“He is … the firstborn of all creation.” Colossians 1:15
Those who do not believe that Jesus is God have used this phrase to “prove” that the Son of God is a created being. They teach that Jesus was the first thing created by God. However, this does not jive with the rest of Scripture. Jesus is the Word that was in the beginning with God, that was God, and created all things (John 1:1-3). Furthermore, that passage says that, “without him was not any thing made that was made.” Jesus is the Creator, not a created being. Therefore, “firstborn of creation” must have some other meaning.
Look up the word firstborn (πρωτοτοκος) in a Greek Lexicon and you’ll find that it is translated correctly. The word was used to describe the first male child born to a family or a first born sheep. But when referring to Jesus, Bauer describes him as “the first-born of a new humanity which is to be glorified, as its exalted Lord is glorified. … [T]he one coming forth from God to form the new community of saints.”1 With that explanation, he gives the idea that firstborn refers to Jesus’ glorified, resurrection body. It is true that our Lord Jesus is the first to have experienced the final resurrection, however, this doesn’t seem to fit with the context of the passage, especially as the very next verse talks about his authority over the original creation.
Firstborn in this passage is best understood as a position of authority. Think back to the struggle between Jacob and Esau. The twins were born on the same day, but only one would receive the privilege of leading the family as the firstborn. The Lord Jesus holds this position over all creation. He has this right as the Creator because everything in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, including every level of authority, was created by him and for him (Col. 1:16). And everything in creation is held together by him as well (17). It makes sense then, that Jesus holds the authority of a firstborn over all creation because he is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
As a created being, the Scriptures include each of us under Jesus’ authority. He is the one who made us, who sustains us, and the one to whom we are ultimately accountable. That means that each of us must seriously consider our relationship to him. The question today is this. Will you continue living in rebellion to him or will you submit to the authority of the One who made you and who knows what is best for you? Choose wisely.
1Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 726.