What does it mean that Jesus was the first born of creation?
The expression “first born” is found in several New Testament passages (Rom. 8:29; Col 1:15, 18; Heb 1:6; Rev. 1:5). Each of these passages is about Jesus Christ. Perhaps, the most commonly quoted passages are Col. 1:15 and 1:18.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Col 1:15 (NAS95S)
He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. Col 1:18 (NAS95S)
The Greek word for first-born is PROTOTOKOS. This word is not easily translated into a single word for English readers. It was used to refer to the priority position of a child in the family and was used in a broader sense to mean “the most important or priority-one.”
First From the Grave
The question refers to Colossians 1:15 where Jesus is said to be the “first-born.” The same Greek word is also used three verses later (Col 1:18). This time the Holy Spirit used the same word to say that Jesus was the “firstborn from the dead.” Are people born from the grave? Someone may say, it means that He was the first one to be resurrected from the grave. Then we shall ask the question, “Was He the first one who was ever resurrected from the grave?” The answer is “No!” Lazarus was resurrected before Jesus was (John 11:1-44). There were three people who were resurrected from the dead in the Old Testament: Son of the Zarephath widow (1 Kings 17:17-22), the Shunammite’s son was resurrected by the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-35), and a man whose body touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:20-21). Jesus was not the first one resurrected from the grave, but He was the priority one (most important) to be resurrected from the dead.
First In Rank
The Greek word PROTOTOKOS also has the sense of the “best or the most excellent.” In an ancient papyri, a certificate of adoption has been found with the statement “lawful son and first-born.” An adopted child is obviously not “first-born.” But a child can be given the honor and the rights of a “first-born” child as if he or she were the first one born into the family. This Greek word also had the meaning of “first in rank.”
In the ancient world the first-born son was the “first in rank” and the “most excellent.” This is still true in many families around the world today. Jesus is the most important One. He is more important than any creature, anything and anyone – dead or alive.
Jesus is the priority one of everything!