Saturday, September 6, 2008

God's Firstborn

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” Colossians 1:15 (NIV).

This is one of the great verses in the Bible which teaches us about Jesus Christ. It is a part of a wonderful passage on Jesus, but this one verse often gets a lot of questions. The Greek word for “image” is the word from which we get our English word “icon.” It means, “copy” or “likeness.” Jesus Christ is the perfect image-the exact likeness—of God and is in the very form of God, and has been so from all eternity. By describing Jesus in this manner, Paul emphasizes that Jesus is both the representation and manifestation of God. Thus, Jesus is fully God in every way.

The Greek word for “firstborn” can refer to one who was born first chronologically, but most often refers to pre-eminence in position, or rank. In both Greek and Jewish culture, the firstborn was the ranking son who had received the right of inheritance from his father, whether he was born first or not. It is used of Israel who, not being the first nation, was however the preeminent nation (cf. Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:9). Firstborn in this context clearly means highest in rank, not first created for several reasons: 1) Jesus cannot be both “first begotten” and “only begotten” (cf. John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9); 2) when the “firstborn” is one of a class, the class is in the plural form (cf. v. 18; Romans 8:29), but “creation,” the class here, is in a singular form; 3) if Paul was teaching that Jesus was a created being, he was agreeing with the heresy he was writing to refute; and 4) it is impossible for Jesus to be both created, and the Creator of everything (v. 16). Thus Jesus is the firstborn in the sense that he has the preeminence (v. 18) and possesses the right of inheritance “over all creation” (cf. Hebrews 1:2; Revelation 5:1-7, 13). He existed before the creation and is exalted in rank above it. As supreme over all creation, Jesus has all the priority and authority ... including over the spirit world (see Colossians 1:16).

Colossians 1:15 is a bedrock verse of Christianity. In fact the whole passage from verse 15 to verse 20 is perhaps the fullest description of Jesus' authority and divinity in the Bible. As a Christian, I find it encouraging to know that I'm not just following a prophet of old or a great moral teacher from ancient times. I'm following the God who wrapped himself in human flesh: Jesus Christ.

I'm curious, what implications do you think these things have on those of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ? I welcome your comments....

Credit: some of the above thoughts have been adapted from John MacArthur

1 comment:

Summer Jones said...

This is Amy Snyder. Hi, Pastor James! How are you all?
I personaly think that it's incredible that God just created the universe then and there. I mean, the ENTIRE expanding, infinite universe in only what we humans think, is a couple of days, when in fact, it could have been a few MILLION years. It boggles and blows the mind.
And another thing- why don't scientists really think that God exists? They're looking at his creations EVERY DAY! It's a touchy subject, but I just wonder. My mom read a poll that most astronomers are believers of God because they have no other way to explain what they find.
Jesus isn't some prophet like Jonah: he's GOD in human form. He's perfect- no questions asked.
God is incredible, and so is Jesus, his SON, who died for countless billions of people now, and forever. He deserves to be God's firstborn, with that pain and sufering, when he didn't have to. It's an incredible story.