Is Christ a created being (Col. 1:15,18)?
The title “Christ”
The title “Christ” does not appear in the text given with the question, but it is part of the question. So, to avoid confusion let’s first clarify the use and significance of this title.
A possible confusion might arise because “Christ” means “Messiah” and the designation is associated with the One who is the hope of Israel and was manifested in the New Testament. The title can be translated “The Anointed One” and is appropriately given to Jesus who was born in Bethlehem (Lk. 1:30-35). This title was given to the one who was born yet who also is described as being “from days of eternity” (Mi. 5:2, NASB). So, in one sense the person who owns this title has a beginning in the flesh, but the person Himself is the Eternal. This, of course, is what drew out the condemnation of the Pharisees (Jn. 8:58,59; Jn 10:30,31; Mk. 14:61-64). All orthodox Christians recognize that the Eternal Word (Jn. 1:1) became flesh (Jn. 1:14) so that we could behold the glory of the Father in Him (Jn. 1:18; Jn. 14:9; Heb. 1:1-3; etc.). We must remember that the Son reveals the Father, but the nature of the incarnate Son of God remains (and I believe will forever remain) a profound mystery (Matt. 11:27; Ps 131:1).
The significance of the title “firstborn”
The passage in question reads:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
General observations regarding the use of the term
The word that gives rise to this question is “firstborn.” It is assumed this refers to actual birth order. This is, of course, its most natural use. Genesis 10:15 reads, “Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth.” The inheritance would go to the firstborn son. From this, we get the thought of preeminence.
But, we find many interesting exceptions. Israel was spoken of as the LORD’s firstborn son (Ex. 4:22), even though he was not first in birth order (Esau was older than Jacob). Ephraim was spoken of as the LORD’s firstborn (Jer. 31:9), even though he was Joseph’s second son (Manasseh was older). The family of Joseph was given the birthright (and by extension, to Ephraim as described in Genesis 48:18-19), even though Reuben was the genealogical firstborn (1 Chr. 5:1 explains why). Ephraim means “fruitfulness”, and is typological of Christ being fruitful in resurrection. (Jn. 12:24, 1 Cor. 15:20) David (and prophetically, David’s greater Son, Jesus) is spoken of as being appointed the LORD’s “firstborn” (Ps. 89:20, 27) even though David was the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons.
God’s ways are not our ways. God teaches throughout Scripture that the natural must give way to the spiritual (1 Cor. 15:46). The “first man Adam” must give way to the “Second Man from heaven.” (1 Cor. 15:47) So, all of these “firstborns” were reflections of Christ, who is the true “Firstborn” of creation and from the dead.
In relation to creation
The first line of the passage in Colossians tells us that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” If this One who is the very “image of the invisible God” has come into creation to manifest to us God Himself then He must himself be the Head of it.
The invisible God has become visible to us by faith. We have the full revelation of God in Him. He has come down into that which is His own creation so that He may reveal God to us. He has taken His place in His own creation. So, of necessity, He must be at the Head of it also. If He who is the Image of the Invisible God takes His place in creation, it must be as the Firstborn of it all, the Beginning, as He says Himself in the epistle to Laodicea, “the Beginning of the creation of God.” (Rev. 3:14)
The beginning of the creation of God
Because He has come into creation and is the Head of it, all creation is linked with Him for blessing. He has become Man. He has taken not only a human spirit, but a soul and a body. In His incomprehensible love, He has linked Himself, as one may say, with the very dust of the earth, that He might assure us that, of all which God has created, nothing is below His thought. He will lose none of it. He will bring it into that blessing which He purposed for it when He created it. For He who has come here is the One “by whom all things were created, things in heaven and things on earth, visible or invisible,” however high, however low you go, “thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers;” the highest are but His creatures, and have not only been created “by Him” but “for Him.”
This thought throws a wonderful light upon creation itself and upon its destiny! Christ is not only the One who is over creation and who will bring it all into blessing, but He, the One who has become the Man Christ Jesus, is the One for whom all creation exists. Christ is the great purpose of God in creation. He must manifest Himself; He must make His creatures know Him. He could not possibly leave them without the full display of all His heart. He wants to be near them. He wants to have them near Himself. Christ is the fullness of God’s heart thus told out. Since He is before all and is the One who holds all things together now, this purpose cannot fail to be accomplished.
Firstborn from the dead
The last phrase that needs comment is from verse 18: “He [Christ] is … the firstborn from the dead.” The passage itself explains that this is so that He would be “head of the body, the church.” So, we can connect this with the reference to the “Last Adam” who is said to be a “life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:46). So, in resurrection this Peerless One has become the Head of a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and the Head of the body (the Church, or Assembly). So, in every way and in every sphere He is the Preeminent One (Rev. 1:5) as He necessarily must be since He is “from eternity”(Mi 5:2), the Son of God (Jn. 3:16).