After studying your booklet, Trinity Or Unity, I have several questions I would like to get cleared, if you would please.
On page 64 you explained Col. 1:15-17 but did not go into much detail. I am still confused and troubled by the apparent meaning of the passage. Paul seems to be stating that Christ is the Creator of the universe. Could you clear this up for me with a more detailed explanation of the passage. Thank you for your time and kind consideration.
In view of the almost universal misunderstanding of the role of Christ in the plan of God, it is not strange that a passage such as Col. 1:15-17 seems confusing. The problem is further complicated by the fact that the translators themselves did not have a correct understanding, hence their translation is often colored by what they believed.
In considering a passage such as Col. 1:15-17, we must not overlook the key which is in the following verse (v. 18). Paul is addressing the preeminent position of Christ with relation to “the body, the church,” not in relation to the physical universe. This “body,” or “church” constitutes the new creation of which he is speaking, “the world to come of which we speak” (Heb. 2:5). We should keep in mind also that the Bible speaks of “heavens” and “earth” in this same context, referring to the entities of that new creation, i.e., rulers and populace.
With these thoughts in mind let us read the passage in question: “[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” How was Christ the “firstborn”? He was the firstborn to immortality, the first fruits from the dead (1 Cor. 15:23). Up to the present time He is the only one of our earthborn race who has received immortality (1 Tim. 6:16). This fact alone gives Him a preeminent position.
Col. 1:16 continues to describe His preeminence: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible”–remember that Paul is speaking of the new creation, composed of new heavens (new rulers), and a new earth (a new populace). This fact is reinforced by the remainder of the verse, where Paul goes on to explain that he is speaking not of the planet itself but of “thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers.” He is not speaking of mountains and oceans and stars but of the earthly authorities over which Christ will be the authority. “All things [of this ‘world to come’] were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” The Scofield Reference Bible observes the following point: that Christ is “before” all things in the sense of His position, not of origins. He was not “before” in time, but He is “before” in authority, in preeminence. Verse 18 confirms this point: “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.” Christ has preeminence, not pre-existence. Christ has the highest authority, He is the first and foremost among “the body, the church.” He is “the firstborn from the dead,” the first to receive immortality.
Many passages of Scripture support the thought of Christ’s preeminence in relation to the new creation, the new world, the Kingdom which He will establish on earth. This is the purpose for which He was born. By His own testimony, this was the purpose of His life. “Certainly, said Jesus, I am a king. This is why I was born, this is why I came into the world” (John 18:37, Moffatt).
Paul in his letter to the Philippians also pictures the total authority that Christ will have when He has been established as King of the whole earth: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). Here again we recognize the “heaven” as the ruling powers of earth, in contrast with the populace, termed earth. All will be subject to His authority.
The book of Ephesians also pictures Christ’s supreme authority: He will be “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. And He has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all” (Eph. 1:21-23). In this passage Paul shows clearly the region of Christ’s authority. He is “head over all things to the church, which is his body.” This passage shows also that Paul is speaking of “the world to come” (v. 21).
There is nothing in these passages to suggest that Christ existed before the creation of the literal stars or earth.