November 15, 2022

Why did our Savior come to earth?  Jesus said, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 NAS95) Jesus came to offer His life as a ransom.  This was the heart of His mission.  What does it mean?

A ransom is the price paid to emancipate a slave.  When this price was paid, a slave was said to be “redeemed.”  You and I were enslaved to sin.  As Jesus said, “…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34 NAS95) In order for us to be set free from this bondage, a price had to be paid.  Because God is holy and just, He cannot and will not simply ignore sin.  Sin must be punished.  For us to escape the punishment due and to be set free, Jesus Christ had to pay our ransom.

And Jesus paid an awful price to purchase our freedom. He paid with His own life.  God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, lovingly gave His life to redeem us from sin.  As Peter writes, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1:17-19 NAS95) Jesus, the precious, spotless lamb of God paid for our souls with His own blood.  He gave His life a ransom for many.

We were ransomed at unfathomable cost.  That Jesus, God in the flesh, would suffer and bleed and die for us is breathtaking.   What is your reaction to all of this? What does it stir up in you?  Thankfulness?  Yes.  Joy?  Certainly.  But according to the verse above, the ransom that was paid should stir up fear in us.  It should elicit great awe for God and for Christ.  That fear should cause us to stay away from sin, realizing the price paid.  It should cause us to carefully consider the words we say, the things we pursue, and the way we treat one another. 

Jesus paid it all!  And we owe our all to Him!  Let us thank God today for the precious blood of Jesus.   

—Scott Colvin

Firstborn of Creation

February 7, 2020

The English phrase, “the firstborn of all creation,” is difficult in Colossians 1:15. Our English word, firstborn, simply means “the first to be born, the eldest.” If one stopped with the phrase, it could mislead someone into thinking that Jesus is the first created thing. But the context won’t allow this meaning:

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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16–17 ESV)

Paul proclaims Christ as the agent in creation. All things were created by him. He himself can’t be created, so we must do some research on the word firstborn.

Among translations that attempt to be form equivalent there is a great deal of consistency: “the firstborn of all creation” (ESV, NASB, NRSV) and “the firstborn over all creation” (NKJV, NIV, NET, CSB). When we turn to translations that are functional equivalent, that is that are trying to evoke the same meaning as the original readers would have had, we see a glimmer of another meaning for firstborn: “Supreme over all creation” (NLT) and “He ranks higher than everything that has been made” (NCV). This gives us a clue that there is more going on.

One tool that is accessible to English Bible readers is the footnotes of the NET Bible. They are very helpful because they deal with translation issues. The footnote at Colossians 1:15 reads:

The Greek term πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos) could refer either to first in order of time, such as a first born child, or it could refer to one who is preeminent in rank.

Another example of this usage as noted by the NET footnote is Psalm 88:28 in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It reads:

And I will place him as firstborn
High above the kings of the earth. (Lexham English Septuagint)

This is case where “firstborn” (prōtotokos) only refers to supremacy of rank. It does not seem to be concerned about time. Time of birth is missing from this passage. That means the Greek word “firstborn” has a range of meaning which are English word does not have. This makes it difficult for the English reader to get the right meaning without some checking.

Why does Paul use “firstborn” (prōtotokos)? Colossians 1:15-20 is poetic. My Greek text even prints it as poetry. For a discussion of the poetic nature of the section, see the NET Bible footnote. “Firstborn” in 1:15 is balanced by “firstborn from the dead” in 1:18, which doesn’t present problems for us in English. Paul links together in this wonderful passage creator and savior.

— Russ Holden