The highest, most exalted position in a family is that of the firstborn. This was especially true in ancient times, when the firstborn son of a king was the heir to the position held by his father. He was the one who would inherit the rights and privileges of his father. The firstborn had priority over all his brothers. He was a part of the family, and he was one of the brothers, but his place was first among all those with whom he shared the family name.
This is the sense in which we learn of Christ that
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. -Colossians 1:15-16, ESV
What does this tell us about Christ?
Christ is the highest and most exalted because He is the image of the invisible God.
That is, as the Son, He is like His Father. He is the likeness of His Father in every respect. Only He can make that claim. As Jesus said of Himself, “I and the Father are one.” (in John 10:30) To know Jesus is to know His Father, as He said, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (in John 14:7, ESV). To see Jesus is to see His Father, as He said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (in John 14:9, ESV). Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Him (see John 14:11).
Christ is the highest and most exalted because He is the firstborn of all creation.
This does not mean that Christ is a created being, but rather that He is the rightful owner of Creation. One might have called the son of a king “the firstborn of the land” but that would not mean that the king’s son sprang up out of the ground! Rather, to call the king’s son “the firstborn of the land” would have been acknowledging that the son of the king had the right and authority to rule and possess the whole land in which he lived. Similarly, to say that Christ is the “firstborn of creation” does not mean that He was created or came out of the creation. Rather, to call Him “the firstborn of all creation” is to say that He is the rightful possessor and ruler of the Creation into which He came to dwell in the flesh. As the firstborn Son over all Creation, Jesus Christ has the ownership of and authority over all of Creation. Jesus declared ( in John 3:35), “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” He also made His right to rule and possess all creation clear when He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” (in Matthew 28:18).
Christ is the highest and most exalted because everything was made by and through Him.
Before taking on flesh and entering His creation, Christ, as the eternal Son of God, was active with His Father in the process of Creation. John 1:3 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (ESV) Nothing is left out. Everything created that you can see– stars, planets, asteroids, oceans, whales, elephants, puppies, mosquitos, amoebas –could rightfully be stamped “Made by Him.” All the created things that you can’t see– black holes, angels, gravity, strong and weak nuclear forces, atoms, muons, the vacuum of space — were made by Him, too. What is more, all the thrones, dominions, and rulers were made by Him; all the spiritual, political, economic, and social powers in the world are His creation. Since He is the maker of everything, it is all under Him and exists due to His power and His control.
Christ is the highest and most exalted because everything was made for Him.
The universe and everything in it was made so that Christ could possess it. It was made as a kingdom for Him to rule. All of history is leading up to the climax of His possession of His kingdom. As Revelation 11:15 says, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
But, of course there is something else that makes Christ the highest and most exalted.
This exalted Christ– the perfect likeness of God, the heir of all creation, the one by whom, through whom and for whom all creation was made– set aside His exalted firstborn status. He came into His creation for the sake of those whom He created. What is more remarkable, He came into His Creation to save the very ones who rebelled against His rule and authority over Creation. He lowered Himself to the status of one of His creatures, and then lowered Himself further by dying as one of them. This was all so that those who turn from their rebellion against Him and trust in Him to save them would be saved from His wrath by His work.
If you have not turned from your rebellion against God and trusted in the exalted firstborn, what He has done should show you how serious it is to remain in rebellion. His call is to repent and believe in what He has done, because “…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (see Acts 4:12)
If you have turned to Christ and trusted in the sacrifice of the exalted firstborn of Creation, then meditate upon Who He is, and marvel at what He has done for you.
Exalt the Firstborn of Creation.