Summary: Christ is the originating source of the spiritual life of the Church—in respect to the state of grace, He is the beginning; in respect to the state of glory, He is the first-born from the dead. He gives to the Church its being, form, history, and glory.
Title: Lesson IIB2: THE BEGINNING, THE FIRST-BORN FROM THE DEAD
• “Special Notes” and “Scripture” follow related verses.
• NIV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.
Colossians 1:18b (NIV)
(Text) 1:18b: “he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead”
Christ is the originating source of the spiritual life of the Church—in respect to the state of grace, He is the beginning; in respect to the state of glory, He is the first-born from the dead. He gives to the Church its being, form, history, and glory; if the Church was not in and through Him, the Church could have no existence.
(1:18b) “he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead”
In the first part of the verse, Paul said, when speaking of Jesus Christ, “And he is the head of the body, the church”; and here he adds, “he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead.”
We might paraphrase his meaning thus: “Christ is the source of the Churches life, since He rose first from the dead so that others might rise through Him.” Paul makes two points with this clause;
1) He is the beginning of the Church. The Greek word for beginning is “arche,” which means beginning in a double sense. It means not only first in the sense of time, as, for instance, A is the beginning of the alphabet and 1 is the beginning of the series of numbers. It means first in the sense of the source from which something came, the moving power which set something in operation. We will see more clearly what Paul is getting at, if we remember what he has just said. The world is the creation of Christ; and the Church is the new creation of Christ. Christ is the source of the Churches life and being and the director of her continued activity.
Christ stands alone in solitary grandeur and glory as the singular source of all blessings and honor described in the preceding verses and throughout the New Testament. “He is the head of the body, the Church.” He is the one source of the existence of the Church and its blessings. He is “the first begotten from the dead,” and He is the reconciler of men to Jehovah God by the blood of His cross. Before Christ there was nothing. Because of Him, all things exist and will continue to exist. Without Him salvation could never have been. Therefore, since He ransomed the Church, don’t you think He has the right to rule as its Head?
He is the author of the moral creation—“The beginning.” Christ has been described previously as the Father of the old material creation. Here He is announced as the beginning of the new spiritual creation. The moral creation supplies the basis and essential elements of the Church. In the production, progress, and the final triumph of the new creation, He will put right all the wreck and ruin caused by the wrong-doing of the old creation. Of this new moral creation Christ is the source, the principle, the beginning; the fountain of life, purity, goodness, and joy to the souls of men.
2) He is the first born from among the dead. Here Paul comes back to the event which was at the center of all the thinking and believing and experience of the Early Church—the Resurrection. Christ is not merely someone who lived and died and of whom we read and learn. He is someone who, because of his Resurrection, is alive for evermore and whom we meet and experience, not a dead hero nor a past founder, but a living presence.
a. Christ is the Firstborn from the Dead—
1. In the dignity of His person.
2. Because He rose by His own power.
3. Because He is the only one who rose never to die again.
4. Because He has taken control of His people who all shall rise from their graves to glory.
If the wages of sin is death; when we sin, it brings forth death. All have sinned; therefore, in Adam all die. If Jesus (the second Adam) became “the first begotten from the dead”—not that He simply died and rose again, but that He became the Conqueror of death, hell and the grave.
Because of Him, the dead in Christ will rise again. He destroyed “him that hath the power of death” (Hebrews 2:9, 14, 15), made an end of sin,” and “abolished death.”
He is the Father of the moral creation as the Conqueror of Death.—“The first-born from the dead.” Sin introduced death into the old creation, and the insatiable monster still revels and riots amid the corruptions he perpetually generates. The Son of God, in a fulfillment of the divine plan of redemption, became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He descended into Hades, and placed Himself among the dead. On the third day He rose again, “the first fruits of them that slept.” He was “the first-born from the dead”; the first who had risen by His own power; the first who had risen to die no more. By dying He conquered death for Himself and His followers. He can therefore give life to all that make up that Church of which He is fittingly the Head, to assure them of the Resurrection from the dead, of which His own was a pattern and pledge, and of transcendent and unfading glory with Himself in the endless future.
[There is a third part to Paul’s announcement, which will be our next lesson.]