Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jesus, The "Firstborn"?


Jesus, the “Firstborn”?

Bible Gems #88

Question: If Jesus is God why is he called the "firstborn" of all creation (Col. 1:15; Rev. 3:14)?

This question is taken directly from a pamphlet that Jehovah’s Witnesses use to train their door-to-door evangelists when responding to Christians who believe in the deity of Christ. The questions on that pamphlet will serve as future Bible Gems questions from time to time, with the hope that it will serve to strengthen our understanding of Scripture on this incredibly important topic.

Several times in the New Testament Jesus is referred to as God’s “firstborn.” The classic example is in Colossians:
Col. 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature… (see: Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:18; Heb. 1:6; 11:28; Rev. 1:5).
The JW’s pamphlet also includes Rev. 3:14, although the term “firstborn” is not used there. Rather, the phrase “the beginning of the creation of God” is used, which the JW’s cite to demonstrate that Jesus cannot be both God and the “beginning of the creation of God.”

The word for “firstborn” in the Greek is “protokos,” which can be used either as a noun or as an adjective. Here in Colossians it is an adjective describing Jesus as being ‘first in time,’ and ‘first in rank or importance’ in comparison with the rest of creation. It is the comparison with creation that is in view, not that Jesus Himself is created.

Revelation 3:14 uses an entirely different word: “arche.” This is used as a noun, meaning “head of,” or “ruler,” and again has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus being created by God. Jesus is being compared with creation, not being identified as part of it.

The term “firstborn” in the Bible, when used as an adjective, typically describes the ideas of ‘seniority’ and ‘privilege’ that went along with being a first born male. The firstborn received the larger portion of the family inheritance (Dt. 21:17), and the younger children were expected to serve the firstborn son (Gen. 25:23).

Most importantly, the use of the word “firstborn” for the messiah is actually from the Old Testament, where the term has nothing to do with actual birth, but is used as a title of appointment by God:
Ps. 89:27 I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.

In the other New Testament passages where “firstborn” is used of Jesus, the context always makes it crystal clear that this idea of His preeminence, His appointment by God, His seniority over all things is what in view. Jesus is “the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29); “the firstborn from among the dead” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5); and He is the one whom all the angels are to worship when God brings his firstborn into the world” (Heb. 1:6). All these references recall Jesus’ messianic title, appointed to Him by God (Ps. 89:27).

There is absolutely no contradiction here between the very clear claims of Scripture that Jesus is God and the use of the term “firstborn” as a messianic title, or as an adjective describing Jesus’ supremacy over all creation. Jesus is God incarnate—God in human flesh—and all that God is dwells within Jesus:
         Col. 1:19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…

And…
         John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made… .

3 comments:

  1. Jehovah's Witnesses creed is a falsehood of Jesus *invisible* second coming October 1914.

    Tens of thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses are DEAD (since 1945) by a man-made Watchtower society ban on *whole* blood transfusions.
    Jehovah's Witnesses endlessly argue the red herring trinity enigma because they cannot defend their Adventist plagiarized October 1914 date for Jesus second coming your "pivotal" all important core creed prophecy.
    Jehovah's Witnesses are 'wolves in sheep's clothing' false prophets that Jesus himself warned about [Matthew 7:15].
    -
    Danny Haszard FMI www.dannyhaszard.com

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    Replies
    1. Good morning Danny,
      Thank you for your comment on my blog post, Jesus, The Firstborn. I couldn't agree with you more as to the falsehood of the Jehovah's Witnesses false doctrine regarding the Trinity—and so much more. My purpose in dealing with the question on my Bible Gems blog is that so many Christians find themselves unable to give a defense of their faith when confronted by cult groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. I hope you will continue to follow my progress through the JW questions attacking the deity of Christ. Perhaps some of the followers of your blog will find some Scriptural answers to these questions on Bible Gems that will be helpful in their witness for Jesus.

      Yours in Christ Jesus,
      Pastor Paul W. Coleman
      pastorcoleman@fbcma.org
      www.biblegems-pastorcoleman.blogspot.com

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  2. Dear Pastor Coleman,
    I have had discussions with Jehovah's Witnesses before now, and I have come to conclude that their training is upon trick psychology rather than proper theology. The quote you gave is a good example of this. True Christians (including myself) tend to be swept away by the words, "Firstborn of the Creation of God" to mean "Creation BY God" which is something totally different.
    Also, John 20:28, where Thomas exclaims, "My Lord and my God" to the resurrected Jesus was one that the Watchtower Society was never able to translate away!
    And in Zechariah 11:12-13 Jehovah himself was priced at thirty pieces of silver, which was thrown to the potter in the Temple.
    The only way to challenge the trick-psychology of Jehovah's Witnesses is to know your Bible very well.

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