What does it mean that Jesus is the firstborn of creation?

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By BibleAsk Team


The phrase “firstborn of creation” regarding Jesus Christ has been a subject of theological discussion and interpretation for centuries. It is found in Colossians 1:15-20, where Paul describes Christ’s preeminence and supremacy over all creation.

Some have claimed that Paul’s description of Christ as the “firstborn over all creation” means that the Son of God was created — not eternal, not God. However, this clearly conflicts with the teachings of the Bible.

Understanding the significance of Jesus as the firstborn of creation involves exploring the biblical context, the cultural background of the term “firstborn,” and its theological implications within the Christian faith. This essay will delve into these aspects, utilizing references from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible.

Biblical Context

Colossians 1:15-20 (NKJV): “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”

“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

In this passage, Paul presents Jesus Christ as the preeminent and supreme figure in creation. He emphasizes Christ’s role in creation, His sovereignty over all things, and His position as the head of the church. The term “firstborn” is central to understanding Christ’s relationship to creation and His divine nature.

Cultural and Linguistic Background

To grasp the meaning of “firstborn” in Colossians 1:15, it’s essential to consider its cultural and linguistic context in ancient Near Eastern society.

1. Legal and Covenantal Significance

In ancient Jewish culture, the term “firstborn” held significant legal and covenantal implications. The firstborn son held a position of honor, authority, and inheritance within the family.

Exodus 13:2 (NKJV): “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.”

This verse underscores the special status of the firstborn and their consecration to God. While the term “firstborn” typically referred to the physical birth order, its significance extended beyond mere chronology to denote priority, privilege, and preeminence.

Therefore, it seems more right to consider the word “firstborn” (Gr. prōtotokos) as a figurative term designating Jesus Christ as first in rank, the expression being drawn from the honor and office held by the first-born in a common family, or, more exactly, the first-born in a royalty.

2. Typological and Metaphorical Usage

In biblical literature, the term “firstborn” is often used metaphorically and typologically to signify supremacy, not necessarily literal birth order.

Psalm 89:27 (NKJV): “Also I will make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.”

Here, the psalmist speaks of David as God’s “firstborn,” not in terms of birth order, but in terms of his exalted status and authority as king.

Theological Implications

Given this cultural and linguistic background, Paul’s designation of Jesus as the “firstborn of creation” carries profound theological significance within Christian doctrine.

1. Preeminence and Sovereignty

By calling Jesus the “firstborn of creation,” Paul affirms Christ’s preeminence and sovereignty over all creation. Christ’s status as the firstborn denotes His supremacy and authority over the entire created order.

Colossians 1:18 (NKJV): “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”

This verse emphasizes Christ’s position as the head of the church and the firstborn from the dead, highlighting His authority over both the spiritual and physical realms.

2. The Creator

Paul further elucidates Christ’s role in creation, emphasizing that all things were created by Him and for Him.

Colossians 1:16 (NKJV): “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

This declaration underscores Christ’s active involvement in the creative process and His centrality to the divine plan of creation. As the agent of creation, Christ occupies a unique and exalted position within the Godhead.

3. Eternality and Divine Nature

Contrary to some misconceptions, describing Jesus as the “firstborn of creation” does not imply that He was created or had a beginning. Rather, it emphasizes His eternality and divine nature.

John 1:1-3 (NKJV): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

John’s prologue affirms the eternal existence of the Word (Christ) and His active role in creation. As the preexistent Son of God, Jesus transcends temporal and spatial limitations, existing before creation itself.

Practical Implications

Understanding Jesus as the “firstborn of creation” has practical implications for Christian faith and practice.

1. Worship and Adoration

Recognizing Christ’s preeminence and sovereignty inspires worship and adoration among believers. He is worthy of praise and honor as the supreme ruler of all creation.

Philippians 2:9-11 (NKJV): “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 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.”

2. Trust and Assurance

Knowing that Jesus is the firstborn of creation provides assurance of His unmatched authority and sovereignty. Believers can trust in His power to fulfill His promises and accomplish His purposes in their lives and in the world.

Colossians 1:17 (NKJV): “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

This verse reassures believers that Jesus holds everything together and that His sovereignty extends over all aspects of existence.

Conclusion

The designation of Jesus as the “firstborn of creation” encapsulates His supreme authority, divine nature, and central role in creation. While the term “firstborn” carries connotations of priority and preeminence, it does not imply that Jesus was created or had a beginning. Rather, it affirms His eternal existence and sovereignty over all created things. This theological truth inspires worship, trust, and confidence.

Christ’s status is distinctive, authoritative, and absolute. He has been endowed with all prerogatives and powers in heaven and earth. In Colossians 1:15-20, Paul stresses the status of Christ because he is trying to answer the arguments of the false teachers, who taught that Christ was a created being, and who denied His authority.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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