The Firstborn Of All Creation Col. 1.15-18

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (NIV)

In several places in the bible, both O.T. and N.T., the text speaks of the Messiah, or Jesus, as being born. These usages of procreative language, when referring to the Godhead, are metaphorical constructs to express somewhat analogous concepts of which humans know some things about but not intended to totally transfer to all parts of human experience, for obvious reasons. Previously, I have also posted on the biblical term “only begotten.” https://wordpress.com/post/beliefspeak2.net/9688.

The Firstborn of All Creation

In the subtitle, I changed the NIV’s “over” to “of,” since the interpretive decision depends upon the understood flow and context of what Paul was trying to say. “Over” is not in the text; rather, “all” is used, which needs a helper word to fill in the thought. “Of” is more ambiguous for the Apostle’s purposes until he reveals his full thoughts in vs. 18.

The term “firstborn” conveys several possible ideas which need to be reigned in when relating to God. Much human communication is at least somewhat figurative, as it hints at something else. It is speaking in code. By using metaphorical language, the writer can communicate certain special aspects about a subject to inform those who are seeking understanding.

Since the Son is the image of the invisible God, He has always existed. To imply otherwise is to say that God has changed. God the Father has always been a father. God the Son has always been a son to the Father. Also, God is eternally social since that is how He created living things. God was never a lonely entity needing company. His purpose in redemption was love; that He might share His love and holiness with His creation. Even the first chapters of Genesis express a divine community of persons in that we read of God, the Spirit of God, and the Lord, who is walking in the garden. The relations have never changed or can change; there is no succession in the Godhead.

God is the invisible God but He is expressed in Jesus. Heb. 1.3 gives this same idea: The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. The glory and the radiance are distinct but one reveals the other. God the Father cannot be seen. This fact is clear from 1Tim.6.14-16: …until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. When Philip wanted Jesus to show him the Father, Jesus said: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (Jn. 14.9 NIV)

The next thing our text tells us is that this Son is a firstborn. Commentators are correct to point out that the term denotes status, privilege, and rank, instead of a first among subsequent equals. Jesus has a “double portion,” which, I think, refer to His dual nature of being fully God and man. All this is true of Jesus, but here, He is also the “firstborn of all creation.” This is another metaphorical clause whose interpretation is suspended until Paul fills in all the necessary details.

In verses 16 through vs. 18a, Paul lists comprehensively how Jesus has supremacy. This listing is parenthetical until the reiteration of the “firstborn” title along with its clarification. This list is as full as conceptually possible; it leaves nothing out. Creation was also for the Son’s purposes and through Him. Jesus is eternal and first in rank.

Also, in Him all things hold together, which, I think, refers to sustaining creation. This very concept of upholding or sustaining creation is found in John 5.17-18 and it includes a reference to Jesus, implying that He is the same kind of being as God: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

The Firstborn from Out of the Dead

Paul’s usage of “arche” (beginning) refers to Christ’s eternality. He seems to employ all his toolbox in this section to bolster the idea for his readers that Christ is divine. Also, when Jesus wanted to show His eternal nature, in Rev. 22.13, He used three inclusive clauses to explicate this: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning (arche) and the End (NIV).

Again, I think it is best to modify the NIV from “among” to “out of.” On one hand, with mention of church, an interpreter could seek to connect those who Jesus redeemed, since they will subsequently be resurrected at Christ’s return. However, Paul doesn’t seem to point toward this direction; instead, he finishes his thought emphasizing Christ’s preeminence. Paul uses “ek” to show “from out of.” Thus, Paul says that Jesus conquered death as another aspect of His supremacy.

Paul is here giving the definition of “the firstborn of all creation.” By reiterating “firstborn” he is further refining what he means: Jesus was the first human to rise to immortality. Jesus raised from the dead several people during His earthly ministry, but they all had to die again just as the O.T. instances of temporal resurrection. While Jesus was not able to sin, He still earned immortality in His humanity under the Mosaic Covenant as a human and stands as the final Adam in our place.

The Spiritual Body

Jesus tells us that He is preparing a place for us to be with Him after our earthly life (Jn. 14.2-3). This, presumably, refers to the resurrected body of 1 Cor. 15:

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body (42-44).

