Subversive Hymn


Colossians 1:15-23

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (v.15).

We like to sing hymns in our church—the older the better. We often put new music to them, but sometimes we sing the songs as written. The power of the words, the beautiful melodies, the fact that Christians sang these truths long before us, make hymns an important part of our worship.

Colossians 1:15-23 is a poem and was likely an early hymn that Paul used in his letter. These lyrics weren’t simply theological truths (though they were that), but they were also affirmations of loyalty to the kingdom of King Jesus over the Roman Empire.

When Paul referred to Jesus as the “image” of God, he used the Greek word eikon (v.15). The eikon of Caesar may have been on every coin, and it was plastered on the empire’s banners and architecture. But Paul asserted that Jesus (not Caesar) was the true king, the one whose image offered us God and requires our worship. Further, historical records made many references to Caesar that this hymn would have countered. Caesar was said to be “equal to the beginning of all things,” the “beginning of life and vitality,” the “savior,” and the one who “put an end to war and . . . set all things in order.” Caesar was even declared “god manifest.”

With that background, consider a few lines from the hymn the church sang: Jesus “existed before anything . . . and is supreme over creation” (v.15). Through Jesus, “God created everything” (v.16). Jesus holds “all creation together” (v.17). And to be perfectly clear: Jesus is over all “thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities” (v.16).

Singing a hymn of loyalty to Jesus is an act of subversion; it’s against every other power that would make claim to our allegiance.

—Winn Collier


Read the entire chapter of Colossians 1. Where do you see other words of loyalty to Jesus and acts of disloyalty to the powers of this world?


What kingdoms and powers are asking for your allegiance? What hymn lyrics speak to your heart?


Johnny Cash Praises God by Singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic from neids on GodTube.