“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15 NKJV).
Any teacher – or for that matter any student – can attest to the importance of visual aids. Whether or not it is true that “A picture is worth a thousand words,” it is certainly true that the more one can use multiple senses in acquiring knowledge, the more complete that knowledge is likely to be.
Most travelers are familiar with the frustration which results from trying to share one’s experience in strange places with those at home who just don’t get it. No matter how much we try we soon realize that our report gets filtered through their experience and expectations and they just don’t understand. Third world poverty for example translates as “just beans for dinner with no dessert” rather than three days of starvation. Yes, we know there are starving people over there, but we just can’t quite empathize with their suffering. We don’t feel it. Those who have “been there and done that,” however, know it on a much deeper level.
I don’t know if God feels frustration or not (probably not?), but it is certain that even he has had to deal with the perception gap. He wants us to know him. He wants us to realize his infinite power, knowledge, and love. But we cannot see him, therefore, we will always fall short in our understanding. It is not God’s fault that we cannot comprehend his nature; it is ours. But God has acted to bridge that gap. He has revealed himself, first in the creation (Psalm 19:1-6), then in his word (Psalm 19:7-11), and finally and most completely in his son (Matthew 11:27; John 1:18).
Colossians 1:15-19 may be the deepest Christological statement in Scripture. It begins by stating that the incarnate Christ – Jesus the human who was also the divine Son of God – is the exact image of God who is invisible. It concludes with the affirmation that all the fullness of the divine nature is in him. While on earth he was God in flesh, subject to all human senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. And those who heard him, or saw him, or touched him were in the very presence of eternal God.
Note John’s claim:
“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, concerning the Word of life – the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us – that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; . . . And these things we write to you that your joy may be full”(1 John 1:1-4).
Thousands of contemporaries saw and heard and touched Jesus and marveled at his words and actions. Scores at least came to faith in him as the Son of God (Acts 1:15). Since that time many millions have shared that faith, and have come to a more complete knowledge of his Father because of what we have read from those original witnesses.
Because of Jesus we have a better comprehension of the power, grace, and love of God. And because of Jesus we may come more fully into his presence. Christ on earth was truly the ultimate visual aid. We still receive the benefits of his presence.