Colossians 1:15,16 – Is Jesus the eldest creature or is He preeminent over all

Featured verse:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
(Colossians 1:15-16)

Similar References:
2Co 4:4, Phi 2:6; Heb 1:3, John 1:18, John 14:9

The firstborn of every creature?
To have the preeminence means, “to be first, to have the first place” (Bauer-Danker Lexicon), that is, to be held in highest honor or position (Study Notes – Gary Everett). When Colossians 1:15 calls Jesus the “firstborn of every creature” this simply means that He has preeminence over every creature by virtue of being their Creator. In fact, this is the same reason Paul provides in Colossians 1:16 for calling Christ the “firstborn of every creature” in the prior verse. Continue reading

Colossians 1:15 – Rationally speaking, it is impossible for Jesus to be the exact image of God without also being equal to God.

Featured verse:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.
(Colossians 1:15)

Similar References:
2 Corinthians 4:4, Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:3, John 1:18, John 14:9

Jesus is the phyisical representation of YAHWEH
God the Father doesn’t have a body or a physical form so when ever the bible talks about God (YHWH) doing things that require a physical form (i.e. being seen, walking, eating, wrestling etc) one must conclude this is actually an appearance by the second person in the trinity known as the Word of God and the Son of God, namely, Jesus (Yeshua) the Messiah. In Hebrews 1:3 it is stated that Jesus is “the brightness of his [God’s] glory, and the express image of his [God’s] person, … upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” So, it is expressly established in this New Testament verse that Jesus is the express or exact image of God. However, it might surprise some readers to hear that this proposition was already established in the Old Testament as well. According to David Guzik, “in the Old Testament, Jesus appeared as God made visible or ‘The Angel of the LORD.’ There are many instances in the Old Testament where individuals are shown to have had a face to face encounter with the LORD. (Gen 16:7-13, Genesis 18, Gen 32:24-32, Joshua 5:13-15, Jdg 6:11-24, Jdg 13:8-24, Daniel 3). In each situation, the Person is given different titles, but in all cases the person is plainly referred to as the LORD [YHWH] Himself, but appearing in a human form.” – Guzik Commentary on O.T. and N.T.

God’s exact image must be equal to God
When I argue that the image of God must be equal to God I should point out that this is not the same as Chrysostom’s argument. Regarding that argument Calvin wrote: “As to Chrysostom’s laying the whole stress of his defense on the term image, by contending that the creature cannot be said to be the image of the Creator, it is excessively weak; nay more, it is set aside by Paul in 1 Co_11:7, whose words are — The man is the IMAGE and glory of God…” – John Calvin’s Commentary

The argument that I am laying forward is not that a creature cannot be considered the image of God, but instead that a creature can never be considered the exact image of God. There is a subtle distinction between these two terms (image vs. exact image). Man is the image of God (1 Co 11:7) in the sense that he is made “in,” “after,” or “according to” the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). However, man is not the “exact image” of God (Hebrews 1:3) because:

1. Man cannot say that in himself dwells the fullness of God, this is because only the exact image of God can contain the fullness of God (Col 1:19, Col 2:9)
According to Colossians 2:9, being the image of God is equivalent to possessing the fullness of God bodily. No creature dead or alive could ever claim to contain God bodily since that would mean that God created Himself which is not only impossible but utterly irrational.

2. Man cannot physically declare the invisible God nor be a manifestation of the invisible God to the world (John 1:18)
“He calls him the image of the invisible God, meaning by this, that it is in him alone that God, who is otherwise invisible, is manifested to us, in accordance with what is said in John 1:18 – No man hath ever seen God: the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, hath himself manifested him to us.” -John Calvin

3. Man cannot say that anyone that sees himself has therefore seen the God the Father (John 14:9)
In John 14:9 “Jesus saith unto Philip, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” Therefore, if any man could utter Christ’s claim in John 14:9 then this would mean that God the Father is merely anyone of His human creatures which, in light of scripture, would be the height of absurdity.

4. Man is not in the form of God and cannot (according to Philippians 2:6) therefore claim to be equal to God without committing “robbery.”
In Philippians 2:6-7, the “form of God” is contrasted with the “likeness of man” which is described as the “form of a servant”; therefore, the form of God is uniquely separate from the “likeness or form of man.” The conclusion seen here is that being made in the image of God is not the same as the exact image (or form) of God.

5. Man is not equal to God. Hebrews 10:1 implies that the “exact image” of a thing is always equal to the thing itself. 
In Hebrews 10:1 it is stated, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” If a shadow of the sacrifice can never be equal to the sacrifice because a shadow of the sacrifice is not the exact image of the sacrifice; it must then follow by good and necessary consequence that the exact image of the sacrifice is equal to the sacrifice itself. The rule that unmistakable follows is that the exact image of X is always equal to X (where X can be anything).

If Hebrews 10:1 were written in syllogistic form it would appear as below:

Major Premise: The shadow of the thing is not equally efficacious as the thing because it is not the very image of the thing
Minor Premise: The very image of the thing is equally efficacious as the thing
Conclusion: Therefore the very image of a thing must be equal to the thing

Therefore, according to the Hebrews 10:1 rule, the exact image of God (whom the bible calls Jesus) is equal to God.