Jesus, the Firstborn
Several times in the New Testament the title “firstborn” is applied to the Lord Jesus. To us who are Gentiles, “firstborn” does not mean a great deal; but it meant a great deal to the Jew because the firstborn son had many rights and privileges. However, in the New Testament “firstborn” does not necessarily mean “born first.” In the case of the Lord Jesus, He was Mary’s firstborn Son. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. According to Mark 6:3, Mary and Joseph also had children. After our Lord Jesus was born, they lived as husband and wife. But our Lord was born in a very special way. Joseph was His foster father, not His literal father. Mary gave birth to the Lord Jesus, and He was literally her firstborn. But the term “firstborn” in the Bible carries with it the idea of superiority and priority. Whoever was firstborn was designated as the very special one. The firstborn got the inheritance. In Exodus 4:22 we read that God designated the people of Israel as His firstborn. So if we think of the word “firstborn” as meaning “priority, superiority, the highest of the high,” we will have no problem applying this title to the Lord Jesus Christ. When you consider all of the references where the term “firstborn” applies to Jesus, you understand four different aspects of His Person and His Work. “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15). “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (v. 18). “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be confirmed to the image of his Son, that he [His Son] might be the firstborn among man brethren” (Roman 8:29). “And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten [firstborn] into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Hebrews 1:6). Consider these four references and learn the significance of Jesus Christ’s being the firstborn. First of all, He is the first-born of all creation. The theme of Colossians is the preeminence of Jesus Christ. “But Christ is all, and in all” (3:11). In Colossians 1, we see the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ in salvation: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light…in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (v. 12, 14). Our Lord is preeminent in salvation. He is also preeminent in creation. Verse 16 tells us, “For by him were all things created.” Therefore He Himself is not a created thing. “All things…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. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (v. 16-17). Jesus Christ is preeminent in creation. What does it mean to be the firstborn of all creation? It means to be the highest of everything in creation. Remember, “firstborn” carries with it the idea of priority, superiority the highest of the high, the one who is going to share in the inheritance. The Lord Jesus Christ is superior to everything in creation because He existed prior to creation. “All things were made by him” (John 1:3). “All things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:16), and all things hold together by His power. This makes Him the highest of the high in all of creation. Why are we having problems with creation today? We have problems with pollution. We have ecological problems that are leading to economic problems which, in turn, are leading to political problems. Do you know why we have these problems? Primarily, it is because we do not believe in creation anymore. We have taken Jesus Christ out of His place of preeminence as the firstborn of all creation. As a result, we have ugliness instead of beauty; we have destructiveness instead of growth and construction; there is waste, and there is idolatry. People worship the things of creation, the things that they manufacture. When Jesus Christ is given His proper place as the firstborn of all creation, these problems will be solved, and we will look upon creation as something He has made to be used to glorify Him. He is the first born of all creation. We look forward to the day when all of creation will be delivered from bondage and corruption. We will have beauty and harmony, glory and blessing, because the firstborn of all creation, Jesus Christ, will be reigning supremely. Secondly, Jesus Christ is not only the firstborn of all creation, but He is also the first begotten, or the first born, from the dead (Colossians 1:18). This same title is used in Revelation 1:5. This does not mean that Jesus Christ was the first one raised from the dead; we know He was not. In the Old Testament days there were people who were raised from the dead. We have the record of Jesus’ raising at least three people from the dead, and possibly He raised more. Why, then, is He called the first born from the dead? He is the highest of those who have been raised from the dead He is the greatest—He stands supremely above everyone else. Our Lord Jesus Christ knew he was going to be raised from the dead. He announced it to His disciples. Not only that, He raised Himself from the dead. He said, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18) Lazarus did not raise himself from the dead (John 11:1-44). That little daughter of Jairus did not raise herself from the dead (Mark 5:21-43). The son of that widow at Nain did not raise himself form the dead (Luke 7:11-18). But Jesus raised Himself from the dead. He is the highest of all who have ever been raised from the dead. Then, He was raised from the dead by His own power, never to die again. Lazarus died again. Jairus’ daughter died again, and the son of the widow of Naim died again. But the Lord Jesus lives and never will die. He had the power to lay down his life; He had the power to take it up again, and now He lives an endless life. Being raised from the dead, He is now reigning in heaven, and death cannot reach Him. He is the firstborn from among the dead, the highest and the greatest, because He raised Himself, never to die again. And He raised Himself that He might be able to raise others. Lazarus never raised anybody. We have no record in Scripture that anyone who was raised from the dead ever raised anybody else. But Jesus did. And Jesus will again. Christ is the One in glory who possesses endless life and who “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). You and I never need to fear death because we are trusting Him who is the firstborn from the dead. He has conquered death. Death could not hold Him, and death will not hold us when He calls us to come to be with Him. Romans 8:19 is the third reference to Jesus Christ as the firstborn: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Our Lord Jesus Christ does not want to keep all these blessings to Himself. Someone has said that God loves His Son so much that He wants everybody else to be just like Him. One day you and I are going to experience this. We shall see Him, and “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). If you know Jesus as your Saviour, you are one of His “many brethren.” One day you will be like Him, for He is “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). In the fourth reference found in Hebrews 12:23, the Church is called “the church of the first born” (Hebrews 12:23). In one sense, we are the church of the “second born.” In my first birth, God would not accept me; but I have had a second birth whereby I received eternal life, and one day I shall be like Jesus Christ. If you belong to Jesus Christ, you belong to the church of the firstborn, the highest, the most privileged. One day you will share in His glory. He is “the firstborn among many brethren,” and one day we are going to be like him. When is this going to happen? Hebrews 1:6 gives us the answer. The writer was referring to our Lord’s coming. “And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” When He came the first time to this earth, the angels worshipped Him; but He came in humility. When He comes again, He is going to come in glory. When He came the first time and was born in Bethlehem. He came in weakness as a little baby; but He is going to come again in power and great glory. He came to provide salvation when He came to Bethlehem; but when He comes again, there will be judgement. When He came the first time, He ended up with a crown of thorns; but when He comes again, He will wear a crown of victory. Jesus Christ is God’s firstborn. He is going to inherit all things. He is to have all the glory and honour. I trust that you know Him as your Saviour so that you will share in this eternal inheritance.