We’re working through Colossians 1.9ff, trying to determine how Paul wants us to understand the word firstborn in Col 1.15. Is he saying that Jesus is the first created being, or that he’s pre-eminent over all creation? In the previous post we’ve looked at Col 1.9-16. Here we pick up with verse 17.
- Col 1.17: He is “before all things.” This could go either way; he could exist briefly earlier than everything else, or he could exist eternally earlier than everything else. Checkmark for both sides.
- Col 1.18:
- He is the head of the body. That’s about position, not time. Checkmark for “higher.”
- He is the beginning. See v 17. Checkmark for both.
- He is the firstborn from the dead. Now this one is particularly significant. It’s another use of the same word, by the same author, in the same context. We’re going to assume that Paul is using it the same way as in verse 15, unless we have clear clues to the contrary (as I supplied in the sample “sun set” sentence).
So is Christ the first one to rise from the dead? Clearly not; he raised people from the dead before his own death, and others rose from the dead in the Old Testament.
Is he the most important person to rise from the dead? Yes, certainly; we have that stated directly by Paul himself in 1Co 15.14, 17, and 20. (Compare John 14.19.) Checkmark for “higher.”
- He is firstborn so that he might have the pre-eminence in all things. Checkmark for “higher.”
- Col 1.19: All fullness of God dwells in him. If all fullness of the Father is in the Son, then he’s eternal. Checkmark for “higher.”
Let’s summarize what we’ve found. In the immediate context, there are 7 clues for “higher,” and 3 that are ambiguous. There are none that point to “earlier” unambiguously. In short, there are 7 evidences that it cannot be “earlier,” and no evidences that it cannot be “higher.”
“Higher” it is. Jesus is Lord over all creation.
That finishes the sentence and the paragraph of immediate context. Now we look further, into the surrounding context. Does Paul say anything in the rest of the epistle that would tell us whether or not Christ is a created being? We can point out a few things:
- Col 2.3: All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. Omniscience is a non-communicable divine attribute.
- Col 2.9: All the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ.
- Col 3.4: Christ is our life. Life finds its source in God, not in any creature.
- Col 3.11: Christ is all, and in all.
- Col 3.24: We serve the Lord Christ.
From here we extend our search further, to the epistles Paul wrote about the same time (Ephesians, Philemon, and, probably a little later, Philippians).
- Eph 1.23: Christ is the one “who fills all in all.” Omnipresence is a non-communicable divine attribute.
- Eph 3.8: Christ’s riches are unsearchable.
- Eph 3.19: The love of Christ passes knowledge, filling us with all the fullness of God.
- Eph 4.7-8: Jesus is God (cf Ps 68.17-18).
- Eph 4.10: Again, Christ fills all things.
- Php 2.9-11: Everyone will worship Christ.
Then we extend it to the rest of Paul’s writings.
- 1Co 10.9: Christ is Jehovah.
- 2Co 5.10: Christ is the Judge.
- 2Co 12.8-9: Christ’s strength is unlimited. Omnipotence is a non-communicable divine attribute.
- Rom 9.5: Christ is God.
- Rom 10.12-14: Christ is Lord of all.
- Titus 2.13: Christ is our great God and Savior.
Then to the rest of the epistles.
- Heb 1.8: The Son is God.
- 2P 1.1: Christ is our God and Savior.
Then to the entire NT.
- Mk 1.2: Jesus is Jehovah (cf Isa 40.3).
- John 1.1: The Son is God. (And no, it doesn’t say he was “a god.”)
- John 12.41: Jesus is Jehovah of Hosts (cf Isa 6.1ff).
- John 20.28: Jesus accepts Thomas’s description of him as God. (And no, Thomas wasn’t saying “OMG!”)
And finally to the OT.
- Isa 9.6: Christ is the mighty God.
- Dan 7.13-14: Christ is worshiped by all nations.
There’s much more; this is just the low-hanging fruit.
Next time, we’ll conclude.