On numerous occasions I have had the pleasure of discussing the issue of whether or not Jesus is God with people who either do not believe Jesus is God or believe he is something divine, but not “the” God. I have had these discussions either in my home or on a discussion forum over the Internet. According to John 1:3, Jesus is the Creator of all things,
John 1:3 NET. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. (emphasis, mine)
With this in mind, it is difficult to understand how some Christians could conclude that Jesus is a created being. Some Christians I have spoken with describe Jesus as the Firstborn of God and interpreting this to mean that Jesus is a created being. Indeed, Jesus is called the Firstborn in Scripture, but is the Biblical meaning of this term limited to Webster’s definition of the word firstborn, i.e. the first child born into a family? What is the Biblical definition of the word firstborn, and is it different from Webster’s definition? Notice how Paul puts it in Colossians and compare it with John 1:3 above:
Colossians 1:15-17 NET. (15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, (16) for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him — all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers — all things were created through him and for him. (17) He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him.
In addition to Webster’s definition of eldest or the child born first, the word of God includes the terms authority and birthright to clarify the full meaning of the word firstborn. This definition is not taken from the Greek or Hebrew dictionaries but is shown within the Biblical text.
In Colossians 1:15-17 the intent or meaning of the word firstborn is shown in the context. The intent there is to reveal Christ as the ultimate authority. For example, consider 1Chronicles 5:1 where it plainly states that Reuben had the firstborn status among the sons of Jacob, because he was born first, just as Webster’s dictionary would define the word firstborn. Yet, because he defiled his father’s bed, Reuben lost his birthright to Joseph (compare: Jeremiah 31:9 where Joseph’s son Ephraim is used for all Israel) and rulership or authority to Judah (cp. Genesis 49:1-4, 8-12). So, the problem with using only Webster’s definition is that, according to Scripture, the firstborn status can go to a younger son, so the son who is born first can lose his status or rights as the firstborn in his family.
Another example of the meaning that Scripture attaches to the word firstborn is found in the covenant God made with David in Psalms 89:20-37. This covenant concerns the blessing that both his seed and his throne would endure forever. Note one verse in particular:
Psalm 89:27 KJV “Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth”.
We find in this Scripture not only a reference to Jesus, the Messiah, but also God’s definition of the word firstborn as it applies to Jesus. Firstborn is defined as the one who is greater in authority than all kings (or rulers) of the earth. One more comparison from the Scriptures ought to put this argument to rest. Notice Revelation 1:5 where the New Testament makes an obvious reference to Psalm 89:27:
Revelation 1:5 NET. and from Jesus Christ — the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood (emphasis mine)
The term firstborn in Scripture is definitely richer in meaning than what Webster ascribes to the word in our modern dictionary. We must be particularly careful not to place present day definitions upon words having a peculiar significance in the Biblical record. There may be times when Webster will do a good job in defining something for us in the Bible. However, if Webster contradicts or falls short in interpreting the full meaning that the Scriptures place upon a word, such as firstborn, we should let Webster on the shelf and go with God! May the Lord open our eyes to the truth of his word.