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Thread: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

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    What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    Colossians 1:15 niv He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

    I'm so confused, how is God the firstborn over all creation???

    And dont accuse me of being a JW, please and thank you. This is a serious and honest question.

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    First, a minor correction to the translation:

    Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation [πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως]

    The NIV says the firstborn over all creation and the KJV says the firstborn of every creature, but neither of these is exactly correct.

    Also, it might be helpful to look a little further in the passage:

    Who [i.e. Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:15–18, KJV)


    Athanasius the Great (4th c.) explains the following in his Discourse Against the Arians:

    "It is not because He was from the Father that He was called 'firstborn', but because in Him the creation came to be."


    John Chrysostom pointed out in his 4th century Homily on this particular Epistle that Paul uses the expression 'firstborn' [πρωτότοκος] elsewhere in the context of the Resurrection, both a little later in the same Epistle:

    And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead [πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν]; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18, KJV)

    and again in the Letter to the Romans:

    For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29, KJV)



    Hilary of Poitiers (also 4th century) also explained:

    "He is accordingly the firstborn of every creature, because in Him all things were created. And lest any one should dare to refer the creation of all things to any other than Him in Himself, he says, In Him were all things created, and He is before all things, and in Him all things have come into existence" [Colossians 1:16,17].

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by mtking104 View Post
    Colossians 1:15 niv He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
    I'm so confused, how is God the firstborn over all creation???
    And dont accuse me of being a JW, please and thank you. This is a serious and honest question.
    There are two things that always help me understand. The first is context and the second is other uses of the phrase.
    Rom 8:29 Firstborn among many bethren
    Heb 12:23 church of the firstborn
    However I think reading through you come to verse 17 "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Here we see Him in first place and tied in with creation.
    Yet verse 18 helps the most "he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent." So I see the name firstborn as being a title which points to His place as first in all things. First, before creation, first to be raised from the dead, first as head of the church etc.
    Don't get stuck on the born part of the word. See it like firstfruits, not literal fruit, but the first to bear fruit a figurative expression.

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    It isn't God that's the firstborn of all creation, but Jesus. Look at the sentence again.

    "He [Jesus] is the image (another word for the subject, Jesus) [of the invisible God] (prepositional phrase defining image, NOT firstborn), the firstborn (another word for the subject, Jesus) of all creation."

    Is that clear as mud?

    Anyway, look at the whole context. It's all about Christ. "15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him (JESUS) 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 (JESUS). 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

    Note that Jesus is also the firstborn of the dead.

    In fact, the Bible uses "firstborn" to describe Jesus at least 5 times.

    • "...Jesus is firstborn among the brethren" Romans 8:29
    • "...Jesus is firstborn of all creation" Col. 1:15
    • "...Jesus is firstborn of the dead" Col. 1:18 and Rev. 1:5
    • "...Jesus if the firstborn of God." Heb. 1:5-7


    Firstborn, in Psalm 89 can mean "first in rank". God calls David a "first born". Well, King David was a LAST born. He was the baby of a large family. The term firstborn, when applied to Jesus means first in rank or having authority over all.

    • Jesus is the firstborn of the dead NOT because He was the first to be raised again. But because He was the first to be raised never to die again. He was the first raised from the dead with a glorified body.
    • Jesus is the firstborn of the "brethren" NOT because He was older than any of His believers. There were lots of people who became Christians who were older that Jesus. He was the firstborn in rank and authority.
    • And Jesus is firstborn of all creation NOT because He is a created creature, but because He outranks all of the creation, that He, Himself, created.



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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    In Genesis it says that "God made man in HIS OWN IMAGE." Now most often this is taught as character attributes... and though I certainly think Adam was created in that manner, that isn't that the verse I just mentioned is stating. The Hebrew word for image is tselem. That word means semblance, resemblance, mirrored reflection, image. The Son of God is said to be THE IMAGE of the invisible God... thus the 2nd Adam was God's own image, and the 2nd Adam was the blueprint for the first Adam. So the "Son" being the firstborn of all creation is God making His own image (for He is a Spirit) before He made anything else. I am not saying Jesus wasn't the speaker in Genesis 1, I believe he was that Spirit.... but He created for himself an image that he kept hidden until the appointed time.

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    I think Paul was confused when he wrote that. The verse means Jesus is God, that they are One in the same. The reason why I think he was confused is because Jesus never referred to himself as God. He always referred to God as the Father - a separate entity.

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    He is the image of the unseen God,
    firstborn over all creation.
    For in him all things were created,
    in the heavens and on the earth, the seen and the unseen,
    if thrones, or lordships, or rulers, or authorities,
    all things, through him and for him, were created.

    And he is the first of all things, and all things stand together.
    And he is the head of the body, the Church.

    He is the beginning,
    firstborn from the dead, that in all things he should be first.
    For in him all the fullness thought well to dwell,
    and through him to fully reconcile all things to himself,
    making peace through the blood of his cross,
    by him, if that upon the earth, or that in the heavens.


    The poem follows a structure of ABCDDD (first stanza), EE (second stanza), ABCDDD (third stanza), so that each line has a parallel. This is greatly important to take note of, because not only can we draw a lot of meaning out of each individual line, but its parallel line can be used to draw further meaning out of it.

