Jesus, the firstborn over all creation
This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).
In the last column, we explored John 1:1-3 in our quest to understand Jesus’ role as the creator of all things. Now, let’s consider two additional passages.
Colossians 1:15-17 – “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.”
Those who seek to reduce Jesus to a created being argue that Paul refers to Jesus as the image of the invisible God, not God Himself. But this fails to recognize that Jesus and the Father are distinct divine persons. Further, no mere creature can serve as the true image of the invisible God.
Humans are created to be image bearers of God, reflecting His character and attributes, but we are not divine. Only Jesus, who shares the eternal glory of the Father, can truly reveal Him in human flesh (John 17:5).
Then, some contend that Jesus, as the “firstborn over all creation,” is the first of God’s created beings. Jehovah’s Witnesses are the primary promoters of this view today.
But while the Greek prototokos (firstborn) can refer to the first person born into a family, it often signifies a position of supremacy. For example, Jesus is the “firstborn among many brothers and sisters,” the model of all saints bound for glory (Rom. 8:29).
In Hebrews 1:6, the Father “brings his firstborn into the world,” with the result being that “all God’s angels worship him.” In Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 1:5, Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead,” the first to be raised in a glorified body, which serves as the prototype for our future resurrected bodies.
So, as Paul describes Jesus as “the firstborn over all creation,” he has two thoughts in mind, according to Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest: “priority to all creation and sovereignty over all creation. In the first meaning we see the absolute preexistence of the Logos. Since our Lord existed before all created things, He must be uncreated. Since He is uncreated, He is eternal. Since He is eternal, He is God. Since He is God, He cannot be one of the emanations from deity of which the Gnostic speaks…. In the second meaning we see that He is the natural ruler, the acknowledged head of God’s household.”
This brings us to a clear understanding of Paul’s message. As the divine second person of the Trinity, Jesus is sovereign over all creation. That’s because He created everything – not just the natural world in which we live, but the unseen realm of angelic beings. All things are created through Him and for Him, and He holds them all together. Jesus is not a mere secondary deity or an exalted man; He is the creator of and sovereign ruler over the realms of spirit and matter.
Hebrews 1:1-3 – “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
The author of Hebrews makes much of Jesus’ superiority to angels and human beings. As the “exact expression” of God’s nature, He bears the divine imprint in His human flesh. As Marvin Vincent comments, “Here the essential being of God is conceived as setting its distinctive stamp upon Christ, coming into definite and characteristic expression in his person, so that the Son bears the exact impress of the divine nature and character.”
Some may argue that because the writer of Hebrews says God made the universe through Jesus, Jesus is a secondary creator, or a mere tool that the Father employed to create all things. But this fails to take into account the writer’s emphasis on the deity of Christ in verse 3: the “radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature.” Christ is not a passive instrument in creation. Rather, He is a cooperating agent.
Further, Jesus is depicted as “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” This is more than holding the dead weight of the world on His shoulders, or serving as a helmsman to pilot the universe through its natural course. No, the creator of all is in control of all. He sovereignly maintains it and ensures that it fulfills the purpose for which everything was made. He even steps into human history to make “purification for sins,” and then assumes His rightful place at the right hand of the Majesty on high (v. 3).
Next: The Holy Spirit as creator