THE FIRST-BORN OF GOD'S CREATION
The term used in Colossians 1:15, has been the subject of study and controversy, which saw its climax during the first council of the Christian Church in Nicaea, in the year 325, when conventional Christians confronted Christian followers of the Presbyter Arius, who, in turn, was only a public and better known exponent of the Christian martyr Lucian of Antioch, who is known to have instructed Arius in the idea that if the Son was begotten of GOD the Father, therefore there must have been a time when the Logos did not exist, and what is more, if it were so, its nature was created and not eternal like that of GOD (1).
Because Arianism was harshly condemned by the Trinitarian Christian Church, the writings of Arius, a highly educated and intelligent person, were banned and his books burned by imperial order, so that "his heresy would not spread all over the world."(2)
However, some of the arguments used in this dispute, the first to divide Post Apostolic Christianity, were verses like Colossians 1:15; where it says:
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation."
“Oς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου, πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως,”
Or this other:
"The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of God's creation, says this"
"Τάδε λέγει ὁ ἀμήν, ὁ μρρτυς ὁ πιστὸς καὶ ἀληθινός, ἡ ἀρὴὴ ῆῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ"
Passages like these and others where Lord Jesus says that the 'Father is greater than Him' (John 14:28), and that there are things that 'only the Father knows' and He does not (Matthew 24:33); they were used as arguments to show that Jesus could not have the same divine nature as God, but that he was just a mere creature, like the angels, although the first and most complete of God's creations.
It would be long to deal with each of the Arian arguments, but we will analyze the meaning of Colossians 1:15 and Revelation 3:14; since these were the most used verses.
COLOSSIANS 1:15 AND REVELATION 3:14
Definitely these verses seem to give Jesus a lower place than GOD the Father, and so they were raised by the Arians, as now by the modern Unitarians and Jehovah's Witnesses.
For this reason, many explanations have been tried in this regard, trying to avoid the obvious meaning that Jesus is the first of God's Creation, which makes Jesus, even before his earthly existence, one more creation of God Almighty.
Of all the explanations given, perhaps the best known and accepted by most Christians today is the one that says that Colossians 1:15 is a literary expression that places Jesus as the Prince or Guardian of all of God's creation, and not that Jesus himself was created, or that he is less divine than the Father himself.
But this analysis somewhat violates the grammatical form of the sentence. If the original idea had been to say that Jesus was above all God's Creation, without Himself being one more creation, it would not have been necessary to express such an idea with those words, but simply to have said that 'Jesus is above all Creation' or that 'Jesus was the origin of all God's Creation', as is said in other passages that speak of the Son of God (John 1:3,10; Colossians 1:16).
Furthermore, Revelation 3:14 seems to go deeper into the problem, saying directly that Jesus is 'The beginning of the creation of God'.
Although Colossians 1:15 could be taken to mean that 'Jesus is in charge of and above everything created', which could be reinforced by Colossians 1:16 which states that everything was created by Him; Revelation, however, is even clearer, saying that Jesus is "the Beginning (ἀρχὴ) of God's creation."
ἡ ἀΡΧὴ ΤῆΣ ΚΤΊΣΕΩΣ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ
However, the use of the word ἀρχὴ (Arche-Beginning) in Revelation 3:14 and πρωτότοκος (Proto-Tochos-Firstborn) in Colossians 1:15, do not necessarily have to reduce the divinity of Jesus to something less than that of the Father, or strip completely his divine Omnipotence.
In the first place, the concepts of divinity, progeny, nature and eternity must be clear.
DIVINITY: The condition of being 'GOD', with all the attributes that qualify a deity as divine. Omniscience, Omnipresence and Omnipotence.
For any being to be considered GOD he must be self-aware and know everything. Nothing must be covered up from his knowledge.
NATURE: A reality endowed with its own laws independent of any external intervention. The nature of GOD must have the highest form of life in the universe and eternally. What was once called οὐσία, or essence or 'form of being', must be unique, immutable and eternal.
ETERNITY: Constant reality, which has no beginning or end and is self-sufficient. The 'gods' are not born, they do not die, they do not mutate. GOD must be eternally the same, all-powerful and all-knowing. Only God can be eternal. Not begotten, not created. Everything else is below GOD and cannot be divine by nature.
