Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Jesus Christ: The Firstborn Over All Creation

I do an "Ask Hank" column in the Christian Research Journal, and in the current edition of the Journal I deal with the issue of how the eternal Son of God can at once be the firstborn over all creation and yet the eternal Creator of all things, which is a question that is being exploded by cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses to say that Jesus Christ isn't really the one who spoke and the universe leapt into existence - in fact, God created Jesus and then Jesus becomes a junior partner in creating all other things.

The way I deal with this dilemma is I point out that in referring to Christ as the firstborn Paul has in mind preeminence. This usage is firmly established in the Old Testament, which is to say that I always need to be tethered to the pillar and post of Scripture. I need to read Scripture in light of Scripture. For example, Ephraim, in the Old Testament, is referred to as the Lord's "firstborn" even though Manasseh was born first. In similar fashion David is appointed the Lord's "firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth," and this is despite the fact that he's the youngest of Jesse's sons. Neither Ephraim nor David was the first one born in the family, but they were firstborn in the sense of preeminence or "prime position."

So again, this gets to the issue of scaling the language barrier. It's not the word you use, but the meaning that is poured into the word. The biblical meaning poured into the word "firstborn" doesn't mean the first one born but the preeminent one or the one who holds the prime position.

Not only so, but Paul refers to Jesus as the firstborn over all creation, not the firstborn in creation and as such "He is before all things and in him all things hold together." The force of this language by the apostle Paul is such that the cult of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who subscribe to the ancient Arian heresy that the Son is not preexistent and coeternal with the Father, have been forced to insert the word "other." In fact, in Colossians 1 they insert this word "other" four times in the text of their deeply flawed New World Translation of the Bible in order that they can demote Jesus Christ to the status of being a mere created being.

The final point is this: the panoply of Scripture makes absolutely plain Jesus is the eternal Creator who spoke and the countless galaxies leapt into existence. For example in John 1 He is overtly called "God." In Hebrews 1 He is said to be the one who "laid the foundations of the earth." In the very last chapter of the Bible Christ refers to Himself as "the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Indeed, the whole of Scripture precludes the possibility that Christ could be anything other than the preexistent sovereign of the universe.

Again, an answer to a question that is brought up by the Jehovah's Witness on your doorstep. How do you deal with it? Well, if you have the answer you can deal with it with gentleness and with respect and point out that they're misinterpreting the language of Scripture. So again, in this and many other circumstances we have to learn, first and foremost, how to scale the language barrier. Jehovah's Witnesses say they believe in Jesus. The Mormons say they believe in Jesus. But which Jesus? What is the meaning that they pour into the word?

12 comments:

Wes said...

My favorite passage is to take someone through who Jesus claims to be to the 7 Church's in Revelation. The picture Christ paints of Himself is absolutely incredible and He cannot be denied of His deity. Here are just a few things He claims to be. There is so much more but I want to highlight who He is.

All verses are in Revelation

1:8 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End

1:17 I am the First and the Last

2:8 The first and the Last

3:14 the Beginning of the Creation of God

Then after we read all the passages in Revelation I take them back to Isaiah 44:6

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no God.

Who is Jesus claiming to be? No other than the God of all creation. He is the First and the Last.

Shields Home Team said...

Hank,
I wanted to thank you for your ministry. I've been listening for years and have grown in Christ so much. I enjoy your blog and hope that you continue to share your thoughts and teaching with everyone.

God bless you!

Anonymous said...

Noah was not guilty of drunkenness. The text does not indicate this, it must be read into the text. Noah was a king and as such was right to have his Sabbath rest and drink some wine. When kings are finished fighting they take their seat and drink wine, which is a more glorious drink than say water or apple juice because it is a mixture, such as the mixture of kinds of materials on the priest's garments. Priests on the other hand do not sit down and drinking wine is forbidden them. You did not communicate the the Bible's clear message that wine and beer (strong drink) is a wonderful gift from God. In fact we are commanded in the Old Testament to drink it so that we may rejoice and celebrate the Lord's feast day. It makes the heart glad and Paul encourages Timothy to drink some. Martin Luther said that we must drink wine perceiely because the Devil does not want us to. Obviously this is contextualized, there are many the devil wishes to drink wine, and they are doing so to the ruination of their soul. But for Christians, the devil wants nothing more than for us to 1) become legalistic, thinking we are somehow better than our Lutheran and Catholic brothers because we do not imbibe even a drop of such "devastation." 2) The Devil does not want us to be joyful because the Gospel story begins and ends with the words "great joy!"

Sacchiel said...

Amen! If they have faith in the wrong Jesus then they will be eternally lost.

As a JW who came to know Jesus as He truly is, I will worship Him for ever and ever.

Carl said...

This seems to smack of modalism. I am concerned that there is no distinction being made in the Godhead as to the roles of each Person of our God.

mitch said...

I have listened to Hank teach for a few years now and know that he does not teach modalism. I have heard him on many occasions articulate the distinction within the Godhead very well.

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