God.
Let us hold fast to the conviction that 1 Cor.15:28 does not contain merely the highest and best ideas of men, but God's own words, which demand nothing from us but faith. God is responsible, and can carry out what He has promised. He, as well as those who believe Him without reserve, will eventually be justified by the factual fulfillment of God All in all! That does not belong to His present way with its severe judgments, but is the final and permanent result of His primeval purpose.
In reviewing the whole work of God, with its variations of judgment and grace, we see this universal harvest as the conclusion and the goal. But it is far more than the mere ending of His plan of salvation. The consummation is related, not only to the past, but to the future. It inaugurates an overwhelmingly great fresh start and new beginning.
Though we may be allowed to speak of such a commencement, we must emphasize the fact that God has revealed nothing concerning the further development of His work of love. We are enlightened, in His Word, as to His operations up to the conclusion of the eons, though no further. But if God, during the eons in which there is so much opposition to Him, displayed the riches of His love in Christ, we get a slight intimation of what the future has in store. What will it be when all have recognized God as their Father, and are coerced by love to be subject to Him, endowed with unimaginable qualifications and capabilities in order to do His will, for His joy and delectation?
This beginning will be basically different from that of Adam's in paradise. In the future the lesson of good and evil will be thoroughly understood, and the experience of evil will operate as a help to the fullest happiness, known and recognized by all. Probably we could not even grasp anything that God has in view for that day, yet the very thought of these transcendent prospects causes our heart to leap in anticipation of all the glories which are still before us.
In order to describe this important transition we might say that then the eons flow into eternity, in the true sense of endlessness. How just and necessary is it that all that occurs before this consummation be left in the eons, and not brought into relationship with eternity! The truth we have been considering brings a double accusation against the usual use of "eternal" and "eternity." First of all, conditions and things that are limited to the eons, and which therefore have a beginning and an end, are mistakenly made to be everlasting, and out of this arises the second mistake, the ignorant trespassing beyond the border between the eons and eternity, and the invasion of a sphere concerning which God has revealed nothing. In this way eonian conditions are misplaced in eternity.
Now, however, our way has led us to the first revelation of the Father of Christ Jesus concerning His Son, and we are privileged to be witnesses of His earliest appearance in God's plan. He enters the scene with such a brilliance and glory of sonship that the hope of creation for a favorable future development is moulded and shaped into a sure expectation of God's own glory. p117
God's First Creation
As we have already shown, God's heart was filled with a complete plan even when the creation was still locked up in Himself. The goal and the way to it was clearly indicated. All was fully prepared and planned beforehand.
We are now ready to see how our great God begins His creation. Should not our hearts have a burning desire to know of His earliest achievement, and be filled with the query, "How and with what will He begin?" Surely so should it be with those who have attained sonship through Christ.
Notwithstanding His thorough preparation, it would be too early to expect God to immediately create the universe. Most important events precede this, which also are preparatory in their nature. Everyone of them is a new assurance that He will reach His predetermined goal. The initial act of creation lays the foundation on which He builds, which will never be moved, and never disappoint Him. This is the bringing forth of His visible Image, the Firstborn of all creation (Col.1:15), also called the beginning of the creation of God, or God's creative Original (Rev.3:14), who later became the Anointed Saviour, Christ Jesus.
Here we have one of those precious truths that have been greatly obscured by dogmatic theology, which in this case, insists on the eternity of Christ. We can well understand that this is a laudable attempt to grant Him the greatest amount of honor. But when it degenerates into a correction of God's Word, it accomplishes the opposite, as is here evident. As we will see later, it is an unconscious eclipse of His dignities, a veiled denial of the divine sonship of Christ, which destroys the very roots of His true relationship to the Deity. The testimony of God concerning His Son differs essentially from traditional theology. In Colossians, the epistle which unfolds His highest glories, He is called...
