Colossians 1:15b-17

Christ the Creator



1. This section is the meat of the book of Colossians.

2. This section is the basis or the foundation for all the arguments the apostle makes later on in the epistle.

3. In this small portion of Scripture (vs.14-20) we have one of the most concise passages anywhere in which the deity and glory of Christ are lifted up for all to see…

The Firstborn of Every Creature

1. Firstborn:  πρωτότοκος – prō-tótokos

a. Greek/English Lexicon of the New Testament gives firstborn two related possible meanings:
» Pertaining to superiority to all else —‘superior to, above all.’
» Pertaining to existing prior to something else—‘existing first, existing before.’

b. The basic meaning of the term is as it sounds: the firstborn.
» It often spoke of the first son born… and thus would connote TIME… sequence… he was before all the others in that he was born first… chronologically.
» But it developed another meaning: RANK
» The firstborn son in ancient society was a special son; it was a special rank or position of prestige to be firstborn; they were given a double portion of the inheritance; they had rank over the other sons; they were the head of the tribe;

c. Firstborn speaks of RANK, not just time… although both are often involved. In any one context, one or the other meaning is usually emphasized: time or rank.

d. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: does not simply denote the priority in time of the pre-existent Lord; what is meant is the unique supremacy of Christ over all creatures.

2. The firstborn son usually emphasized RANK rather than chronological order.

a. The position as firstborn was understood as a rank in Judaism.

b. The most prominent example was Jacob and Esau—where it was said that the elder shall serve the younger.
» The one born first (Esau) did not end up as the firstborn.
» Jacob was the son born second, but became the firstborn son in rank—with all the privileges, blessings, and prestige of the position.
» This was true of Ishmael and Isaac; Reuben and Joseph; Manasseh and Ephraim…
» For one reason or another, the first one born was set aside, and the second one took the position as “firstborn.”
» Hence, Adam because of sin was set aside; Christ, the second Adam is called Firstborn.
» It doesn’t mean Christ is the first man born; or the first creature created. It means He is the preeminent One.

c. Ps. 89:27 – the Messiah was said to be God’s firstborn – which means “higher than all the kings of the earth.”

d. The terms firstborn and only begotten are often twisted by the cults… and too often they fool believers who are not versed in the meaning of these terms.
» The cults love them because they don’t mean what the English word appears to mean.
» Firstborn does not mean the one born first.
» Only begotten does not mean the only one born. (Isaac was Abraham’s only begotten son—yet he had other sons too!)
» They are terms of RANK meaning (1) supreme and (2) unique.

3. The context in Col. 1 implies that RANK is what Paul had in mind. The concept of time (while present in the term) seems to be in the background while the meaning of RANK takes center stage.

a. He is SUPERIOR to every creature! (vs.15)

b. He is HEAD of the church. (vs.18)

c. He is to have the PREEMINENCE (vs.18)

4. Several different translations picked up on this nuance:

a. New Century Version: He ranks higher than everything that has been made.

b. New King James: the firstborn over all creation.

c. New Living Translation: He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation.

d. Wuest: who has priority to and sovereignty over all creation.

e. Today’s English Version: superior to all created things.

5. The firstborn OF every creature

a. What the Jehovah’s Witnesses have done with this verse in their New World Translation:
» “The firstborn of every other creature.” (added “other”)
» There is no word for “other” in the Greek text—in ANY Greek manuscript.
» In fact they add this word “other” 6 times in the context of Christ as Firstborn… to promote their heresy… that Jesus Christ is a mere creature.
» They say that He is firstborn in that He was the first creature God made… and the most important one. (But a mere creature!)
» Quote from the official Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower publication: “Jesus was God’s first creation, and so he is called the “firstborn” Son of God. (Colossians 1:15; Revelation 3:14) Jesus is the only Son that God created by himself. Jehovah used the pre-human Jesus as his master worker in creating all other things in heaven and on earth.”
» They say that after God created Jesus, Jesus then created the rest of the world.
» To the Jehovah’s Witnesses, firstborn means “the first one created.”
» Paul used the word firstborn, prototokos. If he meant to say that Christ was the “first-created,” he would have used the term: protoktisis.

