The Pre-eminence of Christ
Col 1:15 – 23.Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
In the Colossian church, Gnostic heretics and the Judaizers had entered into the fellowship bringing with them the doctrine that denies Christ’s Deity.
Epaphras recognised this very quickly and visited the Apostle Paul who was in prison in Rome and asked for assistance.
Paul wrote this letter to be read in the church at Colossae.
Verses 15 to 23 of chapter 1, is Pauls way of counteracting this heresy by showing that Christ was pre-eminent over All creation, things in heaven and things on the earth.
Many commentaries seem to suggest that vv 15,16 and 17 may have been a hymn or song that existed at this time in the early church. Paul uses this in his letter to explain that Jesus, whilst being in the flesh, was more than just a man with power from God but that He was indeed God incarnate. (Immanuel – God with us - God manifest in the flesh).
Matt 1:23 23 “Behold! The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, (which is God with us)
Paul uses the term "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature":
The first thing that we need to see here is that in the passage in Colossians, the idea of Jesus as firstborn means that He is pre-eminent over creation not that He is a created being. This can be seen from the verses that follow.
During creation, "God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26).
We were created in God's image—after His likeness. Here the Trinity is involved. “Let Us—in Our—to Our”.
Man was created in the likeness of God but it says of Jesus that: Jesus was the express image of the invisible God.
Heb 1:3 being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Furthermore, scripture reveals that Jesus is God (Titus 2:13) Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Jesus is the creator of All things.
(Colossians 1:16,17). "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together”
Scripture tells us that Christ was the creator, Col 1:16,17. John 1:1.
Gnostic teaching on God’s fullness, (Pleroma) (Play- ro- mah). (Greek - fullness), says this:
While the transcendent god or invisible spirit is inconceivable and ineffable, the pleroma (Greek: “full perfection”) of the divine is a hierarchical family of personified aeons, ( Lesser gods) who emerge as the fruit of the spirit's self-contemplation or self-expression…
In other words, the Gnostic “Pleroma” was a number of gods, with the Supreme God being inaccessible. This Supreme God created a number of lesser gods called “aeons” and one of these lesser gods was the one that
created the world. This god was known as the “Demiurge” Yahweh or Jehovah (the god of the Old Testament) and was an evil and jealous god and it was this god that created the world. This god was evil, so all he created was evil. Therefore the Gnostics believed Jesus was a created being.
Paul is counteracting this Gnostic idea by declaring that in Col 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness(Greek pleroma) dwell;
We are also told in the very first verse of the Bible, that the Son of God created all things. The Hebrew phrase, (Barashyt bara) means, ( In beginning God created). The Hebrew verb bara (ברא) .
Bara means (He Created/ Creating).
This word for created is made up of the letters referring to the Son of God.
Bet – Resh – Aleph. Which means in Hebrew, (the head of the house of God).
Also Bet + Resh = Bar (meaning Son of) and Aleph (God). Hence, Bara pronounced (Baw Raw) meaning (The Son of God)
We also read the very first word in Genesis Barashyt, (In beginning). This also shows that the Bible begins with Bara, showing that the Son of God is before all things.
Col 1: 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
These verses show that Jesus Christ was in the beginning with God, pre-existent and most certainly proves that the Gnostic heresy concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ was wrong.
The Word Became Flesh.
In John’s gospel we are told that Jesus (Logos—Word) existed in the beginning. He was with God and He was God and that He was the one who created all things.
Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Joh 1:2T he same was in the beginning with God.
Joh 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.
Jesus is clearly called the Creator of all things. So He could not have been the first thing created.
In the first chapter of Colossians, Paul makes the following statement about Jesus.
(Colossians 1:15) “And he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation”.
From Strongs Greek G1504 εἰκών - eikōn - i-kone' (Icon)
From G1503; a likeness, that is, (literally) statue, profile, or (figuratively) representation, resemblance:
This is why Jesus could say John 14:9-11 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
It is said by some, that firstborn means that Jesus was the first creation of God.
Does this mean that Jesus Christ was a created being? No, it does not.
The word “firstborn” can mean a number of different things.
The Greek word prototokos, which is translated as firstborn, can refer to different things. It could refer either to something or someone that is first in order of time, such as a firstborn child, or it could refer to someone who is pre-eminent in rank. Or it could refer to someone who was both firstborn and pre-eminent in rank. It all depends upon the context.