Many and various are the revelations which God has granted to us in relation to His Son. Indeed, we may speak of God's Word as a whole as an unfolding of Jesus Christ, because Christ is the chief subject from the beginning to the end. What is here said about Him belongs to the unveilings that reach farthest back. God speaks of His Son as a firstborn and as a creation. Perhaps no saint would dare to invent such a statement. But it is God Himself Who reveals to us Christ's place and tells us of His beginning. And in His Word He has put this truth within reach of all His saints, and thus stirs them up through His spirit to meditate further thereupon. In holy awe may we direct our inner eyes toward this divine act, being careful that we do not dishonor it.
In this we will be assisted by a most important and valuable hint in the Concordant Version. In it there is a small capital superior (F) before Firstborn, which shows that this is a figure of speech. This little letter serves the important purpose of a warning notice, that we should not take it literally. Investiture with sonship in the course of human history is used by the spirit of God because it is a sort of creation and a beginning, in our experience, which helps us to understand that the Son was the first Being called into existence by God. We should beware of injecting anything contradictory to this revelation, and under no circumstances draw on the particulars of human generation for a further explanation of the creation of God's Firstborn.
A further corroboration of the fact that "Firstborn" is not to be taken literally, is found a few verses later in Colossians (1:18). There Christ is also called the Firstborn, but in another connection, that is the "Firstborn from among the dead." Now, His resurrection was not a literal birth, but the beginning of a new life which has some points of likeness with birth. As a practical explanation we might say, God brought Christ forth from among the dead, and this was the commencement of His resurrection life. These two beginnings in the life of His Son give Him a double right to the appellation Firstborn, as the oldest son is given the titles and honors of his father, in contrast to the rest. In the Orient, if a man had no son, he could adopt one, who also had the title firstborn. So the title does not involve birth at all.
After God's Word itself has introduced us to this basic truth, we may rest assured that our further investigations along the line of this divine idea will never dishonor Him. On the contrary, on this path we will view the Son of God in the brightest blaze of His dignities and most brilliant illumination of His sublimest honors. But He must always be subordinate to His Father. In fact His subjection to the Father is the crowning act of the consummation (1 Cor.15:28). The same word is used of His subjection to His earthly parents (Luke 2:51).
His virgin birth in Bethlehem, in which He took on the likeness of humanity in order to reconcile all to God, became a message of the greatest joy. But we should never overlook His preexistence, for this is the real origin of our salvation and happiness. For Christ it is the foundation of His divine sonship, because it was thus that He really entered the place of a Son. Only thus was His later birth possible. It was a renewed assurance that He already was the Son of God. For God did not send some exalted celestial being which became God's Son by his birth among men, but God sent His Son (Matt.21:37; Gal.4:4). Agur, one of the writers of Proverbs, intimated the fact that God had a Son when he inquires (Prov.30:4):
Who ascends to the heavens and will descend?
Who gathers the wind in a bosom pouch?
Who bundles the waters in His raiment?
Who sets up all the limits of the land?
What is His name, and what is His Son's name ?
We may be sure that Paul, when He calls God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph.1:3; 3:14), always associated this with His preexistence. A Son of God without a beginning, like God, is not in accord with the Scriptures, as this would utterly destroy the relationship of Father and Son. If the Son has existed eternally, like His Father, then He should not be a Son at all, but God Himself, and such a distinction as this would be impossible. We then would actually have two gods, and that would involve a radical revolution in real theology. God would be robbed of His dignity as the only God, and Christ would lose His place as Son. This would have unspeakably destructive effects upon creation. Yet if we acknowledge the testimony of the Scriptures, we will be continually enlightened and blessed by the distinct glories of the Father and the Son.
God did not create His Son for His own sake alone, but to be His Image, His Revelator. That means that all knowledge of God is channeled only through the Son. This high calling of the Son is expressed in the title which the Father gave Him - the Firstborn of all creation. Like a brilliant sun does this appellation light up that pristine period with such clarity that the sense and import of the further creation become apparent even before it occurred. Already we can see the earliest love beams of the Creator shine forth upon His creation.
The first and most precious revelation that Christ as the Firstborn conveys to us is the Fatherhood of God. One who, has a son must be a father. Here it is still confined to the Son. Nevertheless we can readily recognize the outflow of God's heart, for He is "the Son of His love" (Col.1:13).