These N.T. realities Paul obviously recognized when reading O.T. sections such as the song of Is. 26:

But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy—your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer (19-21).

Therefore, Jesus is the Firstborn from out of the dead; the goal of creation.

Materialism and Mysteries — Analogical Thoughts

A friend brought this recent blog post by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman to my attention. Since it intersects with several areas of interest to me, I thought it would be fun to write some commentary on it. Dr. Ehrman makes four basic points in his post: He is a metaphysical materialist. He believes that…

Materialism and Mysteries — Analogical Thoughts

Christian Life and Ministry Needs the “J” Curve

You have to see a “J” with the right font to really get the idea of understanding the “J” curve. My fonts do not fulfill the concept, sorry. But read the list to see if you do not agree that this metaphor speaks to what needs to happen if the Christian is to love rightly.

https://www.crossway.org/articles/10-things-you-should-know-about-love-2/

Discerning and Rejecting Abusive Shepherds

I’ve been making my way through a new blog series on spiritual abuse in the church which I am calling “Bully Pulpit”.  In the prior installment, I offered a definition of spiritual abuse: Spiritual abuse, then, is when a spiritual leader—such as a pastor, elder, or head of a Christian organization—wields his position of spiritual…

Key Signs of an Abusive Pastor #1: A Long Track Record of Broken Relationships — Canon Fodder

Rom. 2.14-15 Refers to Christians

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) NIV

The NIV bible has the better rendering of what Paul was arguing in this passage by enclosing it in parentheses rather than the ESV which conveys the idea of a natural law. The early Protestant theologians such as Calvin thought it was speaking about the Natural Law’s effect upon Pagan behavior. Like the NIV, I prefer to see the more contextual reading of Paul saying the behavior of Gentile Christians fulfills the Law, even though they do not follow all the minutia as a contemporary Jew who strictly follows the Mosaic Law.

Evidently there were Jewish “guides” (vss. 17,19) who wanted to instruct the believers, calling them “foolish” and “children” (vs. 20). They thought the Mosaic Law was “the embodiment of knowledge and truth” (vs. 20). Since the Gentiles were not versed in the Mosaic Code, they would guide these Gentiles the correct way. The Law was holy, righteous, and good but it couldn’t ultimately make the subject righteous; it only points out faults. The person was doing wrong themselves and looking down on everyone else (vss.21-23).

Paul is speaking generally that Christians are so holy and good without the formal Mosaic Law that, in the Judgement, it will be evident that they were written in The Book of Life (Rev. 20.12-15). These Gentiles had been adopted as children and were now acting out their renewed nature. This is what the term means (phusei): from themselves as to who they are in disposition or their constitution. Therefore, Paul is saying that God wrote the Law’s requirements on these Gentile Christian hearts, since He regenerated them. This is a parenthetical clause speaking in the immediate context of what the Judgement will entail (vss, 12-16).

Is there a Natural Law? I don’t know. This passage, however, is not speaking about that concept at all.

King Manasseh: An Archaeological Biography — Bible Archaeology Report

In our bioarchaeographies of the Hebrew kings, we’ve seen how archaeology helps us tell the story of their lives.  Numerous archaeological discoveries have affirmed biblical details about the reigns of kings like Uzziah, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  Archaeology has also illuminated Scripture, filling in the wider historical context duing which these kings reigned.  The subject of […]

King Manasseh: An Archaeological Biography — Bible Archaeology Report

Failure Evidence of the Willow Creek Model

For too long the evangelical church has gone soft on sound exposition of Scripture and the faithful teaching of systematic theology and replaced it with the felt needs of people and joining various social causes. Stephen Wellum

https://www.crossway.org/articles/an-open-letter-to-the-evangelical-church-on-christology/

Ephesians (Classical Theology Course) — The Scriptorium Daily

Talbot School of Theology’s Master of Arts in Classical Theology is mostly composed of three kinds of courses: Commonplaces (major doctrines); Master Practitioners (significant theologians); and Sacred Page (books of Scripture). Since the entire MA is designed to treat Scripture as “that toward which all studies in divinity move,” these Sacred Page courses are especially…

