This article first appeared in the Ask Hank column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 29, number 6 (2006). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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.”—Colossians 1:15–16
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul calls Jesus Christ the “firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15). How can Christ be both the eternal Creator of all things and yet Himself be the firstborn?
First, in referring to Christ as the firstborn, Paul has in mind preeminence. This usage is firmly established in the Old Testament. For example, Ephraim is referred to as the Lord’s “firstborn” (Jer. 31:9) even though Manasseh was born first (Gen. 41:51). Likewise, David is appointed the Lord’s “firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27), despite being the youngest of Jesse’s sons (1 Sam. 16:10‐13). While neither Ephraim nor David was the first one born, they were firstborn in the sense of preeminence or “prime position.”
Furthermore, Paul refers to Jesus as the firstborn over all creation, not the firstborn in creation. As such, “He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1: 17). The force of Paul’s language is such that Arians such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been forced to insert the word “other” (e.g., “all other things”) in their New World Translation of the Bible in order to demote Christ to the status of a created being.
Finally, as the panoply of Scripture makes plain, Jesus is the eternal Creator who spoke and the limitless galaxies leapt into existence. 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). Indeed, the whole of Scripture precludes the possibility that Christ could be anything other than the preexistent sovereign of the universe.2
— Hank Hanegraaff