In Colossians 1:15, Jesus is called “the firstborn of all creation.” Does that mean, as some suggest, that Jesus was the first thing God created? Not at all.
The firstborn concept is rooted in ancient cultures in which the oldest son had a special place. It was a position of honor and privilege. The oldest son typically became the next family head. He inherited his father’s position, such as becoming king in his father’s place (e.g., 2 Chronicles 21:3). Among the Hebrews, he received a double portion of material inheritance.
One who was not literally the first one born might nevertheless be put in that honored position. God did that for Israel. They were His firstborn son (Exodus 4:22) though they were by no means the oldest of nations. God did that for David as well (Psalm 89:27). David was the youngest of eight siblings and the second king of Israel, yet God honored him above all, especially by the place he was given in the Messianic lineage and covenant.
Jesus was no created being. He was I AM (John 8:58). He was God (John 1:1). In our text, Paul goes on to explain what the firstborn of creation means: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Jesus has the place of honor with reference to creation, not because He was the first thing created, but because He is the creator!
- by Frank Himmel