Colossians 1

Colossians 1:16-18

Here I am going to respond to selections of Kel’s article.  The selections I have chosen are the ones I regard as embodying Kel’s main arguments; I have left out what I regard as repetitious or off the point.  If I have missed or misunderstood Kel’s arguments, anyone who reads this – including Kel – is welcome to bring that to my attention.

Argument:

Kel’s article begins this way:

“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.”

Response:

It is not a mere premise that “all things” include the Genesis act of creation, it is the normal meaning of the words “all things.”  Thus the burden of proof is on Kel to demonstrate otherwise, a proof that he is not able to give, as I will try to demonstrate as we read through his article.

Argument:

“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.”

Response:

My belief is that when Scripture refers to all creation, it says “all” creation, and when it refers to all new creation, it says all new creation.  Unless the context clearly demonstrates that only the new creation is being discussed, we cannot assume that this is the case.

Further, if you can find even one thing that the Bible says was created through Jesus that is not a part of the New Creation but instead is part of the Old Creation, Kel’s argument falls apart.  In fact there is such a thing, though it isn’t found in Colossians 1.  In John 1:10-13:

“He [Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.  He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

The New Creation includes only those who are born again, who received Jesus.  Those who do not receive him, and the world that did not know him, are a part of the Old Creation.  Yet that world that did not receive him was made through him.  Here we have a clear example of something that is a part of the Old Creation that was created through the Son.  Remember this as we look at the remainder of Kel’s argumentation.

Argument:

“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.”

Response:

Christ has both a human nature and a divine nature; he is both man and God.  As God he was already pre-eminent in all things; as man he became pre-eminent in all things.  We know Jesus is both man (1 Tim. 2:5) and God (John 1:1-3).  In the argument above, Kel assumes Jesus is just a man.

Argument:

“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.”

Response:

Here Kel simply repeats the assertion that “the facts” show that Paul is not referring to the Genesis creation, but so far he has not presented any.

Argument:

“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).”

Response:

Simply because the risen Jesus is referred to alongside the statement that Jesus created “all things” does not prove that Paul is referring only to things created through the risen Jesus.  As we saw in our examination of other passages such as Matthew 26:53, Jesus already had his exalted status before the resurrection.

Argument:

“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 . . . . 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.”

Response:

All this is true but irrelevant to Kel’s main point because he has not demonstrated that Paul is talking only about the risen Jesus and the new creation in him.

Argument:

“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.”

Response:

The fact that Paul refers to Christ in the present tense in verses 15 and 18 does not prove that when he says that in Christ “all things WERE created” in verse 16 and that Christ is “BEFORE all things” in verse 17, he cannot be talking about an earlier time.  It is very common to speak both of things in the present and in the past in the same paragraph and even in the same sentence.

Argument:

“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.”

Response:

Why?  How do we know that Paul is not making two related points rather than simply repeating the same point in different words?

Argument:

“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.”

Response:

Actually this is not correct.  In the Genesis account we find the creation of the stars, which must include angels (see Job 38:7), and angels are rulers and authorities.  We also find the creation of man, who was given dominion over the earth.

Argument:

“Moreover, Paul is not talking about the creation of heaven and earth but the creation of things IN the heaven and UPON the earth.”

Response:

The passage states, “For in Him all things were created, both 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 for Him.”  His examples of things created (thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities) are sandwiched between the words “all things.”  In normal speech, “all things” would mean more than only the examples listed.

If a librarian called the police and said, “Someone broke in to the library and there’s graffiti on everything – on the books, the computers, the chairs – everything’s been spray painted,” the normal conclusion would be that there was probably spray paint on other things than just the examples the librarian mentioned.  It would not be safe to conclude that just because all the things the librarian mentioned were in the library, the library itself (the walls, ceilings, etc.) is excluded from the things the vandals painted.

If that isn’t enough proof, John 1:3 informs us that all things were made through him (without any limitation to things in heaven or upon the earth) and Hebrews 1:10 specifies that he made the heavens and the earth.  Of course, Kel denies both of these assertions; to see my refutation of Kel’s arguments, see the articles on those passages.

