“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth…” (Colossians 1:15–16, NIV).
Colonel Henry Lee once described George Washington as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Lee was not saying George Washington was chronologically the first soldier, the first treaty writer, and the first person ever to endear himself to his troops. Lee’s use of “first” had the idea of preeminence.
In writing to believers in Colossae, the apostle Paul used the word “first” similarly, referring not to chronology but to rank. His word for “firstborn” was similar to its English equivalent. That is, while people in Paul’s day sometimes used it to refer to something first chronologically, such as “firstborn child,” the word could also suggest preeminence in rank, as in “firstborn over.”
In describing Christ as “firstborn over…,” Paul was not saying that Jesus was created, as if the Son of God had a beginning. The preposition “over” gives us a clue to his meaning. Paul was pointing the Colossians to the Son who ranks above all creation because He Himself made it. As Paul described the second person of the Godhead to his readers, he had in mind honor, glory, supremacy, and first in importance. For first-century believers, a “firstborn” son had special rights of inheritance. And the invisible preeminent One who created the world has the right to inherit the world because He is the Son and because He Himself made it.
The baby Jesus entered a human birth canal and was born, but the Son of God precedes chronology, made all things, and outranks all creation. As the Nicene Creed (A.D. 325) asserts and we sing in “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” He is “very God, begotten, not created.” O, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.