6. Rev.3:14 –The Jehovah’s Witnesses do the same sort of thing with this phrase: “Beginning of the creation of God.”

a. In what sense is Christ the “beginning” of the creation of God?

b. Was He the first creature created? That’s what the cults would have us to believe.

c. Beginning—arche—Strong’s: that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause.

d. Wm. Burkett: the principal and efficient cause of the creation,

e. AT Robertson: the originating source of creation

f. Christ is the active CAUSE of creation – because He is the Creator! He is the Word – He spoke and caused it to be!

g. Heb.12:2 -a similar term is used which refers to a leader or one who is first. Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith… from start to finish… our faith rests in HIM!!

h. Wm. Burkett translated it: The Beginner of creation…

i. Thus, Christ is the Beginning of Creation… and the GOAL of creation!

j. All things were created BY Him and FOR Him…
» This is exactly what Peter meant when he said that men twist the scriptures to their own destruction. (II Pet. 3:16b) They add words. They pervert the meaning of terms. And the average Christian doesn’t know the Word well enough to spot it!

7. Firstborn of every creature means that Christ is SUPREME OVER all of creation.

a. Paul put it this way in Phil. 2:9: God hath given Him a name which is above every name: Firstborn of all creation!

By Him Were All Things Created

1. FOR = because…

a. Christ is SUPERIOR to all of creation BECAUSE He is the Creator!

b. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that “firstborn of every creature” means that Jesus was the first creature created.

c. However, Paul makes it plain that that could not be. He isn’t the first creature… FOR He created all things!

d. The gist of the passage is this: He is supreme OVER all creation BECAUSE He is the Creator!

2. Created BY Him…

a. En autw, in Him (vs.16a)

b. This is locative, not instrumental. (Locative = in the sphere of…)
» Di’ autou, in this expression Paul uses the instrumental Cause = by Him (vs. 16c).
» God created the world BY MEANS of the Second Person of the Trinity: Christ.
» But “in Him” is a unique way of speaking of His relationship to creation.
» Creative power resides IN HIM.
» Wuest: In Him, within the sphere of His personality, resides the Creative will and the creative energy, and in that sphere the creative act takes place.”
» If you are looking for the source of creation—it is to be found in Christ.
» Creation was “in Him” in the sense that a building was created first in the mind of the Architect.

c. Thus, the truth about Christ as Creator is stated in two ways in this verse (in Him; by Him) so as to be certain no one missed the point!

d. Heb. 1:2 – the same thought: The Father created the world by means of Christ the Son.

e. John 1:3 – another passage that speaks of the Son as the Creator of all things.

f. Everything that was ever created was created by Him.

g. The false teachers believed that all matter (the created world) was evil—and therefore it could not have been created by God… it must have been created by some lesser being… one of the emanations from God.

h. Paul refutes this teaching by showing that Jesus is both DIVINE and CREATOR…

i. Created: used in two different tenses here:
» The first one (vs.16a) is aorist – a past event…
» The second (vs.16c) is perfect – speaking of the past action with continuing, settled results – it STANDS created by Him; (it isn’t ever going to change… He IS creator; it will always be HIS creation)

3. All things means ALL things.

a. All things that were created were created by Christ… the eternal Son. Cf. John 1:3 – and without Him was not anything made that was made!

b. In all PLACES:
» Things in heaven (in the heavens – plural)
· This includes all the galaxies of the universe!
· This includes the sun, moon, stars, and planets and anything else that is floating about in the galaxies that we have not yet discovered…
» Things in earth
· This includes mankind; the animals; the plants; rocks; hills; streams; etc…
c. All SORTS: visible and invisible
» Things that are visible—whatever the astronauts and the space ships can see in outer space, God made it all.
» Things that are not visible –
· realms the human mind has not yet entered… a whole universe in an atom… in inner space and outer space yet undiscovered…
· All the hosts of heaven – holy and fallen angels.
· These are the only two possibilities: either something is visible or invisible. This covers everything!

