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New American Standard Bible (NASB)
14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Amplified Bible (AMP)
14 in whom we have redemption [because of His sacrifice, resulting in] the forgiveness of our sins [and the cancellation of sins’ penalty].15 He is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator] of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, [things] visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [that is, by His activity] and for Him. 17 And He Himself existed and is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [His is the controlling, cohesive force of the universe.] 18 He is also the head [the life-source and leader] of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will occupy the first place [He will stand supreme and be preeminent] in everything. 19 For it pleased the Father for all the fullness [of deity—the sum total of His essence, all His perfection, powers, and attributes] to dwell [permanently] in Him (the Son), 20 and through [the intervention of] the Son to reconcile all things to Himself, making peace [with believers] through the blood of His cross; through Him, [I say,] whether things on earth or things in heaven.
New International Version (NIV)
14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 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. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Young's Literal Translation (YLT)
14 in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of the sins,
15 who is the image of the invisible God, first-born of all creation,
16 because in him were the all things created, those in the heavens, and those upon the earth, those visible, and those invisible, whether thrones, whether lordships, whether principalities, whether authorities; all things through him, and for him, have been created,
17 and himself is before all, and the all things in him have consisted.
18 And himself is the head of the body -- the assembly -- who is a beginning, a first-born out of the dead, that he might become in all [things] -- himself -- first,
19 because in him it did please all the fulness to tabernacle,
20 and through him to reconcile the all things to himself -- having made peace through the blood of his cross -- through him, whether the things upon the earth, whether the things in the heavens.
World Engliah Bible (WEB)
14 in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins; 15 who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. 18 He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For all the fullness was pleased to dwell in him; 20 and through him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens, having made peace through the blood of his cross.
The Message (MSG)
13-14 God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.
15-18 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
Colossians is often categorized as one of the "prison epistles" of Paul that also include Ephesians and Philippians. Paul wrote them from prison often with the help of an amanuensis, someone acting as Paul’s scribe. Like the other prison epistles Colossians mentions some of the same people such as Timothy, Aristarchus, Archippus, Mark, Epaphras, Luke, Onesimus, and Demas. Onesimus, a runaway slave, is also the reason that Paul wrote his personal letter to Philemon who was the ‘owner’ of Onesimus. But, most importantly, Colossians represents a monumental breakthrough in Paul's Christology (the study of the nature of Christ Himself).
John gives us hints about this breakthrough in the first chapter of his gospel. Paul echoes this breakthrough in the first three verses of his letter to the Hebrews. We will develop this in detail.
As in most churches of the day Colossians also had errors that needed corrected. Apparently some of the people there were into some cultic practices including the veneration of “elemental spirits.”
The ancient world believed that everything on earth was composed of four elements. A far cry from the modern Periodic Table of 118 elements.
In short, these ancient elements were simply; Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Often is was believed that a spirit inhabited each element. So, there was a spirit of Air, a spirit of Earth, a spirit of Fire and a spirit of Water. These spirits can be viewed as either angels or demons. A secular person could be considered spiritual if they where in communication with these spirits. Certain people believed themselves to be spiritual without being Christian.
In order to practice their spiritually they would deprive themselves of certain things in order to develop spiritually. These became known as Ascetic practices. They would deprive themselves of food, or certain foods. Or they would deprive themselves of rest or sleep, or comforts, such as sleeping on a hard service etc., or wearing a “hair shirt” to constantly irritate their skin. They were determined to remove any obstacles that impeded their spiritually.
We should not be deceived into believing that ascetic practices are not indulged in today. Because of our in born feelings of guilt many people who would laugh at ancient asceticism will punish themselves in the hope of “transcending” and escaping the punishment for their fallen nature and feelings and actions. This is equally offensive to the Spirit of Grace in Christ Jesus as is legalism.
Paul took on the error of legalism in Galatians (please see my book Ultimate Freedom). In Colossians he takes on worldly spirits and asceticism.
Paul is simply saying with some magnificent inspired words, “you do not need all this to be spiritual when you can have Jesus! Jesus is so much greater that you can imagine.” And God gave Paul the words to explain it ...