A Question I Was Asked:

If Jesus is God, How Can He Be the 'Firstborn'?

The Question:

A Jehovah's Witness quoted Colossians 1:15 at me. The verse says,

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

He said if Jesus was the 'firstborn' he must have been created therefore was/is not God. However, the very next verse says,

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. (verse 16).

It seems to me that the very next verse rejects this view but I do wonder about verse 15. How would you have answered this?

UK Apologetics Reply:

This person is clutching at straws. The evidence is too abundant to ignore that Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Godhead. As you yourself point out, the very next verse of Colossians 1:16 alone clearly demolishes the usual JW argument. But let us first take a look at Philippians 2:

For, let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God, but did empty himself, the form of a servant having taken, in the likeness of men having been made, and in fashion having been found as a man, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death - death even of a cross, wherefore, also, God did highly exalt him, and gave to him a name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee may bow - of heavenlies, and earthlies, and what are under the earth - and every tongue may confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11).

Could anything be plainer?

it is obvious, then, that there must be some other explanation for Colossians 1:15.

The explanation is this:

The 'firstborn' was a place, or title, which held special rights and privileges. This honour is granted to Jesus even though He is not the 'firstborn' in the usual meaning (of a human family). Of course, there is also the sense in which Jesus is the firstborn of every saved man or woman who shall inherit Eternal Life through His blood! In many countries the firstborn son would eventually succeed to the estate and the title of his father; Paul the Apostle here refers to the usual distinctions and honours conferred upon the first-born, and he means to say that Christ occupies a pre-eminence which is somewhat similar to that. Not that Jesus is in any way a 'creature.' There is also the point that in many ancient societies the first-born son was the officiating priest in the family in the absence of, or upon the death of, the father. So there are many similarities to Jesus our High Priest.

So Paul is not saying that in every conceivable way Jesus is like the first-born within a family, just that there are certain similarities ; nor does he say that He (that is, Jesus) was a creature, for the point of his comparison does not turn on these things, and what he proceeds to affirm is logically inconsistent with the idea of Him being a created being Himself. Very plainly, He that "created all things that are in heaven and that are in earth," was not Himself created in such a manner. The fact that Paul did not mean to represent Jesus as a mere creature, is very evident by the reason why he is called the first-born. "He is the image of God, and the first-born of every creature, for in him all things were created." (Colossians 1:15).

Since 'in Him all things were created,' He is referred to as the 'firstborn over all creation.' So this common argument of the JWs is easily defeated. Against this, there is much biblical evidence of the divinity of Jesus.

Robin A. Brace. August 14th, 2012.