Does Colossians 1:15 teach that Jesus is not God?
The "Iglesia Ni Cristo" teaches that Jesus is not God. Sometimes they cite Colossians 1:15 to demonstrate that Jesus is not God. Is this an appropriate use of this verse?
Colossians 1:15 (ESV) - 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
When we look at the verse and its surrounding context, we see that the passage does not teach that Jesus is not God, but that he is God.
Jesus is the firstborn in that he rules over the earth.
The point of the INC's argument is that because it calls Jesus the "firstborn" of creation, they think that means he was created. Of course, if this is the correct understanding of the term "firstborn" and Jesus did not exist until the first century AD, he wasn't really the firstborn.
The correct understanding of the term "firstborn" is in recognizing Jesus as the one who is pre-eminent over creation. As the Son of God, he has the position of the firstborn, ruling over all and inheriting all things. This is not referring to him being created, but referring to him as being in charge.
The "firstborn" cannot be a plan.
The INC wrongly teaches that this verse means that Jesus was a planned. If the INC says that he was the first planned creation, then they deny God's omniscience since he would have to have taken time to plan things after he planned Jesus. If they say that this verse refers to Jesus being central in God's plan, they abandon their argument of the term "firstborn" referring to creation.
Additionally, the idea that this just speaks of Jesus as a plan makes the scripture meaningless.
If Jesus is truly the image of the invisible God, then he must be God.
No one is like God, so if Jesus is the image of the invisible God (the Father), then he must be God.
Isaiah 46:9 (ESV) - 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,
The INC would say that Jesus is the image of God in the sense that we were made in the image of God, and Jesus is holy like God. First, this ignores the fact that only God is truly holy (1 Samuel 2:2) and therefore this still makes Jesus God. Second, this does not say he is made in God's image, but that he is God's image. The reason why Paul points out that the Father is invisible is to show us that Jesus is his visible presence on earth. If he was merely saying that Jesus was holy, the word "invisible" would be extraneous.
The next verse says that Jesus is the creator.
Far from teaching that Jesus was created, the next verse clearly teaches that Jesus was the creator.
Colossians 1:16 (ESV) 16 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.
If he is the creator then he must be God.
The INC wrongly uses Colossians 1:15 to teach that Jesus is not God. This verse does not teach that he is not God. It teaches that he is God. It teaches that he created the universe and that he rules over it. The Father is invisible, but Jesus is his visible image.