Question & Answer Forum

What does Colossians 1:15 mean when it refers to Christ as “firstborn”? Some sects say this means He was the first created being.

The term “firstborn” is used in seven contexts in the New Testament in relation to our Lord Jesus Christ. In both Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7 He is called the firstborn of Mary; “her firstborn son.” The word is used there in reference to His incarnation. In Colossians 1:15 it is used in His relationship to creation. In Colossians 1:18 and in Revelation 1:5 it is linked to His resurrection. In Romans 8:29 it is linked to His glorification, and in Hebrews 1:6 to His future manifestation.

The word “firstborn” (Strong’s #G4416), denotes honor, rank, and dignity. It is used in the Septuagint in Psalm 89:27 in reference to David. We know that David was not Jesse’s firstborn son, yet this is the place of rank and honor that God accorded him. The reference in this Psalm clearly goes beyond David, and anticipates the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The principle of the firstborn’s privileges being given to another is also illustrated in 1 Chronicles 5:1-2; Joseph was not Jacob’s firstborn, however, because of Reuben’s sin Joseph was accorded rank and honor which were not his through order of birth.

In Colossians 1:15a, we learn what Christ is in relation to God. He is the representation and manifestation of the invisible God. Part b of this text tells us what He is in relationship to all creation. This text has been used to propagate error in regard to the person of the Lord Jesus. It is contended that He Himself is a creature, possibly even the chief being, created by God. This is not only unscriptural but is totally anti-Biblical. The New Testament teaching is very clear: the person described in Colossians 1:15 as “firstborn,” is uncreated and eternal. The context of Colossians 1:16-17 proves this. Verse 16 makes it clear that all created intelligence in heaven or on earth have their origin in Him. They were created by Him and for Him. This is one of eight Scriptural portions in the New Testament where creation is directly ascribed to the Lord Jesus. The other seven passages are: John 1:3; 10; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; and Hebrews 1:2, 10. He is also called “the beginning of the creation of God” in Revelation 3:14. The word “beginning” in that passage is the word “originator or the active cause of all creation.”

We are presented in Colossians 1:17 with a timeless statement of our Lord’s eternal preexistence. “And He is,” presents to us the eternity of being, possessed by our Lord Jesus. He Himself never had a beginning. He is eternal and possesses all the attributes of absolute Deity.

The teaching of the New Testament presents two aspects to us of the Lord Jesus. He is called both “firstborn” and also “only begotten.” When the term firstborn is used, it denotes Christ in relation to others. The term “only begotten” is used of Christ in relation to the Father.

-John Meekin