Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
The expression as it stands is somewhat ambiguous.
1. Does it imply that all creatures have been born, but that Jesus was born before them? Impossible. All human creatures have been born, all at least but the first; and even he was "the son of God" (Luke 3:38). We are all "God's offspring." But, except in poetry, we can scarcely speak of the birth of the earth, ocean, stars, etc. They have been created, not born; they are the creatures rather than the children of God.
2. Nor can the meaning be firstborn within the circle of all creation; for the higher nature of Jesus is not within that circle: it is far above it; before Abraham, and sun, moon, and stars, He was and is.
3. The apostle's idea is that Jesus is the hereditary Lord of the whole creation. The representation is based on the prerogative that is still attached in many lands to primogeniture. That prerogative is great. In virtue of it the first-born of the Queen is Prince of Wales; of the Emperor of Germany, Crown Prince; of the late Emperor Napoleon, Prince Imperial. In ancient times and among the apostle's people, in the days of their national grandeur, there was a corresponding privilege attached to the royal firstborn. And hence in the course of time the word came to be so employed that the ideas of birth and priority of birth got sometimes to be merged out of sight, while the ideas of special hereditary privilege, prerogative, and honour stood prominently forth. Hence God said to Pharaoh, "Israel is My son, My firstborn," because they were in distinction from other peoples the recipients of the advantages which were the natural prerequisites of primogeniture. Again in Jeremiah 31:9 the idea of priority in birth is entirely shaded off, for that priority could not be affirmed of Ephraim — the reference is to peculiarity of prerogative and honour. Take again Hebrews 12:22, 23. Here Christians are called the firstborn, and not Christians in heaven, for they are distinguished from the "spirits of just men made perfect," but Christians on earth. All such Christians, though scattered, and variously denominated, are "the one general assembly and Church of the firstborn." This shows that the term may be and is used without priority of birth, and in the sense of being God's very highly-favoured children. All the blessings of primogeniture are theirs because they are Christ's, the Firstborn. As He is the Crown Prince of the universe, the Prince Imperial and hereditary Lord of the whole creation, they are constituted joint heirs with Him of the "inheritance incorruptible," etc. Again, this interpretation is supported by Romans 8:29. "Firstborn among many brethren" is a notable expression. We cannot suppose that God desired to secure the Saviour a relation of chronological priority. Jesus was already before all. The idea is that it was the aim of God to remove from the peerless Son the condition of solitariness in the parental and heavenly home. This aim was accomplished by surrounding Him with a circle of multitudinous brethren, bearing the familiar family likeness, who might be sharers with Him in His inheritance of glory.
(J. Morison, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: