This article is about Jesus Christ as first-born as we read about it in Colossians 1:15 and Colossians 1:18.

Source: Clarion, 1985. 2 pages.

Christ, the First-Born

'… the first-born of all creation …' '… the first-born from the dead …'

Colossians 1:15, 18

This month during the festive season, we may especially remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. In itself, a birth is not something out of the ordinary; at least two or more children are born every minute. Even the word "firstborn" does in itself not point to anything special, for in every family there is one who is "first-born." So it can also be said of Mary, "And she gave birth to her first-born son …" (Luke 2:7). She would have more children, but Jesus is her first-born.

Yet we understand that when the apostle Paul uses the expression "first-born" with respect to Christ, he does mean something special. We are almost reminded here of another expression used in connection with our Lord, namely, that He is also called "the only-begotten Son of God." Only-begotten means that this Child, this Person, is unique, the only One who came out of God and is like unto Him, God of God, very God of very God, as the Nicean Creed states.

So also the term "first-born" indicates something unique and special concerning our Lord. Paul calls Him first in Colossians 1:15, "the first-born of all creation." Perhaps you know that the so-called Jehovah's Witnesses use this text to claim that Christ is created, and that He as creature belongs to this creation. They portray Him as the first creature, the first in a long row of creatures, the first in a series. They see in Him nothing more than a created angel who can function on behalf of other creatures, but deny Him as the Son of God who is Himself divine.

And it is true that "first-born" can mean: the first in a series. But it can also denote a certain position: first in rank and authority. Being a "first-born" in this sense means having a position: of headship, as Paul indicates later in verse 18, "He is the Head of the body, the church." I think here also of Psalm 89:27, where the LORD says of David:

And I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth.

We understand that David was not the first-born in the family of Jesse, even the last-born, and still he received the position and rank of the first-born to be king of all Israel.

So the term "first-born" means that Christ receives headship and dominion over all creation. Then we also understand what follows: Christ is not creature, but Creator, "for in Him all things were created …"(Colossians1:16). This can only be said of the first-born who is also only-begotten, and who is naturally and essentially one with the Father! The firstborn of all creation is the King of the entire universe who governs and rules all things. The miracle of Christmas is that this first-born, this supreme King, lays down all majesty and glory and becomes like unto us in all things, sin excepted. On Christmas Day we do not worship a child because he is a child, but we honour the first-born of all creation in His wonderful work of salvation.

The same goes for the second expression, "the firstborn from the dead." This, too, does not mean the first in a series, but the first in rank. We know that before Christ's resurrection, others rose from the dead. Just think of the ones whom Christ Himself raised! But when Christ is raised from the dead, He is the first one who receives as living King the highest position at God's right hand. The first-born from the dead has POWER over death, and has opened the way of life for all God's children, Paul speaks of the same in I Corinthians 15:22 and 23:

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.

Therefore we may receive in Christ the supreme King who has preeminence in everything. He rules over all of creation and in every aspect of our life. But also, He has complete power over death and the grave and will one day destroy both death and the grave at one time! So we may confess Christ as the One who governs both life and death, and who as the unique Son of God will lead all things to glory.

This gives unprecedented death to our Christmas celebration. Unto us a Son is given! A very special One! No one less than the only-begotten Son of God who is the firstborn of all creation, the ruler of kings on earth. The only-begotten Son of God who is the first-born from the dead, who opens to God's children the way of eternal life. He is the One who makes our celebration into a veritable feast.

Let us celebrate Christmas as the feast of the only-begotten Son, who is the first-born of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. Then our joy will be full.

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