d. All RANKS:
» The angelic hierarchy.
· thrones (thronoi)
· powers (kyriotetes)
· rulers (archai)
· authorities (exousiai)
» These terms speak not so much about different kinds of angels or spirit beings, but rather different RANKS of spirit beings… different realms of authority…
» Perhaps we could liken these terms to mayors, senators, governors, and presidents…
» The angelic realm is well organized… orderly—and this is true of both the holy angels and the fallen angels.

e. There were many different ranks in the angelic realm. And the Colossians were involved in angel worship. (2:18)

f. Christ defeated all fallen principalities and powers and spoiled them at the cross! (2:15)

g. Paul is preparing to deal with this heresy. (2:10) Christ is HEAD over all these angelic ranks—both holy and fallen angels.
» He is not one of the angels. He is the image of God!
» He is OVER all the angels—He is the firstborn—the Supreme one over created beings… including angels.

h. In fact, the angels of God WORSHIP the Son… the firstborn! (Heb.1:6)
» Christ was not an angel. The angels worshipped the Son as GOD… the angels were God’s servants and ministers. (vs. 7)
» The Father addressed the Son as “God.” (vs. 8)
» The Father continues addressing the Son and speaks of Him as “Creator.” (vs. 10) (Cf. 1:3 – creator)
» The Jehovah’s Witnesses may think of Christ as an angel, but the angels don’t think of Him as an angel. They worship Him as God!
» And the Father doesn’t think of Christ as an angel. The Father calls Him “God,” “Creator” and “Lord.”

i. Eph. 1:19-21 – Here Paul states that Christ was raised up FAR ABOVE all angels… all principalities and powers!

j. I Pet. 3:22 – Peter concurs! All angelic authorities are subservient to Jesus Christ. He is Lord of ALL.

k. Phil. 2:10 – one day every creature (men and angels; holy and unholy) will bow before Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord.

l. How does Paul deal with the heresy of angel worship in Colossae?
» He exalts the Lord Jesus Christ… He is HEAD over all principalities and powers…
» He is the firstborn of all creatures—including angels.
» He is the Creator of the angels…
» He and He alone is to be worshipped—not angels!

All Things Were Created FOR Him

1. For Him = eis auton = unto as a goal or purpose.

2. Christ is the One FOR WHOM the entire creation was made.

3. Rev. 4:11 – The Lord is the Creator—and all things were created FOR His pleasure.

a. All things were created in Him, by Him, and for Him. (en, dia, eis)

b. Created IN Him (as a creation appears in the mind of an Architect); BY Him (as the Builder; construction); and FOR Him (as the Owner of all—for His pleasure)

c. Creative power resided IN HIM… operated actively THROUGH HIM… and is ultimately aimed FOR HIM.

4. Rom. 11:36 – for of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things.

a. Here Paul uses one different preposition:

b. Of Him = ex (out of Him as a Source); + dia & eis (same as Col.)

c. This speaks of Christ as the Beginning and the End… the Alpha and Omega…

5. Putting this passage in the purpose of the epistle:

a. Christ created the angels.

b. They were created FOR Him. They serve Him. They are in subjection to Him. He is not one of them!

c. Angels are not to rob Christ of any worship. They worship Him. They ascribe praise to Him. They bow before Him. They chant day and night, Holy, Holy, Holy!

6. The created world shouts out of God’s glory! (Ps. 19:1)

He is Before All Things

1. This expression speaks of the fact that Christ pre-dated ALL things—including the angels… including all of creation.

2. The fact that this verse begins with the word “and” (kai) is another indication that the word firstborn indicates RANK rather than time.

a. This term highlights TIME.

b. Christ was before all things in TIME.

c. As firstborn He is before all things in RANK.

d. Here He is said to be before all things chronologically.