    'Firstborn' is a title of primacy, not necessarily of literal chronological order. Ishmael was born first, but it was Isaac who was Abraham's 'only son', his firstborn. Esau was born first, but it was Jacob who received the firstborn 'birthright'. To be the 'firstborn' meant to be the primary inheritor of your father's possessions. To say that Jesus is the 'firstborn over all creation' is to say that all of creation belongs to him, given to him by God the Father.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick
    I think Paul was confused when he wrote that.
    The statement comes in the context as a poem. Paul very likely did not write this poem; it was probably a hymn already being sung by Christians before Paul wrote this epistle.

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    I think Paul was confused when he wrote that. The verse means Jesus is God, that they are One in the same. The reason why I think he was confused is because Jesus never referred to himself as God. He always referred to God as the Father - a separate entity.
    That my friend, believe it or not, is the very first step toward atheism. Paul was either confused and not inspired... or inspired and it is YOU, no disrespect intended, that needs to take time to reconcile this. I don't see why we should begin to cast doubt on Paul's work, thus if he is inspired and there is something we can't reconcile... it isn't God through Paul, it is us. As far as Jesus never claiming to be God... he claimed to be speaking about God in proverbs or parables and that a day "will come" when he would be speaking plainly. I can show you his own words where he gives himself the attributes only God can have. Thus he claims to be God, but does so in a manner that needs to be revealed... it isn't going to just dance around in the open for the swine to see. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing!

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by LandShark View Post
    That my friend, believe it or not, is the very first step toward atheism. Paul was either confused and not inspired... or inspired and it is YOU, no disrespect intended, that needs to take time to reconcile this. I don't see why we should begin to cast doubt on Paul's work, thus if he is inspired and there is something we can't reconcile... it isn't God through Paul, it is us. As far as Jesus never claiming to be God... he claimed to be speaking about God in proverbs or parables and that a day "will come" when he would be speaking plainly. I can show you his own words where he gives himself the attributes only God can have. Thus he claims to be God, but does so in a manner that needs to be revealed... it isn't going to just dance around in the open for the swine to see. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing!
    Not all of Paul's writings are God inspired. Some of the things he wrote were his opinion. He openly admits this too by saying things like "this is not from God but"...Paul spent 14 years in the desert trying to figure out what to believe after his conversion. Maybe he got a couple of things wrong.

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Not all of Paul's writings are God inspired. Some of the things he wrote were his opinion. He openly admits this too by saying things like "this is not from God but"...Paul spent 14 years in the desert trying to figure out what to believe after his conversion. Maybe he got a couple of things wrong.
    I'm curious to know where you get 14 years. I'm also curious as to where you get the idea that Paul spent time "trying to figure out what to believe".

    The only place I find Paul mentioning his time in Arabia in is Galatians 1. If there is another reference I'm open to being corrected.

    He doesn't give a time frame and he specifically states that his revelations were not from flesh and blood but from Jesus Christ.

    "Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors.

    But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus.

    Then three years later I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother. I declare before God that what I am writing to you is not a lie."

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by jayne View Post
    [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][COLOR=#4b0082]I'm curious to know where you get 14 years. I'm also curious as to where you get the idea that Paul spent time "trying to figure out what to believe".

    The only place I find Paul mentioning his time in Arabia in is Galatians 1. If there is another reference I'm open to being corrected.

    He doesn't give a time frame and he specifically states that his revelations were not from flesh and blood but from Jesus Christ.
    Jayne - I prefer not to 'correct' people as I'm usually the one being corrected, but Paul's narrative in Galatians states that 14 years after his conversion he went to Jerusalem - (Gal 2:1-10). What was he doing during those 14 years if not trying to figure out what to believe and draw closer to God? Moses spent 40 years in the desert doing the same after he fled to Midian. As for Paul speaking his own mind, I can cite at least 2 places where he qualifies his statements as 'not from God'.

    Paul Accepted by the Apostles

    2 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    Sorry Nick but it is clear upon reading Gal 1 that the 14 years was after he had been preaching and gone to Arabia and come back and gone to Jerusalem. This is why it mentions going to Jerusalem a second time. This 14 years was spent preaching what he already knew.

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vakeros View Post
    Sorry Nick but it is clear upon reading Gal 1 that the 14 years was after he had been preaching and gone to Arabia and come back and gone to Jerusalem. This is why it mentions going to Jerusalem a second time. This 14 years was spent preaching what he already knew.
    Not how I understand it.

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Not how I understand it.
    I don't know why not as that is how it is written. Obviously you have your reason, but what is it based on? Not Galatians!

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    Re: What does Colosians 1:15 mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vakeros View Post
    I don't know why not as that is how it is written. Obviously you have your reason, but what is it based on? Not Galatians!
    The Chronologies I've read, which vary, but that is the general consensus. There are some unexplained gaps in timelines when you compare his time in Arabia to the 14 years spent, I don't know, somewhere in the desert. Some contemporaries feel, and I agree, that the missionary work didn't start until after the 14 years in the desert, post-conversion.

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