In our final episode of the Firstborn series, we look at the New Testament’s description of Jesus as the firstborn of creation. Join Tim and Jon as they explore some of Paul’s letters, the book of Hebrews, and the Revelation, and discover how Jesus reveals who God is––and what it means to be truly human, too.
Even though he's like a new Adam, Jesus is actually the first real human. If what it means to be human is to be one with the love of the Divine Father, then there actually weren’t ever any humans before Jesus . That's putting it kind of facetiously and provocatively. But because Jesus is the image of God and the true image of humans as well, means that Jesus is the second Adam who is actually the first Adam. He's the first truly human one to be united to the divine love.
In part one (00:00-14:29), Tim and Jon kick off our last episode in this series with a summary of where we’ve been so far.
God created the world and shared his power––first, with spiritual beings and, second, with humans who he made to bear his own image. Bearing God’s image is a big deal and a choice that creates a rivalry between humans and rebellious spiritual beings who envy the way God dignifies humans (who were created after them and in far less glamorous fashion). To address the rivalry and rebellion wreaking havoc on creation, God promises to send a seed, a chosen heir from Adam and Eve’s lineage, that would crush the Genesis 3 serpent. Over time, God continually narrows down which family this chosen one will come from, eventually honing in on the line of David from the family of Israel. Along the way, God chooses unlikely people to be leaders, deliberately not picking the firstborns (or ones who “ought” to be chosen).
The ultimate chosen one is Jesus, God’s Son, who is both the firstborn of creation and one who deliberately gives up his rights as a firstborn to take a lower rank and wait for God to exalt him at the right time. Jesus both models the way for a child of God to trust God’s generosity, and he is the way that other humans can trust God.
In part two (14:29-25:26), Tim and Jon discuss what it means when the New Testament authors call Jesus God’s firstborn son, starting with 1 Corinthians 8.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes to the church in Corinth, which is composed of people who are struggling to navigate what it means to live as Christians in the midst of the polytheistic culture in which they used to participate so differently.
1 Corinthians 8:6
Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
It’s not entirely clear in our English translations, but these lines are a mini poem Paul has composed to describe the relationship between Father and Son––they are distinct, yet one, and their relationship is central to their identity. Paul writes another poem on the Father-Son relationship (which many scholars think is an early Christian hymn) in Colossians 1.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created … He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him.
It’s significant that Paul doesn’t use the language of Genesis 1 here––Jesus is not in the image of God, he is the image of God. In other words, when Paul reads Genesis 1, he sees the pre-incarnate Jesus as being the image in which humans are made. Since Paul in the same breath calls Jesus the “firstborn of creation” and the Creator of all things, he definitely doesn’t have in view that Jesus is some kind of creature or created being. Rather, “firstborn” in this case refers to a status or identity: Jesus is the only Son of the Father and, simultaneously, one with the Father. (This is part of the mysterious doctrine called the Trinity: that God is one in essence and three in Persons.)
In part three (25:26-48:43), Tim and Jon explore the relationship between Jesus and the church. In his poem in Colossians 1:15-20, Paul says that Jesus’ position as firstborn of creation also involves being the head of the community of believers called the church or his body.
Jesus is the head of a new human family that is transcending what is wrong with the world––death, sin, and the rebellious nature of both humanity and spiritual beings. Just as Jesus has the status of firstborn of creation, being “firstborn from the dead” means he sits as head of a new family over whom death has no power.
As disciples of Jesus, because we have been adopted into the family of the Son, we can use the same language as Jesus and call God our own Father, confident we are beloved children.
In part four (48:43-1:08:38), the guys discuss what Jesus reveals, not only about the nature of God, but about the nature of humanity.
In Romans 8:29, Paul calls Jesus the “firstborn among many brethren” (referring to humans who get adopted into the family of God). Does this make Jesus the first real human? In a manner of speaking, yes. Adam and Eve––and all humans after them––never got to experience the fullness of what it means to be human because their choices prevented them from experiencing the union with God for which they were created. Jesus was the first human to respond with perfect trust to the love of the Father.
Humans were always meant to be united to the love of God, and now through the sacrifice of Jesus we can be truly united to God. That means we can truly bear God’s image––and truly be human––in a way we couldn’t without redemption through Jesus.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz with Associate Producer Lindsey Ponder, Lead Editor Dan Gummel, and Editors Tyler Bailey and Frank Garza. Mixed by Tyler Bailey. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by Hannah Woo.
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