Firstborn

Many people struggle with the Biblical description of Jesus being called “firstborn.” They claim that this is a scriptural proof that He is a created being. Further, those who deny that Jesus is God, state that because He is a created being, the “firstborn” of God—He cannot be God Himself.

In the New Testament, whenever the term firstborn is used, this English translation originated from the Greek word “Prototokos,” which is defined as; “First in importance or priority.”[1] As this Greek term is applied to Jesus, it means that He is the most important—or first in priority, first in order—above all other created things. He is the source of all that exists. In speaking of Jesus as the Savior of the world, this is also a reference to His resurrection as the first among all those who will rise from the dead, never to die again.

Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn (Prototokos, most important) among many brethren.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (Prototokos, first in priority) over all creation.

Colossians 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn (Prototokos, first in priority) from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Hebrews 1:6 But when He again brings the firstborn (Prototokos, first in order) into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

Notice in Hebrews 1:6, that God commands all creation to worship Jesus, the Son. Worship is only given to God, not to any angel or created being.

When the Messianic Psalm, 89:27, refers to the firstborn, this is a reference to His existence as God Himself, dwelling in the body of a man. The entire volume of scripture found in the Bible declares that Jesus is the eternal God, the Creator of the Universe.

John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

Colossians 1:16 For by Jesus all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

Hebrews 1:8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”

The importance of Jesus as the firstborn, is understood by the requirements of Psalms 89:27: The Messiah shall be called “Firstborn” and shall be the King over the whole earth.

Psalms 89:27 “Also I will make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.”

New Testament Fulfillment:

Luke 1:31-33 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Matthew 26:63-64 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Revelation 19:16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

The Rights of the Firstborn

God intended that the Messiah would come from the line of Judah. The obvious choice would have been Reuben, since he is the firstborn. Due to his sexual sin with his father’s wife, Reuben was disqualified.

In the Old Testament, the special privileges given to the firstborn could be forfeited by inappropriate action or carelessness. Esau counted his birthright as nothing when he sold it to his brother Jacob for a bowl of stew. He then lost all of the rights that he was entitled to, due to his callousness.

One of those rights was the double portion of his father’s inheritance while all of the other son’s received only a single portion (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). The firstborn also received the authority to rule over his younger brothers.

The sin of Reuben is described in Genesis 35:

Genesis 35:22-23 And it happened, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard about it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: the sons of Leah were Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn…

As Jacob is at the end of his life, he pronounces the fate of Reuben’s error: the loss of his rights as the firstborn.

Genesis 49:3-4 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, My might and the beginning of my strength, The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power. Unstable as water, you shall not excel, Because you went up to your father’s bed; Then you defiled it…”

There was a provision in the Old Testament for the rights of the firstborn to be transferred to a replacement who was not firstborn.

1 Chronicles 26:10 Also Hosah, of the children of Merari, had sons: Shimri the first (for though he was not the firstborn, his father made him the first)

Shimri was not the firstborn son, yet his father exercised his right to appoint him first. The primary purpose of a father choosing one son over another as first was so that this son would have the right to rule over all the other brothers. By Merari appointing his son Shimri as first, he established this principle in the Old Testament that a father may appoint a younger son as first over the remaining brothers.

When we arrive at the New Testament, we see that the rights of the firstborn carried with it, the idea of one who has pre-eminence. The right to rule over all others is not by order of birth but by the father’s choice. Because Jesus was obedient to the point of death in offering His life for our sins, He was appointed as the firstborn, or first in rank, first in importance, over all other creation—by His Father. For this reason, Jesus has the right to rule over all of His brothers.

Colossians 1:15 Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

The Greek word used here in Colossians 1:15 for first born is prototokos, which means first in rank or importance. This does not mean that Jesus is a created being as the firstborn of an earthly father. Jesus has been appointed by the Father as the first in rank and importance over all of creation, as the ruler and king over all. This right was given to Him as a result of His obedience in laying down His life for all mankind.

Born as the firstborn son of Mary and Joseph, conceived by the Holy Spirit; had Jesus not been the firstborn son, He would not be able to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament, and could not be the Messiah. The Catholic church has defended the position that Mary was a virgin, even after she married Joseph. They maintain that the other sons who are referred to in the New Testament, are Joseph’s by a previous marriage. This of course, is not true and is not supported by any other scriptures in the Bible. When Jesus came into Nazareth and began to teach at the synagogue, He opened the scroll of Isaiah and read the portion of scripture from the sixty-first chapter, which speaks of the Messiah. Jesus closed the book and told the gathered crowd that “today this scripture is fulfilled.”

The response of those who were in attendance, was shock and disbelief. This is the place where Jesus had grown up. They all knew who He was and who the member os His family were. Notice what Matthew wrote:

Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? Matthew 13:55

Jesus had four younger brothers. Of these, He is the firstborn; He is the first in rank and importance of all of creation. Everything that exists, owes its survival to Jesus. Without Him, there would be nothing, without Jesus, there would be no life, no salvation, no eternal life.


[1] Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, the Greek definition for “first born.” 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011