Wherever we look, everywhere the Son of God is the First. At the beginning of creation and in the vivification from among the dead. Just as He, as the Firstborn of all creation was the Origin and Channel for all that exists, so, as Firstborn from among the dead, will He bring life to all mankind.
Even in Israel God shows that the position of the Firstborn is one of especially high honor.
Gen.49:3 Reuben, my firstborn, you are my vigor
Ex.13:2 Hallow to Me every firstborn
Ex.22:29 The firstborn of your sons are you to give to Me.
Num.8:17 Mine is the firstborn of the sons of Israel
2 Chron.21:3 The kingdom he gives to Jehoram, for he is firstborn
All of these advantages, in fullest measure, belong to Christ. They exalt Him to heights of glory to which no other creation can attain.
Furthermore the title Firstborn contains weighty truths concerning the origin of the universe. It implies others who will follow. Again and again we find like cases in the Scriptures, and every time we read of a firstborn there are those who came later. Otherwise this description would fail to have any force. At His later birth on earth also Jesus was called the Firstborn, after which others followed but with the difference that they were fleshly (Luke 2:7; Matt.13:55). In this aspect, He was the only begotten by God. The later sons of Mary were fathered by Joseph. In the record of Christ's earthly birth there is no small [F] before "firstborn" for good reasons. This birth of His was literal.
Through His unique, pristine creation Christ became the Original, in Whom all the rest was created (Col.1:16) and through Whom it has come into being (1 Cor.8:6). This all-important precursor of salvation is stated in God's revelation in the concise expression, "God's creative Original" (Rev.3:14). So He became the ORIGIN-LEADER, the Inaugurator (Acts 5:31), of life (Acts 3:15), of salvation (Heb.2:10), and of faith (Heb.12:2), and also the Beginning of the ecclesia (Col.1:18). In the title Firstborn is included the loving determination of the Father to exalt Him. According to the repeated testimony of Colossians He ranks ahead of all as:
15 Firstborn of every creature
17 He is before all
18 Who is the Beginning
18 Firstborn from among the dead
18 That in all He may be becoming first
The knowledge of God's loving intention is invaluable and blessed. We justly rejoice in the high position accorded us in grace and in the precious promises of future bliss. But we rejoice especially in the high honors which God bestows upon His Son in that He makes Him first of all. May we be given grace to make this a reality in our short careers, and fulfill the goal of the Father by giving Him the highest place in our own esteem.
Notwithstanding the fact that the title Firstborn assures Him of the first place, nevertheless, at the same time, it brings Him into closest union with others. This name binds Him to creation with indissoluble bonds. But this is more like a humiliation than an elevation, for this hides most of His high honors. Yet for us, union with Him means our exaltation, and is the badge of our nobility.
First God reveals Him in His relation to creation. Only after this are we shown in His Word how He exalts Him higher and higher, to nearness and likeness to Himself, in a position far above that accorded to any other. In this dual positionóunion with creation and god-likenessówe see His future mission as Mediator emerge. The blessed sight of these increasing exaltations is shown in the first chapter of Colossians by means of sonship titles which are grouped about the first. These also transfer us back to the beginning and give us glances of the primordial creation. Such a revelation appears in the title (Col.1:13).
The echo of this form of address is heard in the Father's affectionate voice when He called to His Son from the heavens, "Thou art My Son, the Beloved. In Thee I delight" (Mark 1:11). Yet this fond form of addressing the Son holds in it a still deeper truth, to which we are led by means of similar Scriptures.
What a privilege it is for us to know of God's earliest act and how precious to see, in the first revelation of our Saviour, the unveiling of God's love!
When we meditate a little upon this glorious truth, our hearts begin to jubilate over the blessed fact that the almighty and omniscient God is love, and that this is the cause and channel of the plan of creation, and that the whole universe finds its source, in this love. As it was already in God, united to the Son of His love, it was in the sphere of His affections, and every creature which afterward was created in and through the Son of His love, is also, included. What rest, what happiness, what peace comes to our innermost being through this knowledge!