The logical conclusion is that Paul intended us to understand that heaven and earth were created through Christ, since if they weren’t it would not be true that Christ created all things.

Argument:

“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.”

Response:

Here Kel feels it necessary to emphasize his earlier point.  MY response is the same: as God Jesus was already pre-eminent in all things; as man he became pre-eminent in all things.  For more proof of Jesus’ divinity see my responses to Kel’s article on John 1, 8:58, 20:28; Hebrews 1:1-10 and others.

Argument:

“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 Lord’s 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)”

Response:

I feel that in this argument Kel is twisting the arm of the word creation in order to make it fit his theology.  My friend the seminary professor friend commented on this:

“He argues on a particular meaning of the word “creation” (ktisis) here means primarily governing bodies and earthly political authorities, and not the more general use of the created order, or creation, as such. While ktisis can be used in this more limited sense, it hardly fits the context here. A very common technique for supporting heretical views is to take a narrower, alternative meaning of a term and insist that it must apply in particular verses. But context is always the best way to decide which understanding of a word is most appropriate. He appeals to this narrower meaning in 1 Peter, where he mentions “human creation.” But it is clear that the word here is qualified by the word “human.” In Colossians, Paul is clearly talking about Christ’s supremacy, so the broader understanding applies. I don’t know of a single, reputable commentator on the New Testament who would narrow ktisis the way this fellow does, so the burden of proof is on him, and I think he fails spectacularly here.

Moreover, as a Jew, Paul is likely thinking back to Ps. 33:6, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made . . .”

Argument:

“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.”

Response:

Let me repeat the general rule: if the Bible is referring to the new creation, it says new creation or something equivalent.

Argument:

“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.”

Response:

To me these passages simply indicate that Christ created all things in the first place, and then later reconciled all things to himself on the cross.  I see no reason to conclude otherwise.

Argument:

Next, Kel quotes 2 Corinthians 5:14-19 this way:

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.

He insists that this passage “clarifies Paul’s thoughts at Colossians 1:16-20.”  Then he comments,

“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.”

Response:

Kel is wrong because the only world that needs reconciling to God is the old creation!  The new creation is not what is reconciled to God; the new creation is that which comes into existence after the old creation has been reconciled to God.  The new creation is by definition that which no longer needs reconciliation.  Nothing in the new creation trespasses against God’s will; it is the old creation that has trespasses which Christ does not count against them.

“if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” – 2 Cor 5:17

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

The old creation has sins; the new creation has been cleansed from all unrighteousness.  That which remains when the old creation has passed away (your ‘self’ if you are saved) has been made new and needs no reconciliation.  If 2 Corinthians 5:14-19 clarifies Pauls thoughts in Colossians 1:16-20, that means that Paul must have been thinking of the old creation in Colossians because it had to be reconciled to God.

Argument:

“There is absolutely no doubt Paul is talking about God creating things anew in the risen Christ at Colossians 1:16.”

Response:

If Colossians 1:16 meant that all things were created new in Christ, it would not have said “in him all things were created” but “in him all things were created new.”

Argument:

“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 — 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.”

Response:

Notice how Kel must insert words into the actual text of Scripture in order to make his argument plausible.  The Trinitarian is content to leave this passage exactly as it is written.  For someone who is constantly accusing others of “eisegesis,” or reading their own presuppositions into the text, it is amazing that he feels no embarrassment in doing what he has done to Colossian 1:12-20.

Conclusion

Colossians chapter 1 fairly clearly shows that Christ is the one through whom all things were created, and Kel has presented no evidence to the contrary.  All he has to offer is the demand that we assume in advance that when the text refers to all created things, it actually means all new created things and not all things.

The only basis he presents for this assumption is that the new creation is also spoken of in Colossians.  However, the very fact that Paul found it necessary to explain that certain of the creations are new implies that the phrase “all creation” must include that which is not new.  This view is reinforced by the fact that John 1:10-13 shows that the world which did not receive Jesus (that is, the Old Creation) was also made by Jesus, not just the world that did receive Jesus.