John Owen on the Glory of Christ as God’s Representation


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John Owen takes the task of explaining Christ’s glory as God’s representation  by appealing to the letter of the Colossians. In Colossians 1:15-20, Paul writes,

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.

John Owen stated that,

Without Jesus, we would have known nothing truly about God for he would have been eternally invisible to us. In his divine person, Jesus is the essential image of God the father. But when he assumed human nature he became the representative of God’s image to the church, so that only by Christ do we understand the wonderful and excellent things of God’s nature and will (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Reading Colossians 1 and what John Owen says on it makes me wonder how little men and women in the church ponder this truth that the Son of God is the very image of the invisible God; the truth that, by Jesus, all things were Created (v.16). How often in our hearts, minds, and mouths do we forget or neglect this? Because if we did not neglect the fact that Jesus is the very image of God, many churches wouldn’t be in the state they are currently in.

If we did ponder the glory of Christ as the image of the invisible God, we would sacrifice nicer carpet for the sake of the gospel; abandon a nicer sound system for the sake of gospel; and we would be slow to criticize guys like David Platt for arguing for the importance of sacrificing even the small things (like goldfish crackers). Because this Jesus, who is the image of invisible God, who has created all things, and in him all things hold together, became like his brothers to make propitiation for our sins (Heb. 2:17)! Jesus became our representative on the cross. Thus, he is the head of the Church!

Owen said,

It is only by Christ that we can glorify God rightly and acceptably. Hence the great purpose of the devil, when the gospel was first preached, was to blind the eyes of men’s understanding, and to fill their minds with prejudices and so that they might not behold his glory. He who does not behold the glory of Christ as the representation of God’s love is utterly ignorant of these heavenly mysteries. He does not know either God or Christ. He has neither the Father nor the Son. He does not know God, because he does not know the holy properties of his nature in the chief way designed by infinite wisdom of their revelation. He does not know Christ because he does not see the glory of God in him. Apart from Christ no man can come to a true understanding of God’s love.

Why does Owen say apart from Christ no man can come to a true understanding of God’s love?

Because if you miss Jesus then you have missed it all!

If we miss Jesus, then we will misread and misinterpret the entire Old Testament. For example, we will struggle to understand the story of Abraham and Isaac and the need for sacrifice. The entire sacrificial system will seem barbaric and displaced if we miss Jesus. The Old Testament is pointing to Jesus! So if you miss Jesus, you miss the fulfillment that is in him! For Jesus is before all things. He holds all things together. Through Jesus all things are reconciled to himself. Everything and everyone will have to answer to him. Friend, don’t waste your life trusting in tradition. Trust in the Christ whose imprint is in all 66 books. Rest in Jesus. Rest in the One whose personal sacrifice was planned before time began. You only get one life, and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ Jesus will last.


1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

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