To be sure, at first we see God's love only in relation to His Son, and it operates only for His sake. But because of the unity then already existing between the Son and the universe, the creation of the Firstborn is typical of all the rest. Like the first, the following also are the fruit of His love.
Thoughtful creatures, those who believe in God as the Creator, may ask the question, What is it that God cherishes? How does He feel about those whom He has called into existence? A God Who is limitless in His existence, and boundless in His greatness what are the emotions which actuate His almighty power? What was His object in creating intelligent creatures! Yea, such thoughtful human beings, who are absolutely dependent upon Him in life and in death, and subject to His mercy, realize that, not merely much, but all depends on Him. If the attitude of such a God is not good, the whole universe must necessarily look forward to nothing but continual catastrophes forever.
We see the results of such ignorance among the people who worship their idols. They live in continual fear because, in their ignorance, they take it that the power that controls their fate is bad rather than good. By means of small as well as great sacrifice they seek to influence them favorably in order to fend the impending evil. What a life it must be, to dread the very thought of the Disposer! Alas, that the tenets of orthodoxy are not so very different from this!
But God gives us a more than satisfactory answer to this weighty question. In His testimony concerning His Son we have the fatherly assurance: Be confident and fearless! Yea, rejoice, for I am love. All My planning and doing is determined by My love. As certainly as I have begun thus, so surely will the consummation end in love. And this love starts to shine forth in the very first revelation concerning His Son, indicating to us that its exhibition is to be found in and through Him alone.
When we think of God's boundless being and greatness and power, and realize that these determine the dimension of His love, this gives us an intimation of its limitless height and depth. To fully reveal it, the creation is by no means sufficient. It must first fall into its present lost condition, where it feels its need, before there is a background for the display of God's affection through the salvation brought by Christ and His cross. In view of the necessity of the cross, we must judge Satan's activities quite differently than is usual. Because God's love can be fully displayed only where enmity and hate have done their utmost against Him, and because this is the special function of the Adversary he has really only done and will do that which must promote God's great plan.
We now perceive that the expression, "the Son of His love" is one of the most potent of the revelations of God's heart. Quite clearly can we see the work of Christ through it, to which His Father has called Him. A full unfolding of this follows in the epistle to the Colossians. To this we will now turn.
As the Firstborn we see the Son in such a close connection with the whole creation that one would think He could not occupy any higher rank or dignity. But this new revelation which presents Him as the Image of God, exalts Him still higher, and prepares Him for His place at the Head of the new humanity, which is also made in this image. He is the visible representation of the invisible God and the Channel of God's love to His creatures.
In order to fully appreciate the office of Christ and to realize the necessity of having an image of God, we review what is revealed of God in the Scriptures, with all reverence. The passage we are considering teaches that God is invisible. This is a confirmation of the truth that God is spirit (John 4:24). When we think of Him we must not imagine any form. Wherever He appears to have one in the Scriptures, it is not literal reality but a figure. Christ is not a literal Lambkin (Rev.14:1). Neither has God the shape of a man. In Gen.1:26 we read that God said, "Making are we Adam in our image..." But the context shows that the likeness is not in physical shape, but has to do with Adam's place over the lower creatures. As God is the Disposer of all, so mankind is the disposer over the animals of the earth.
In order to define the difference between God and us we might compare an atom with the whole universe. These are the smallest and the largest structures with which we are acquainted. The difference in size between the two is the greatest imaginable. Yet that is not altogether true. In comparison with God we are smaller than an atom, and He is greater than the universe. Even wise Solomon was overwhelmed with the greatness of God when he said, "behold, the heavens and the heaven of the heavens are not containing Thee!" (1 Kings 8:27).
It is good to be continually conscious of the over-whelmingness of God. We are His children and sons, and have fellowship with Him as with a loving father, we enjoy His goodness and grace, but often overlook His unutterable greatness. For an ever-present appreciation of God we must realize the fact that His boundless being is beyond our mental capacity, His indefinable dimension makes of us a cipher, and His overwhelming power could utterly crush us. These superhuman attributes, notwithstanding His desire for fellowship, make it impossible for Him to reveal Himself directly to His creatures. Every step of the way we realize the necessity that God should have a Mediator in order to be able to have fellowship with such as us.
