What does the word "prototokos" mean in Colossians 1:15?

Prototokos means "firstborn," In a letter to the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul gave a description of Jesus. In it, he explained Christ’s relationship to God the Father and to creation. Some have claimed that Paul’s description of Christ as the first-born of creation means that Jesus was created -- not eternal, not God. Such a doctrine, however, conflicts with the rest of the Bible. Christ could not be both Creator and created.

“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature, For by him were all things created, 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, 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, For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell” Colossians 1:15-19

“Who is the image of the invisible God”

This refers to Jesus, who in His life and behavior, emulated God. Jesus is “like” God, in a similar way a son is the image of his father. The son may look like his dad, he may have some of his father’s attributes and talents, the son will remind you of his father, but the son is “NOT” the father and the father is not the son.

“He that has seen me, has seen the Father, and how sayest thou then, shew us the Father?, Believest thou that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words I speak unto you, I speak not of myself, but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works, Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works sake” John 14:9-11

When Jesus said this, He was not saying that He was God, He was speaking to the aspect of His will and that of the Father as being one and the same. To be of one mind, one Spirit, one faith and to be on the same page completely.

Jesus said.. “I and my Father are one” John 10:30

The context of what Jesus meant is the closeness they share. Not that Jesus and God are one in the same (Ephesians 4:4-6), one faith, one baptism, one God of all.

Jesus said in a prayer to the Father..

“That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me, And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one, I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” John 17:21-23

Jesus makes plain here the aspect of what He means when He uses the phrase “ONE”

As Christians, Christ lives in us, but this is manifest in us through the Holy Spirit. It is referred to as the “fruit of the Spirit” which enables us to have Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Faith, Meekness, and Temperance. (Galatians 5:22-23; Col. 3:8-10)

“the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” 1 Corinthians 3:16

This Spirit that is in us, gives us the heart of Christ and the capacity to be children of God. As Paul states “all things become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). To be one in the Lord is to be in complete agreement with the Father, as Jesus is in complete agreement with the Father. As an example, or type and shadow of this effect in our lives, God gave us marriage and family. Which is why in part family is a sacred office of man, this began with Adam.

“Therefore shall man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh” Genesis 2:24

This account in Genesis, is the first time the admonition of becoming “ONE” is seen in scripture. It is where the concept of becoming one mind and of one agreement, being one as a couple is introduced.

Adam and Eve were not the same person, but it is easily understood, that a marriage is to become one. This is actually a spiritual concept manifested in the flesh through marriage. It is this reality that Jesus always referred to between Himself and God.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, And they twaine shall be one flesh, so then they are no more twaine, but one flesh” Mark 10:7-8 (Matthew 19:5-6; 1 Corinthians 6:15-17 and Ephesians 5:31)

One mind, one faith, one Agreement, with the husband as the head of the household, as the Father is the head of Christ (Romans 15:6; 1 Cor. 6:17; Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Cor. 11:3)

“the first born of every creature” (Colossians 1:15)

There are a few things this verse does “NOT” mean. Jesus was “NEVER” born “Spiritually” in the same way man is born with a body and a spirit. Jesus was only born “Physically”. Jesus’ birth made Him the first person to be born that belonged directly to God. Jesus did not have to be reconciled to God, because He was never created as a spirit and subsequently flesh like a man.

Jesus was born to Mary of the Holy Spirit, making Him “NOT” born of the seed of man (Matthew 1:18-25).

“Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost” Matthew 1:20

This in part, is why Jesus Himself never had to be reconciled to God, having not been born into sin. But Jesus did reconcile all believers to God.

“and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” Revelation 5:9

Another point about the “creature” reference, is Jesus’ birth had nothing to do with animals or other creatures, other than mankind. Jesus’ entire life, work, death and resurrection was about humans. Animals don’t go to Heaven.

“Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” Ecclesiastes 3:21

The reference to Jesus being the first born of every creature, is about the salvation of man in the big picture. Jesus is the first person to experience the transition His life and resurrection was all about. He physically transitioned from death to a glorified body. The same as every Christian will experience. Jesus is the “first” to experience this transition Christians refer to as the “Rapture” or the “First Advent” of Christ, Jesus’ first coming (1 Thess. 4:13-17; 1 Cor. 15:50-55; Matthew 24:40-42; Luke 17:34-36).

In this context Jesus is also referred to as the “first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5),

“From Jesus Christ, who is the faithful and true witness, and the first begotten of the dead” Jesus being the “first” to be resurrected. The scriptures in the Bible move at a very rapid tempo at times, and scripture references go back and forth within its references. It is easy to confine oneself to a viewpoint one way or another, or to fall into a belief of what you heard many years ago. Just because it’s an old saying does not make it right, no matter how comfortable or spiritual it sounds.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness is a phrase my mother used to say, but that’s “NOT” in the Bible. Sounds spiritual and all, but its not scriptural.

When we get into areas of biblical teaching that sounds vaguely familiar to us, we are apt to be more vulnerable to being manipulated as to what scripture really says, because most people will not open their Bible to see if what someone said was true or not. If they are at a pulpit wearing a collar, robe, or big hat, we tend to give them benefit of the doubt.

We must be careful not to fall into such a lack of discipline if we are to learn what God truly has for us in His word. Any teacher should welcome all questions and be able to defend the faith at all times. There is nothing worse than a teacher who can’t answer a question about something they just said.

Why Christians Believe What They Believe 

© Tony - W.A.M