PROGENY: Offspring coming by reproduction, not creation, which shares the same nature as its parents.
JESUS THE SON OF GOD
The term 'Son of God', common among Easterners to describe a man favored by God (Exodus 4:22), was applied to Jesus on the basis of his supernatural progeniture to Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Although the demons called Jesus 'Son of God'; they did it on the basis that they knew that Jesus was the Messiah (a man favored by God), but they ignored the virginal conception of Christ. Only Christians, aware of the miracle of the Annunciation, called Jesus 'Son of God', because literally JESUS of Nazareth, as a man, had Mary and GOD as parents. Jesus was literally the Son of God.
However, this status of 'Son of God' never applied to Him for His Pre-Existence period. Nowhere is the LOGOS called 'Son of God' in the Old Testament. The custom of calling the Logos 'Son of God' was born as a consequence of the Trinitarian controversies of the fourth century, and is of human, not divine, making.
The divine λόγος, the name given by the NT to the person who would later become Jesus of Nazareth, was taken by the Christians of the first century as Divine, participating in the same nature of GOD YHWH, and yet, with its own identity:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος.
The term ἀρχῇ in this context, 'In the Beginning' denotes when used in relation to the Father, an eternal 'beginning'. In modern terms, verse 1 of chapter 1 of Saint John would read:
“From the beginning of eternity, JESUS existed, and JESUS was with YHWH, and JESUS was Divine”
The concept of divinity given to Jesus is not something that was born in the fourth century, but was held by the first Christians, and that is what leads them to call Jesus 'GOD' in various parts of the apostolic writings.
(Philippians 2:5-6; John 1:18; Colossians 2:9-10)
How then can the Logos be the first of God's Creation and be divine at the same time?
THE FIRST OF ALL CREATION
We must be clear before analyzing this phrase, to understand that God is, and is not halfway or by degrees. GOD is perfect, complete and immutable for all eternity.
If the Logos has, according to Scripture, its own personality, and is divine, it can only be a voluntary bifurcation of the Father, GOD YHWH, who is always the same and the source of all existence.
Moreover, if it is a bifurcation, it must have happened at some point in eternity. John 1:1, without hesitation says that the Logos always existed. He speaks like this because it is impossible to pigeonhole the beginning or end of eternity. It is impossible for angels, men, and every created being, however sublime it may be. But the bifurcation occurred, long before time occurred, it is a constant present, a constant divine emanation, which in a linear time, incarnated in our GOD-MAN, JESUS OF NAZARETH.
We can only understand this, partially, with abstract ideas, conceiving ideas impossible to ever physically contemplate, not even in Glory.
YHWH is the only being not begotten, not created, and always immutable, invisible and eternal. From him comes the Logos, since it is divine, and only the eternal personality of GOD, whom we know as YHWH, Yahveh, Jehovah, Elohim, El, or Elion, is the source in the entire universe of divinity.
Divinity is also unique and complete. It cannot be divided in essence, since there would make two gods, which is impossible. This leads us to conclude that although the Logos and the Father have two different personalities, both are intimately united by the same inseparable divine nature of the only GOD of the Universe.
The only way to understand the term that Jesus is the firstborn, or first born of all God's Creation, is to understand that the divine bifurcation, which is impossible to measure or pigeonhole because it occurred from eternity, was God's initial will in the person of the Father, who at a given moment bifurcates into three, Father, Son and Spirit, from eternity.
Because this act has God YHWH as the promoter and initiator of this multifaced manifestation of Himself, the Logos can be called the first in the creation of God, but not in the material creation, since the Bible does not say that. But creation in the sense of being the first act of God, who from immeasurable eternity, manifests Himself as three distinct and independent beings one from the other, yet always being the same God, manifested in three simultaneous forms.
JESUS is the first born of God's Creation, because he exists by the initial will of the Father from eternity.
Jesus was not born, he emanates from the Father, constantly, and this emanative act was the first voluntary act of God the Father since eternity, the first thing He conceived. His first action of creating will.
(1) Arianism, British Encyclopedia.
Arianism, Catholic Encyclopedia.
(2) Edict by Emperor Constantine Against the Arians.