Prototokos normally means “the first one born,” first in time. If we take it this way in Colossians 1:15, then the verse read “the first one born of all creation.” In which “born” refers to “created,” and thus Christ was the first thing created. Which obviously rules out the possibility of Him being God. As we saw last week, the whole superstructure of Christianity comes crashing down if Jesus is not God.
Argument #1: The word prototokos can mean literally “the first one born,” “first in time.” But it can also mean “preeminent over,” first in rank.
Works this way in English – ex: first clarinet
Psalm 89:27 referring to God’s covenant with David says “I also shall make him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” When the Greek translators of the Old Testament, translated this, they used the word “firstborn.” This means “preeminent over” or “first in rank.”
Romans 8:29 “He predestined us to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” The phrase “so that” indicates that there is a purpose here. God is taking you and me and making us like Christ. He is doing this on purpose, so that Christ will be firstborn among many brethren. It is absurd to say that this means that if you and I are made like Christ, conformed to His image, then he will be born first. It means he will be “first in rank,” he will be most important, because He is not being made like us, we are all being made like Him. So that he might the firstborn over all of us – the preeminent one.
Argument #2: The clause that follows it indicates cause.
“Because in Him all things were created.”
· He created all things:
· no matter where they are (heaven or earth)
· no matter what kind (visible or invisible)
· no matter how important (thrones, dominions, principalities, powers)
· He existed before all things
· He sustains all things
If we plug the primary meaning of firstborn in - first in time, then it reads this way “He was created first, because in Him all things were created.” Again, we have a logical absurdity if we take it this way.
I went and bought medicine, because I was sick.
i.e., I was sick, and that caused me to go to the store and get medicine.
He was created first, because in Him all things were created
i.e., in Him all things were created, and this caused Him to be created first.
That is completely absurd, a senseless statement.
But, if we take the secondary meaning of prototokos, and plug it in, watch what happens:
He was more important than all of creation, because in Him all things were created.
i.e., He created all things, and this caused Him to be more important than all of them.
The relationship between “firstborn” and “all creation” is what we call a genitive of subordination. In other words, something is over something else. For example, Satan is called “the ruler of the demons.” This means he is the ruler “over” the demons. David is the “king of Israel.” This means that he is the king over Israel. The clearest way to say this: Christ is first in importance over all creation. OR Christ is preeminent over all creation
Here is the logic of verses 15-17: Christ is preeminent over all of creation because He is the one who created it all, and he is the one who sustains it all. The creator has authority. We recognize this on a human level with art and music and literature. We have two large and beautiful pieces of calligraphy on the walls of our living room. They both have “copyright David Lovegrove” in the corner. That way no one can take that calligraphy and make prints from it and sell them, without his permission. He has the sole authority for that calligraphy, because it is his work of art. Books are copyrighted – the author has the only rights to that book unless he grants them to someone else. Some people have been sued this year by recording companies because they were downloading and then copying illegal music for their friends. It is copyrighted, so that the original creator has the exclusive authority to determine where that music goes and for how much. We recognize that authority for something as simple as taking a photograph. That picture is yours, you are the only one with the right to do with it as you please.
On an infinitely greater level Christ is the one with sole authority in your life. You are only here by His creative power.
You only continue to be here by his sustaining. The phrase “in him all things hold together” teaches his sustaining power. Daniel said it well to Belshazzar “You have not glorified the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways.” Your very life-breath is in his hand. Everything is sustained by Him. Every new moment of existence is granted by Christ.
Created by Christ. Sustained by Christ. Christ has complete authority in your life.
Look at the end of verse 16 “all things have been created by Him and for Him.” There is the point.
We have seen several aspects of a Christ-centered life already in Colossians. We have seen that a Christ-centered life joyfully thanks God for salvation; a Christ-centered life is filled with the knowledge of His will; a Christ-centered life revels in the deity of Christ. I think this week we see that every area of a Christ-centered life has purpose: it is all for Him. Do whatever will please Him. Do whatever will bring glory to Him. Do whatever will help to make me more like Him.
Suppose that you have always wanted to have a puppy. When you go to the mall, you go to the pet store and look at the puppies and pick out which one you wish you could have. Maybe you even give him a name. And you try to talk your parents into taking you to the pet store. And maybe some of your friends have gotten puppies. And you watched them play with their puppies and wrestle and run and have fun. And oh, you wanted a puppy. And one Christmas morning Mom and Dad give you a puppy. It is for you. And they say “This puppy is just for you. We know you have wanted one for a very long time. You can name him, you can play with him, he can sleep in your room, you can take him to the park. He is for you.” And then the puppy won’t come to you. He won’t let you hold him. You try to reach for him, and he nips your finger. And you try to pick him up and he runs and hides under the couch. But your brother picks him up and the puppy licks him and wags his tail. So you think, I just need to get him some toys that we can play with. So you take your Christmas money and go to the store, and you buy a ball. And you come home, and throw the ball. And the puppy won’t go get it. He just looks at it. But your Dad throws the ball, and the puppy goes and gets it and brings it back to him. And all day long other people play with your puppy and the ball, but he won’t play with you. And that night, you try to bring the puppy into your room, but he doesn’t want to. He runs into your sister’s room and jumps onto her bed to sleep there. How do you feel when you go to bed that night?
That puppy is for you. But he won’t act like it. He doesn’t want to be with you. He doesn’t play with you. He doesn’t do anything to have fun with you. He won’t let you hold him. He won’t sleep in your room. And he seems to like everyone else except you! You would be very sad. Very frustrated. You might go to bed and cry.
That is a silly illustration. But on a human level it gives us a little taste of what it might be like to have something that is supposed to be for you, but it refuses to act like it. Frankly that is the story of our lives. Created for Him – living for us.
But there is a much more serious illustration used over and over again in the Bible. It is the illustration of adultery. A husband is for his wife; a wife is for her husband. When one of them chooses to give themselves to someone else, they are unfaithful, immoral, and adulterer. You are for me. When you give yourself to other things you are unfaithful, immoral, a spiritual adulterer.
When Rick Warren wrote “Purpose Driven Church” several years ago it was an incredibly popular book, because many churches needed a wake-up call. They needed reminded that everything they were doing was supposed to have purpose. Every church activity, every program, every plan, every expenditure should be purpose-driven. In the same way each of us needs to be reminded that everything we are doing is supposed to have purpose. The purpose is right here – for Him. As you plan for the future, is the first concern Christ? As you schedule your time is the first concern Christ? As you make decisions about your children is the first concern Christ? Is he the first-born, first in rank in your life?
For many of us we have brought many areas of our life under the control of Christ’s purposes. In general we have lives that are for Him. But there is an area or areas where our wills have been stubbornly resistant to His control. And we have been grieving the Christ who is God by refusing to live for Him in that area. Our text today says “He made you. He sustains you. He has every right to you. Now yield to Him.”