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

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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.

John 5:24 – Jesus says that whoever “heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life.” Yet, earlier on (in John 3:36) Jesus also said “he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” How can this be? Is Jesus equating Himself with God the Father?

John 5:22  For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
John 5:23  That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.
John 5:24  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Consider the following two verses:
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)

In the two verses above, we are given TWO names whereby we must be saved: Jesus (“the Son”) and God the Father (“Him that sent me”). Yet, the bible in Acts 4:12, speaking of Jesus says: “Neither is there salvation in any other [Person]: for there is NO OTHER name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. This verse compels us to understand that both Jesus the Christ and God His Father must be one. This conclusion should not come as a surprise to us since later on in the Book of John, Jesus asserts this very thing (cf. John 10:30).

In conclusion, when Jesus uses His name and His Father’s name interchangeably in regards to Who must be believed on for everlasting life; He is also claiming that both names and therefore both Persons are equal. Logically speaking, Jesus is claiming to be equal with God.

John 5:23 – That all men should honor the Son [Jesus], the same way that they honor the Father

John 5:20  For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
John 5:21  For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
John 5:22  For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
John 5:23  That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

Of course, this means that if God is worshipped, then Christ must be worshipped as well; If Christ is not worshipped as God then He is not being honored in the same way that the Father would be honored. On the other hand, if one does worship Christ as they would worship God–and Jesus is NOT God–then that person has committed idolatry. Herein lies the problem with taking this verse to mean anything other than a claim of equality with God.

As it pertains to John 5:23 David Guzik says:

This is a further claim to deity. If the Son were not God, then it would be wrong to honor the Son just as they honor the Father. It also means that if we do not honor the Son, we do not really honor the Father either. Jesus claims the same right to worship from men that the Father has.

John Wesley’s remarks regarding the same verse are:

This demonstrates the EQUALITY of the Son with the Father. If our Lord [Jesus] were God only by office or investiture, and not in the unity of the Divine essence, and in all respects equal in Godhead with the Father, he could not be honoured even as, that is, with the same honour that they honoured the Father. He that honoureth not the Son – With the same equal honour, greatly dishonoureth the Father that sent him.

As we can see, verbally tethering yourself to God in terms of the kind of respect or honour that others should pay you, is a straightforward way of intimating to your listeners that you are equal with God. This is precisely what Jesus did in John 5:23.

John 5:22 – Who is doing the final judgment anyway? Is it God or Jesus?

John 5:20  For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
John 5:21  For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
John 5:22  For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
John 5:23  That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Continue reading

John 5:21 – The Bible in the Old Testament states that only God can raise someone from the dead; yet, Jesus claims that He also can do the same!

John 5:18  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:19  Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
John 5:20  For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
John 5:21  For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

In John 5:21 Jesus’ deity claim involves the power to resurrect the dead and though it’s different from the claim of omnipotence in verse 19, the power of resurrection is a subset of omnipotence. Earlier, Christ stated that He could do all things that God does; now here in verse 21 He mentions a specific act that God does then He claims to have the power to do the same. What makes this claim all the more audacious is the fact that the Old Testament specifically states that only God can raise someone from the dead. In Deuteronomy 32:39 we read:

See now that I [God], even I, am he, and there is no god beside me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there ANY that can deliver out of my hand. (Deuteronomy 32:39)

In Deuteronomy 32:39, as if the exclusivity of the subject’s “I, even I” were not enough, the word “neither” (which is used to indicate that the next statement is similarly negative) in the last phrase of the verse assures us that, not only isn’t there anyone that can deliver out of God’s hand, there also isn’t ANY that can cause a person to die or be made alive except for God.

For John 5:21, Dr. Bob Utley states:

In the Old Testament YHWH [God] is the only one who can give life. The fact that Jesus can raise the dead is equivalent to a statement of equality with YHWH.

In addition, Adame Clarke’s commentary states that in verse 21:

Jesus “points out his sovereign power and independence; he gives life according to his own will – not being obliged to supplicate for the power by which it was done, as the prophets did; his own will being absolute and sufficient in every case.”

In conclusion, when Jesus claims to have resurrection power, He is claiming to be God!

John 5:20 – Who has known the mind of God? Jesus!

John 5:18  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:19  Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
John 5:20  For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.

Jesus claims that God shows Him all things that He does. According to the dictionary, to “do” means to engage in. So, if I engage in thought then I’m doing something called thinking. The Bible informs us that when God swears by Himself he uses the phrase “As I live”; yet, since God is not a man, the verb “live” is taken as an anthropomorphism or a metaphor that points to the fact that God thinks or engages in thought. In this way, the bible and the dictionary agree that thinking is doing; therefore, since thinking is something that God does, then from the John 5:20 sentence we must deduce that EVERYTIME God thinks, God is showing Jesus what He is thinking; consequently Jesus knows the mind of God.

In fact, in order to know ALL things that God the Father does including the things that God will do in the future (as verse 20 states), Jesus would have to have the mind of God. So we see that it is not possible to make the claim to know ALL the things that God is doing or will do without actually knowing the mind of God. With all of this in mind, the bible in Isaiah 40:13, Romans 11:34 and 1 Corinthians 2:16 asks the following rhetorical question: Who has known the mind of God? After converting this sentence from the interrogative mode to the declarative mode (as the biblical context requires us to) we arrive at the proposition that NO ONE has known the mind of God! Yet, Jesus claims this exact divine prerogative. What else can be concluded except that Jesus must be God. In fact, if Jesus is not God, then these verses suggesting that no one has known the mind of God are erroneous.

Additionally, since God knows everything and is unceasingly disclosing to Jesus ALL that He is thinking, then it follows that Jesus must be omniscient; a characteristic that only belongs to God. The bible scholar Albert Barnes commenting on this verse states: And as God shows him “all” that he does, he [Jesus] must be possessed of omniscience, for to no finite mind could be imparted a knowledge of “all” the works of God.

In summary, claiming to know the mind of God and asserting omniscience are outright declarations that one is God. Jesus makes these declarations ergo He claims that He is God.