If God's heart were not overflowing with a love which transcends all knowledge He would doubtless be satisfied to be alone in His invisible existence. But His love yearns for fellowship with His intelligent beings who once were in Him, and who were created by Him. The desire of His heart is to bestow upon them His life, and grace them with His gifts, and bless them with His happiness, in order to enjoy the bliss of reciprocal love.
In the vastness of His affection God has thought out a wonderful way by which He will attain this goal. He creates a Son in His image (Col.1:15), the effulgence of His glory and the emblem of His assumptions (Heb.1:3), Who has all His essential characteristics, and bears His likeness. We humans can send one another photographs. These, however, show only a part of our outer self, and are cold and lifeless. But, in Christ, God has given us a picture of Himself which is a living likeness, and, at the same time, He is the Way which leads us to God, the Father. Through Christ God is made perceptible to His creatures.
Although Christ could not carry out this commission in His life in the glory, yet this was a necessity, for, before He could enter into union with God's creatures, there must be a close connection between Him and God.
When He went that wonderful way in which He came to be in the likeness of humanity and humbled Himself, John the baptist, testified concerning Him, "God no one has ever seen. The only begotten God, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He unfolds Him" (John 1:18). After He had been so long with His disciples, and Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficing us," He replied with a rebuke and said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:8,9). At the cross, however, He drew back the very last curtain, so that we can gaze out upon the limitless ocean of the divine affections.
In order to really appreciate the love of God as exhibited at the cross, it must be viewed with a background of our Lord's glories which He had with God before He descended to this scene. In His priestly prayer (John 17:5) our Lord reminds the Father of the glory which He had with Him before the world was. This revelation was completed by the apostle Paul when he wrote that He was inherently in the form of God (Phil.2:6). God, His Father, had bestowed upon Him such a fullness of dignity that He was exalted to likeness to God. So perfectly does He picture the Deity that the Scriptures often call Him God, just as we speak of a photograph as if it were the person pictured (John 1:18; Heb.1:8, etc.)
It is by no means dishonoring to the Son to speak of Him as created. His likeness to God, as His Son, gives Him a much more desirable and practical place than if He had come out of eternity and were a second-rate Deity. As such He could never be the Mediator, because His mediatorial mission between God and His creatures is based on the truth that He proceeded from out of God.
In the form of God He shared existence with God before aught else was created. After the creation of the Son, God's aloneness was past, and Father and Son constituted the first living fellowship. It was composed of the greatest and purest of mutual love, and was a model for all future fellowship.
In this close union with His Son God found the earliest satisfaction of His desire for communion with His creatures. The whole of His fatherly love was devoted to His Son, and enjoyed its first fruit in His hearty reciprocation. This lovely picture was a faithful preview of what God has in mind for all of His creatures, and of that which He will actually accomplish. The stream of His love flowing out to His creatures will return to Him swollen with the love of His creatures for Him. Surely God saw this goal as if already attained, in His Son, and His heart enjoyed it in advance.
So we are able to see that the real splendor of the earliest creation period consisted of a continuity of the Son's glories, and they are not completed yet. In Colossians there are further and later sides of His likeness to God revealed. How overwhelmingly great does the Son become when we read that "in Him is all created, that in the heavens and that on earth ...!"
The phrase "in Him" is a well-known and blessed expression. It also sets forth the gracious and exalted portion of the believer, now and in the future. Yea, if we look beyond this we will see that all mankind will be vivified in Christ (1 Cor.15:22). But Colossians shows us its significance in that primordial period before aught else had been created.
That all was created in Him is a difficult truth to understand. On this account some translations have altered it to through Him, as it is further on in the same verse. The Original, however, is not the same, but freely expresses one of the deepest of all truths. We will now consider this basic doctrine, the universe in Christ.