3. Before all things speaks of eternity past… before the creation.

a. Before the creation, there was only GOD. Christ was there—before all things. He is God.

b. The only being who could possibly predate all of creation is God Himself—in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God… and the Word was God! He then became creator! (John 1:1-3)

c. He is the great I AM. “Before Abraham was I am.” Before creation was, “I Am.” He is the Great I Am – the eternal, self existent One: God!

4. Micah 5:2 – His goings forth have been from old, from everlasting. He existed before time began. He is eternal. He is God.

By Him All Things Consist

1. Not only is Christ the One who created all things, but by Him all things consist.

a. Consist: to place together; band together; hold together.

b. Christ holds all things together.

c. Tense: perfect – they continue to hold together because of Him.

2. In other words, all things came into being by means of Christ and all things continue to exist by means of Christ.

a. Christ created the world and He continues to maintain it.

b. He is a God who is near and not afar off. He was not the god of the Deists… He is not like the ancient concepts of Baal…

3. Heb. 1:3 – He upholds all things by the Word of His power.

a. Now we discover that this same One also He sustains it… The world is kept in its creative ORDER by Him…

b. The world was created by Him and is being maintained by Him! He built the house and he takes care of it! (pres. tense – continuous action)
» Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His notice…
» He gives life and breath to all men—and continues to provide life and breath for them…
» He sends rain for the crops to maintain the food chain…for the good and the evil… He causes the sun to shine…
» He is the ultimate Cause behind the maintenance of the universe!
» He maintains His world faithfully – like clockwork… (aren’t you glad!?!? Gravity always works; the sun shines every day; the sun stays in its place without wandering away; the earth continues to rotate…
» The world maintains its perfectly delicate balance because the SON maintains and sustains the world He created.


1. Consider the awesome things stated about Christ in this passage:

a. His relation to sinners:
» He is Redeemer; the one whose blood provides forgiveness of sins.

b. His relationship to God:
» The IMAGE of God –the very same…

c. His relationship to Creation:
» The firstborn over all creation…
» BECAUSE He is Creator…
» IN HIM were all things created – in Him reside all the creative powers of God… as Architect… as Author… as the Logos of God…
» BY HIM all things were created – as Builder… the Beginner… the active agent through whom God created the worlds.
» FOR HIM all things were created… He is the goal… the end… the purpose of creation… for His glory and pleasure.

2. What this means to us…

a. Christ is the preeminent One…

b. He is all we need…

c. We are not to give our attention or devotion to an image… but to Christ—THE Image of God.

d. We are not to be caught up in the present day frenzy over angels. Our attention should be given to Christ.

e. He is over the spirit realm. We are not to be overly concerned about Satan and his spirit world. Christ has defeated them all… and one day they will all bend the knee and acknowledge their defeat and Him as Lord… our focus should be on Christ.

f. He holds the universe together. He cares for the world He created. He knows if a sparrow falls to the ground—how much MORE concern does He have for His own children and the troubles we all face in life…

g. Our Savior can take care of the universe… He can certainly take care of me.
» Whatever we face; whatever trials we have to deal with;
» Whatever the future may hold for us…
» The Creator is also a tender Shepherd who cares for our souls…
» Isa. 40:11 – He shall feed His flock; gather the lambs in his arms; carry them in His bosom; gently lead those that are with young…
h. He not only made us, but He became One of us.
» He is Creator and Great High Priest.
» He created us, and He entered into His creation in the form of a man. He knows all about life on this cursed earth.
» We can come to Him… (Heb. 2:17-18) And He WANTS us to come to Him… and to no other!
i. We need to know Christ that way… and rest in His love… embrace Him… surrender to Him… yield… and let HIM be God in our lives too.

3. If you do not know Christ as Savior—He WANTS to be YOUR Savior too. He died and rose again. He paid the penalty for your sins… but you are commanded to repent… and to receive Him by faith!

a. One day every creature will bend the knee to Christ… some on earth, some in heaven, and some in hell.

b. It is too late for repentance in Hell!

c. Bend the knee today. Come to Christ and be saved! BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

Back to top of page

Back to Chapter-1 Index

Back to Colossians Index

Back to Bible Studies