Ephesians (Classical Theology Course) — The Scriptorium Daily

Palestine under Roman Rule — Bible Mapper Blog

At the time of Jesus’ birth, the land of Israel (now called Palestine by the Romans) was ruled by the Romans, who had granted Herod the Great the title of “king” over the region. His domain included most of the land that once belonged to Israel. After his death, the Romans granted Herod’s wishes that…

Palestine under Roman Rule — Bible Mapper Blog

Christian Networks and the Circulation of Christian Books — The Textual Mechanic

Sailing ship, 1st cen. AD (Pompeian tomb of Naevoleia Tyche Museo Della Civiltà Romana)I recently learned of a fascinating account of Christians responding in various ways to Roman Imperial persecution in an excellent chapter by Jakob Engberg in a recent work.”Caring for African Confessors in Exile: the Ministry of Numeria and Candida during the Decian…

Christian Networks and the Circulation of Christian Books — The Textual Mechanic

The Jerusalem Temple on Mount Gerizim — Ritmeyer Archaeological Design

In the 1980’s, I used to visit Mount Gerizim as part of my work making reconstruction drawings for the Staff Officer of the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. These drawings showed what the different buildings from the area, dating from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, would have looked like.            Archaeological remains of a Samaritan…

The Jerusalem Temple on Mount Gerizim — Ritmeyer Archaeological Design

Pie in the Sky

What does it profit to gain the whole world yet forfeit one’s soul? This present earth is filled with devils the hymn writer tells us (A Mighty Fortress is Our God). In the book of Job, Satan describes himself as traversing the earth back and forth and roaming on it (Job 1.7). Also, in Ephesians (6.12) it speaks of rulers and authorities over this dark world. Therefore, if one’s goal and focus is upon only this earthy life, they will miss the promises of the new earth and heaven where only good reigns (2Pe. 3.13).

Darius I: An Archaeological Biography — Bible Archaeology Report

One of the ways in which archaeology is beneficial to biblical studies is the way in which it furnishes background information that helps us a better understand the world in which events in Scripture took place.  Such is the case with the history of the Jewish people during Persian-era and the subject of our next […]

Darius I: An Archaeological Biography — Bible Archaeology Report

Deluded and Living in a Dream World

The sad reality of earthly life is that many folks, possibly as a coping mechanism, live in a fantasy world. This is true also for Christians, though, not as much as they become fashioned in the inner person to resemble Christ. God is a jealous God noted throughout scripture and wants His children to think and live in His truth instead of imagining lies: Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? (James 4.5). God is gracious and works with us however to become vessels of Christ through humility and faith (see vss. 6-10). Of course there exist penalties for those who live lies.

Joe Carter identifies fantasy ideology as what drove the insurrectionists last Wed. and its root source: Satan’s war against God is the ultimate and archetypal example of a fantasy ideology. On a rational level, it makes no sense and raises the question of why such a pointless venture would have begun in the first place. After all, as every child in Sunday school can attest, the Devil and his demons cannot win against their Creator. So why fight at all?

“Live Not by Lies”: A Review

By Gregory Thompson

Abstract:

In light of this instrumental use of the dissident tradition, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Dreher’s story is finally not about them but about himself and the tribe that he represents. That it is a self-absorbed attempt not to understand and follow these inspiring human beings, but to somehow reflect the light of their inspiration back toward himself, in hopes that we might see him in it. It is, in short, bespoke dissidence, oriented not toward social transformation but toward self-creation. In this respect, even as Dreher decries therapeutic culture, he does so in a book constructed for both the legitimation and actualization of his own dissident identity.

https://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/rod-drehers-cold-war-imagination/

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from Ted Lasso — Canon Fodder

Looking back on 2020, it seemed like all news was bad news. We moved from impeachment to the coronavirus to the killing of George Floyd to the presidential election to multiple church leadership scandals and back to the coronavirus again. But sometimes it’s the little things that bring some hope and optimism when we’re feeling…

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from Ted Lasso — Canon Fodder

183. Defining Roman Catholicism: An Evangelical Attempt — Vatican Files

Is it possible to capture the heart of the Roman Catholic worldview in a short description? Obviously “Roman Catholicism” is an extremely rich and complex universe. L’articolo 183. Defining Roman Catholicism: An Evangelical Attempt sembra essere il primo su Vatican Files.

