How is Jesus the first-born over Creation? What does it mean for Jesus to be the first-born?
Some have tried to deny the divinity of Jesus (i.e. that Jesus is God) by quoting a statement made by Paul in his letter to the Colossians that says: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15). The argument is that Jesus was created first of everything that was created, and if He is a created "thing", He cannot be God.
This argument, however, fails to recognize that the meaning of the term "firstborn" depends upon the context in which it is used in Scripture. The Greek term prōtotokos can refer to either the birth order in a family (e.g. Luke 2:23) or to a special status conferred upon someone or something, which connotes preeminence or having first place among other contenders.
The context of Paul's statements made in the first chapter of Colossians clearly demonstrates the second usage of prōtotokos in play, as Paul uses it to show that Jesus has first place in everything. Paul says that "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent" (Colossians 1:16–18, emphasis added).
Notice that Jesus is referred to as also being the "firstborn of the dead". Jesus was not the first person ever raised from the dead; a number of people throughout the Bible were raised from the dead before Him (e.g. Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath's son in 1 Kings 17:22; Jesus raised Lazarus in John 11). But Jesus holds first place among all who have or will be raised from the dead because of what His resurrection accomplished and provides.
In the same way that God refers to David as his "firstborn" king in Psalm 89:27, "the highest of the kings of the earth", so also is Jesus the "firstborn of all creation" in that Jesus has preeminence and first place in everything that exists.
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