For in him were all things created - the things in heaven and the things upon earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or lordships , or rulers, or authorities. All things were created through him and unto him.
The Trinitarian Claim
Trinitarians claim that Paul is referring to the Genesis act of creation. Upon this premise, Trinitarians claim that Jesus must be God since either (1) God the Father created all things through him, or (2) Jesus is himself the Creator. Verse 17 is also interpreted upon this premise where Trinitarians claim that Jesus existed before anything was created.
The Claim vs. The Facts
The Scriptural facts show that Paul is not referring to the Genesis act of creation but to God creating all things anew in the Kingdom of the Risen Son.
The Problems with the Claim
1. That he might become Pre-eminent in all things (v.18)
The impossibility of the Trinitarian claim is demonstrated by the fact that Paul says "that he might become pre-eminent in all things." The Creator does not need to become pre-eminent over his own act of creation. If Paul was talking about the Genesis act of creation, this would be an absurd statement.
Some translations attempt to water this down by translating the Greek as, "that he might have first place in all things" or something similar. But the Greek verb here is not the verb "to have" but the verb "to be" and its syntax means "he might come to be" or "he might become."
the man Jesus became pre-eminent over all creation when God raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand giving him all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18) far above all rule, authority, power and dominion (Ephesians 1:20-21) subjecting all things to the risen Jesus (Hebrews 2:5-9) including angels, authorities, and powers, which is what Paul is talking about here in Colossians. He became superior to the angels having sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3-4).
2. The Contextual Facts vs. the Trinitarian Assumption
It is routine for Trinitarians (and Arians) to read Colossians 1:16 as if Paul is referring to the Genesis act of creation. And so Trinitarians interpret the text to say either that (1) Jesus was the Creator of the Genesis creation or (2) Jesus was the means by which God the Father created all things. However, the Scriptural facts show us that Paul is not referring to the Genesis act of creation. He is referring to the risen Jesus and talking about the new creation, the creation of authority structure in Christ's Kingdom, the reconciliation of the old creation which is what the new creation is.
It is impossible for Paul to be referring to the Genesis act of creation if he is referring to the risen Jesus. Even a cursory examination of the context shows that Paul has the risen Christ in mind throughout this passage, the risen Son who had died for our sins and who reigns in the Kingdom of the Father's Beloved Son (v. 13).
The Kingdom of the Risen Son (v.13)
God granted Jesus a Kingdom and he was crowned with glory and honor when God raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand. Christians are those who have been delivered from darkness to light, from the authority of darkness to the authority of light, delivered into the Kingdom of the Risen Son. Here it is obvious that Paul is referring to the risen Christ.
For He rescued us from the authority of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son
In whom we have redemption and forgiveness (v.14)
The Colossians believers had redemption and forgiveness of sins in Jesus who had died for their sins and rose again. Again, Paul is referring to the risen Christ
the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. Romans 4:25.
Christ IS v. 15
In verse 15, Paul refers to Christ in the present tense. This should lead us to understand he is referring to the risen Christ. The same thing occurs in v.18 where Paul says, "He IS the Head of the body, the church. He IS the beginning the firstborn out of the dead.
The verse begins "since in him all things were created." The term "in him" is typical Pauline language for a believer's position the risen Christ throughout Paul's writings. Paul is referring to the risen Christ "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (v.14). "In him all things (lit.) stand together" (v.17), that is, in the risen Christ all creation stands together because he was given all authority in heaven and on earth when God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand. All things are (lit.) "Headed up" in him.
He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in him to the administration of the fullness of the times, that is, the Heading up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.
Firstborn of all creation; Firstborn out of the dead
In the immediately following context at verse 18, Paul refers to Jesus as "the firstborn out of the dead." Since he referred to Christ as "the firstborn of all creation," we need to interpret "firstborn of all creation" to be a reference to Jesus as the firstborn out of the dead.
The passage shouts "the risen Christ" over and over and over.
3. The Creation of Authority Structure
It is important to recognize that Paul is talking about the creation of things never mentioned in the Genesis account. You won't find an account of creating thrones or rulers or authorities or dominions or powers in the Genesis account. Moreover, Paul is not talking about the creation of heaven and earth but the creation of things IN the heaven and UPON the earth.
Analysis of the Facts
1 "So that he might come to be first in all things"
This statement made by Paul at Colossians 1:18 would not make any sense whatsoever in the context of a Genesis act of creation. Jesus CAME TO BE first in all things. The Creator does not "come to be" first among His own creation. This statement only makes sense if Jesus was promoted TO BE first among all things. Within the context of this passage, it should be obvious to anyone that the risen Jesus came to be first in all things because he is the FIRST-born out of the dead.
He is the beginning and the firstborn out of the dead, so that he might come to be first in all things.
2. Ktizo (to create), Ktisis (creation)
Trinitarians see the words "created" and "creation" at Colossians 1:15-16 and assume that the Genesis act of creation is in view. However, this assumption is incorrect. The Greek words ktizo (to create), and ktisis (creation) were used by the ancient Greeks to refer to the founding of governing bodies or authority structures in the establishment of city states of kingdoms. Peter clearly used the word ktisis in this manner:
Submit yourselves for the Lordís sake to every human creation, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors... 1 Peter 2:13-14.