183. Defining Roman Catholicism: An Evangelical Attempt — Vatican Files

The Seven-fold Armor of God

Eph. 6.10-18 records Paul’s admonition to deploy weapons, both defensive and offensive, in the struggle against evil. The idea of both types of weapons comes from the list itself where these descriptions denote either offensive or defensive purposes. Also, in 2Cor. 6.7, Paul instructs to use “weapons of righteousness on the right and left.” It doesn’t take much insight to see the typical soldier of that day with a shield in left hand and sword in his right – one offensive and the other protective.

Most English versions, in their formatting, do not include v. 18 in the list of armor. It should be included, however, just as militaries rely on communication in their battles, so Christians can depend on God’s provision in the struggle.

Therefore, Paul’s list divides structurally as two groups of three with Faith as the center. ‘The faith’ is what we preach (Rom. 8.10). Also, without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11.6). Faith is the center since everyone has had intimations from Him: Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them (Rom. 1.19 NIV).

Here is my translation of Eph. 6.10-18 which seeks to provide a flow for memorization:

From now on, be empowered by the Lord and His mighty strength. Put on the whole armor of God to be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavens. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God in order to withstand in the evil day, having done everything to stand. Stand therefore having gird yourselves with truth and having put on the breastplate of righteousness and the feet fitted with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Besides this, take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Put on the helmet of salvation along with the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). With all prayer and petition, praying all times in the Spirit, with this in mind, watch and persevere in petitioning for all saints.

Paul mentions the panoply (vs.13), which refers to a complete suit of armor designed for battle. Partial armor will leave the wearer exposed in places; therefore, all of the mentioned items are vital. The foes are fallen spiritual entities over the world (cosmos). These dark forces traverse both earth and heaven, temporarily, and seem to be marshalled into various ranks against us. Therefore, Christians need to do everything to stand firm in Christ.

Truth as a belt: The Greek doesn’t mention a belt; instead, “girding truth around the waist.” The sense is a belt without explicitly saying it. The idea is to acquire the truth of scripture in a full and comprehensive way and to stand and defend when asked. There are many false and dumb ideas in society today, and for the Christian, they are to be assured in their mind of the truthfulness of scripture. This weapon seems more defensive in purpose but may also project a quiet confidence which will send a message to the opponents and other observers (see Phil. 1.28).

The breastplate of righteousness refers to love and faith, fastened around one’s neck, with these qualities written on the tablet of the heart (see Prov. 3. 3-4). Also, Paul defines what this breastplate is, in 1 Thess. 5.8: But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. This item of armor appears defensive in nature as well.

The Boots of preparation is an offensive weapon by which Christians are ready to hold forth the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for humanity’s justification. In the Greek, no shoes are mentioned, instead, feet are to be fitted. Some sort of footwear is implied however to aid the feet in the journey, and, of course, to stand. Importantly, it is not just a preprogramed scheme such as the “Roman’s Road” where the lost are guided by only a few simple truths. Instead, the Christian should be prepared to speak in bible concepts at points where the inquirer has questions. Sharing one’s faith with others should not be forced in any way. Instead, it should possess an element of spontaneity and flow naturally. Speaking about God is the most natural thing to do. This is His world, after all. On the other hand, if someone is not receptive, the Christian is not to give what is holy unto dogs, or cast their pearls before pigs.

The shield of faith is primarily defensive and resembles the breastplate which has as one of its elements faith or faithfulness. The difference seems to be that the breastplate is more intimately attached to the vital parts of one’s constitution whereas the “shield of faith” is held more at a distance to stop general types of attacks.

The helmet of salvation refers to the assurance one has as they walk with the Lord. As mentioned in 1 Thess. 5.8, it is “the hope of salvation.” Hope here means something substantive, a confidence that the believer will experience the joy of the Lord after passing this veil of tears. This assurance will need to be constantly bolstered as the Christian does what is right in every circumstance: The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever (Is. 32.17 NET). This item, by its nature, protects and is, therefore, generally defensive.