Taken from: HELPS Word-studies
The Greek word, 4416 prōtótokos is made up of, 4413 /prṓtos, which means "first, pre-eminent" and 5088 /tíktō, which means "bring forth") – properly, first in time (Mt 1:25; Lk 2:7); hence, pre-eminent (Col 1:15; Rev 1:5) First Begotten.
For this (and countless other reasons) Jesus is "pre-eminent" (4416 /prōtótokos) – the unequivocal Sovereign over all creation.
(Col 1:16). For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
[4416 (prōtótokos) refers to "the first among others (who follow)" – as with the pre-eminent, glorified Christ, the eternal Logos who possesses self-existent life (Jn 5:26).]For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;
Take for example the youngest son of Jesse, David, He was called The Firstborn.
Referring to David, it is said: Psa 89:20 I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him:
Then in the same Psalm (Psalm 89:27). I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.
In this example the term firstborn obviously speaks of pre-eminence in rank. David was pre-eminent among the kings of Israel. However he was not the oldest, or firstborn in his family. David was in fact the youngest. Therefore in this context, the idea of firstborn among the kings has the idea of pre-eminence and does not have the idea of time.
We see this in other places in the Bible where God chooses the second son over the first born.
Ishmael and Isaac, Ishmael was the firstborn of Abraham but God chose Isaac as the seed of promise.
Again with Esau and Jacob, Esau the firstborn but Jacob the chosen seed.
We see also that firstborn is also a title that is transferable:
Gen. 41:51-52, And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house.
Gen 41:52 And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.
However we read in:
Jer 31:9They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Jesus is also called the firstborn from the dead.
(Revelation 1:5)And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
Jesus was not the first ever to be raised from the dead but He was the first to be raise, never to die again.
In addition, He is pre-eminent over the dead and death itself. Jesus said that He has the keys, or the authority, to death and Hades.
(Revelation 1:18) I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
Indeed, the whole of Scripture precludes the possibility that Christ could be anything other than the pre- existent sovereign of the universe.
1 Cor 15:20
19 If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men.
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
Jesus is the perfect one and was able to present Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, because He is the image of God.
Paul wrote, (Ephesians 5:2).
“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
” Because of the Father’s great love for us, He sent His Son (John 3:16; cf.1 John 4:8–9), and Jesus’ love for us was demonstrated by His sacrifice on the Cross.
Through Christ’s work on the Cross, we have access to the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:18). For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
When we think of Jesus being the image of God, we should remember that He is our heavenly King and Saviour, and “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10).
Jesus Is The Firstborn Over All Creation
There is one final thing. Colossians 1:15 could be better translated in the following manner.
(Holmans Christian Standard Bible)
(Colossians 1:15) And he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
It is also translated “over all creation” in the (Berean Study Bible) the (Berean Literal Bible) the (International Standard Version).
The Tyndale Bible renders the verse: “which is the image of the invisible God, first begotten before all creatures”:
These translations emphasize that Jesus is pre-eminent "over" His creation.
Also He is “before” all creation.
This is to be preferred to the translation of "the firstborn of all creation" which gives the impression that Jesus is a created being.
We need to let scripture interprets scripture. Firstborn does not require a meaning of first created.
The Jehovah's Witnesses and other Unitarians say it means here, that Jesus was the firstborn or the first created and so since He was a created being, He could not be deity.
However, "Firstborn" can mean the first born person in a family, and it can also be a title of pre-eminence which is transferable. That is obvious since Jesus is God in flesh and is also the first born son of Mary.
(John 1:1 &14) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14, And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
In addition, He is the pre-eminent one in all things.
The Jehovah's Witnesses and those that would deny the deity of Christ should consider this when they examine Col. 1:15.Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
Notice how the Apostle Paul refers to Jesus as the firstborn over all creation, not the firstborn in creation.
As such, (Col. 1: 17).“He is before all things and in him all things hold together”
In John 1 He is overtly called “God” (v. 1), and in Hebrews 1 He is said to be the One who “laid the foundations of the earth”(v. 10). And in the very last chapter of the Bible, Christ refers to Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13).
Seven times we see the word ALL in these verses (Greek - pas)
Meaning: apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole:
16 For by him were all things created
16 all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20 by him to reconcile all things unto himself;
Showing Jesus pre-eminence.
Jesus Christ is Deity, God in flesh.
John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world existed.
John 8: 57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?”
58“Truly, truly,I tell you, Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
Jesus Christ pre-existed the creation. Indeed He was the creator.
He was in the beginning with God and was Himself God.
He is over All things both in heaven and on earth and in Him all things consist.