Peter is talking about authority structures as a human "creation." And authority structure is precisely what Paul is talking about in this passage. All things whether angels, rulers or authorities or thrones or powers or dominions, have been subjected to the risen son (1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:20-22; Hebrews 2:5-9; 1 Peter 3:22)
Furthermore, Paul uses these terms when he refers to our position in the risen Christ. He tells us that we no longer know Christ according to the flesh but if anyone is in him they are a new "creation." And at Ephesians 2:10, Paul explains how we are God's workmanship "created" in Christ Jesus. We know he is referring to us as firstfruits of the new creation in that verse (see James 1:18). This is the language of that which is reconciled to God which Paul has in mind at Colossians 1:20.
3. The Firstborn out of the Dead became Pre-eminent in all things
In verse 18, we are told that Jesus the firstborn out of the dead became pre-eminent in all things. This occurred when God raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand giving him all authority in heaven and upon the earth far above rule, authority, power, and dominion, subjecting all things to him in including the angels.
All authority in heaven and upon the earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18).
Then comes the end, when He hands over the Kingdom to the God and Father, when he has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until He has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under his feet. 1 Corinthians 15:24-27.
He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him as Head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:20-21
... through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, angels and authorities and powers having been subjected to him. 1 Peter 3:22
When he had made purification of sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:3-4.
He is the Head over all rule and authority... He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them in it. Colossians 2:10,14 (see 1:13; Eph 1:9-10).
[The Father] has delivered us from the authority of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son.... since in him were created all things in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through him and unto him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the Head of the body, the church and he is the beginning, the firstborn out of the dead, so that he himself become pre-eminent in all things. Colossians 1:13-18.
4. The New Creation is the Reconciliation of the Old Creation
When we see the word "create" or "creation" we cannot simply assume it refers to the Genesis creation account. God is creating anew through and in Christ. At Ephesians 2:10, Paul says that we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus. To be "in Christ" means we are new creations. We have died to the old creation and are born anew into the new creation of God. At 2 Corinthians 5:16-19, we learn how God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and if we are in the risen Christ we have been reconciled to God and we are new creations.
Carefully compare the following:
For in him were all things created - whether the things in heaven and the things upon earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or lordships , or rulers, or authorities. All things were created through him and unto him.
and through him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him- whether things on earth or things in heaven.
5. 2 Corinthians 5:14-19
The following passage clarifies Paul's thoughts at Colossians 1:16-20.
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died and he died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and rose again for the sake of them. Therefore from now on we do not know anyone according to the flesh although we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation the old has passed away behold, the new has come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:14-19.
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. What is reconciled to God is a new creation. And this is precisely what Paul is talking about at Colossians 1:16-20. God created all things IN heaven and ON the earth in Christ, that is, God reconciled the world to Himself in Christ. As he says in Colossians 1:20, all things, whether things ON the earth or things IN the heavens are reconciled to God in Christ. There is absolutely no doubt Paul is talking about God creating things anew in the risen Christ at Colossians 1:16.
6. The Risen Son: Firstborn out of the dead
The following illustrates how Colossians 1:12-20 should be understood:
For [the Father] has rescued us from the authority of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of [the Risen] Son of His love, in [the Risen Son] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [The Risen Son] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation since in [the Risen Son] all things were created, in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities ó all things have been created through [the Risen Son] and unto [the Risen Son]. [The Risen Son] before all things, and in [the Risen Son] all things stand together. [The Risen Son] is also head of the body, the church and [the Risen Son] is the beginning, the firstborn out of the dead, so that [the Risen Son] will come to have first place in everything. For it pleased all the fullness to dwell in [the Risen Son] and through [the Risen Son] to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of the cross through [the Risen Son], whether things on earth or things in heaven.
The Greek words for create and creation were used by the ancient Greeks to refer to the establishment of governing bodies in the founding of political city-states or kingdoms. Peter used the word in this manner and the Kingdom and its authority structures are what Paul is talking about at Colossians 1:14-16. Jesus became pre-eminent over all things when God raised him from the dead giving him all authority in heaven and earth and subjecting all things to him including angels, rulers, powers, and authorities, which again is what Paul is talking about in verse 16. In verse 20, we see that Paul has reconciliation of things in the heavens and earth in mind. Whatever is reconciled to God is a new creation this is precisely what Paul mentions in verse 16, things created in the heavens and earth.
When we honestly regard all the contextual facts concerning Colossians 1:15-16, it is beyond doubt that the Trinitarian interpretation of this passage is a serious blunder. The Genesis act of creation is not even on Paul's radar. Paul is referring to God reconciling all things to himself in the risen Christ and the "creation" in view is not the old Genesis creation but the new creation where everything is Headed up in Christ Jesus and the Kingdom of the Beloved Son who became pre-eminent over all things when God raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand subjecting all things to him including all angelic power and authority. For this reason, the risen Christ is before all things in both time and rank since he is the firstborn out of the dead and pre-eminent over all things. Paul's thoughts at Ephesians 1:9-10 and 1:20-21 are expressing a nearly identical concept.
I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a son of man was coming,
and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to him was given dominion, glory and a Kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away and His Kingdom is one which never be destroyed.... Then the Kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of all the Kingdom under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His Kingdom will be an everlasting Kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him. Daniel 7:13-14,27
Last Revision/Update: March 27, 2016