Paul gives us one of the strongest and most glorious proclamations concerning Jesus’ essential deity. It is found in this passage (1:15):
We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen—he is the visible image of the invisible God . . . We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created . . . He is the image of the invisible God,
An image is an exact expression. He is declaring here that in the man Jesus we have the exact expression of all that God is. Furthermore, he is, the first-born of all creation.
Maybe you have been visited by a couple on your doorstep with little green books under their arms, announcing themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses and asking if they may come in and tell you the truth about life and the Bible. If you let them in, sooner or later they turn to this passage to show you that Jesus Christ was not God, but he was essentially a creature—the highest of the creatures of creation—and they use this term the first-born of all creation— to bolster their argument. They state that this means that Jesus was the first one ever created. (There is, of course, a sense in which this word first-born does have that meaning. In referring to our children, we say that the oldest one is the first-born because he or she appeared first on the scene.) That is one of the slick devices the cults use to propagate their errors. It is very subtle because it seems to be logical and scriptural.
However, what they are doing is giving the term a modern meaning, which is quite different from the way it is used in the Scriptures. Here, the word “first-born” means the heir, or the chief—the principal one, the owner. This phrase, “the first-born of all creation,” means that the Lord Jesus stands in relationship to creation just as an heir stands in relationship to his father’s property. He is not part of it, but rather, he is the owner of it, the heir.
You can find many ways this term is used in the Old Testament. I can think of two specific instances where the one who is born second is the first-born of the family. For instance, in the case of Isaac and Ishmael, Ishmael was born first, but Jacob was the first-born. So you see, Jesus was not the first one of a line of creation, but the heir of all creation—the owner of it. This fits with what Paul goes on to say:
For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.
If you look carefully at the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ little green translation of the scriptures, you will notice that in order to substantiate their lie about Jesus Christ, they have inserted the word other in these phrases. “All other things were created by him. In him all other things were created.” However, there is no warrant whatsoever in the Greek text for the insertion of the word other.
Here is Paul’s great declaration. Here is the Lord Jesus. He is declaring him to be the creator. The One who flung all the worlds into being, who was present with God (and who was God) when the great words went out, “Let there be light; let the earth bring forth.” It was the Lord who did this, and furthermore, as Paul goes on to say:
He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment . . .
Now it is one of the puzzles of science why things hold together. We know that everything we can touch is made up of tiny atoms that consist of electrons buzzing around a nucleus. Anything that rotates or revolves has a force that projects outward—centrifugal force. Therefore, things should be blowing up. Because of this centrifugal force, every atom should be flying apart. Well, what holds it together? Science cannot answer. Scientists say it is an unnamed force. That always interests me, because it reminds me of Paul’s experience in Athens when he found the people worshiping an unknown god. It is the unknown God that science is struggling with today: his name is Jesus of Nazareth. By him are all things held together, and all power in the natural world comes from him.
But further, the apostle says:
. . . He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From the beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. 19So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. 20Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies—God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth—all because of Christ’s death, his blood that poured down from the Cross—through the intervention of the Son, all things should be completely reconciled back to himself . . . The Father made peace by means of the blood of His cross.
Twice he uses this term, the first-born. He is the first-born of the old creation; he is the first-born of the new creation—the resurrection—the first-born from the dead. Now that does not mean that he was the first one ever to be raised from the dead, because scripture records others who preceded him. All of us remember Lazarus, but what about the widow of Zarephath’s son, who was raised by Elijah? That story is found in I Kings 17:17-24; in II Kings 4:20-37, Elisha raises the Shunamite’s son; then in II Kings 13 we read about a man who had died and he was about to be buried when a band of raiders came along, and the people threw the dead man’s body into Elisha’s tomb and when the corpse touched Elisha’s bones, he was restored! (Now that is cool staging, don’t you think?) We could go on and remember several others, but Jesus is the One who is the heir, the Lord of all the new creation, as Paul tells us, and we are part of a new body, the new race of men that God has been forming through the centuries, and of that body, Jesus Christ is the head. From him, then, flows all power—resurrection power!
I am convinced that the problem with most Christians is that they simply do not understand what the Bible teaches about resurrection power. If they had any idea what this power is like and how it operates, and the areas and situations in which it is intended to operate, they would never again live as they live now. They would be entirely different. I do not mean that they would be sparkling and sizzling people, making great displays of power and moving mountains. It does not take resurrection power to do that—that only requires faith (See Mark 11:23)
Resurrection power is quiet. It is the kind of power that was evident in the Lord Jesus. It was not the fact that he came from the tomb that amazed the soldiers there, nor that produced the earthquake. He came from the tomb absolutely without a sound. The stone wasn’t rolled away to let him out, it was rolled away to let people in so they could see that the tomb was empty. There was no sound, no demonstration. There was the quiet, inexorable power of a risen life, which no mechanical or natural power can possibly resist. This is what our Father has released to us. A quiet power that changes hearts and lives and attitudes, making everything new from within. That is resurrection power. It flows to us from the head of the new creation, the risen Christ, the source of all power.