The sword of the Spirit is defined for us in the text and is no mystery what it accomplishes: a thrust of truth. This must be wielded in love, however, since: but, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects to Him who is the Head-Christ (Eph. 4.15).

Prayer in the Spirit is accomplished when Christians, who have the Spirit, are no longer relying on themselves for wisdom. Prov. 3.5 is instructive: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. It is a choice for Christians to walk in the Spirit or be led by their old selves. Prayer in the Spirit is more typical after God has crushed all our idols. Those Christians determined to follow God will know how to pray to Him. This prayer is not only self-focused, or humanity-focused, but looks after the needs of other Christians. We need to persevere in prayer for the needs of all Christians.

Understanding the Olivet Discourse Mt. 24-25, Lk. 21

Some folks wonder whether this teaching of Jesus refers to the end of days or whether it was fulfilled in 70 C.E. when Jerusalem and its Temple was destroyed. Jesus speaks to both times in His discourse but Matthew’s account only deals with the end times and he constructs the account for this purpose. Luke, on the other hand, records both events in 21. 5-36. Luke does focus primarily on the end times also but inserts a section that covers the Jerusalem’s Temple destruction in 70 C.E. (vss.20-24).

The key to this understanding is to see the clause: “pregnant women and nursing mothers” referring to different sets of women, one in 70 C.E. and the other during the end.

Emptying My Drafts Folder

At the end of every year I like to try to finish drafts that I have started or dump them. This results in a sporadic flood of posts or not (if I dump them). Looking ahead to next year, it may turn out to be rather sporadic with a few posts here and there. Nevertheless, I am committed to share insights from both others and myself and to establish an outlet of biblical truth.

I did not offer a Christmas greeting on my blog this year for several reasons. Primarily, the reason was to discount the commercial aspect of the Christmas holiday. Christianity is not so much an observable faith (if you will). What I mean is that the yoke of the Old Covenant is not placed on the neck of Christians as it was for Old Covenant Jews (see Acts 15.10-11). The promise to Abraham was gracious:

It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression (Rom. 4.13-16NIV).

Therefore, being a Christian is not so much about seasonal observances but being discipled by Christ. For the Old Covenant Jew the sacrifices were the remedy for transgressing the commandments. These were shadows of what Jesus would do in forgiving our sins on the cross. Further, the cross was a triumph over cosmic powers that accused those who were under the Mosaic Law:

having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col. 2.14-15, see all of Col. 2 also to get the flow).

Top Ten Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology in 2020 — Bible Archaeology Report

One of my favorite times of the year is the end of December, when I can look back at all that has occurred in the past 12 months. 2020 has been a difficult year for many, and in the world of biblical archaeology, the pandemic led to the cancelation of many excavations in the lands […]

Top Ten Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology in 2020 — Bible Archaeology Report

The Easiest Bible Reading Plan

If the goal is to read through the bible in a year (a good and commendable goal), then one only needs to read three chapters, more or less, each day starting with Genesis. Here is a schedule to roughly track one’s progress:

Click to access straightthrough.pdf

As a young Christian I read through the New Testament in a month and recall the adoption of favorite passages and books which I would return to as a means of comfort or encouragement. It was good that I was studying the texts more and with progressively better tools to extract fuller meaning, a problem soon arose however. My biblical viewpoint was becoming skewed since I did not allow texts from other parts of the bible to inform my understanding of all that God had disclosed. I remember a message from chapel at bible college which had 2Tim. 3.16-17 as its text which challenged me to draw upon the whole bible for my personal discipleship: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God  may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (NIV). This method of attending to “all” of scripture balanced my understanding and helped me better grasp the totality of what God revealed to us.

Ignorant Christians

“Because gospel preaching is rare, because the radical demands of Christ are ignored, because preachers are growing churches by catering to carnal desires, we have an almost innumerable crowd of people who identify themselves with Christianity, but have little knowledge of Christ!” – Paul Washer

Quote of the Day — Zwinglius Redivivus