Does Colossians 1:18 teach that Jesus is not God?
The "Iglesia Ni Cristo" teaches that Jesus is not God and there are several verses they use an an attempt to demonstrate this. Does Colossians 1:18 teach that Jesus is not God?
Colossians 1:18 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.
When we look at the verse and its surrounding context, we see that it does not teach that Jesus is not God. In fact, it teaches that he is God.
The word "firstborn" does not refer to Jesus' birth.
This is not the typical INC argument, but sometimes this verse is misused to speak of Jesus' birth. If it were to merely point out that Jesus was born, it would not refute anything since Trinitarians agree that Jesus had a physical birth. Furthermore, if it is referring to Christ's physical birth, how could he be the first born when his birth came after many others?
The word "firstborn" does not mean Jesus was the first planned creature.
INC members who, on the basis of this verse, assert that Jesus was the first planned creature, have not made any real effort to understand this passage. Where does it say that he was planned? Furthermore, The idea of Jesus being a plan falls under its own weight.
The word "firstborn" refers to Christ's preeminence and his resurrection.
When it says that he is the "firstborn of the dead", the INC does not seem to know how to treat the word "dead". Obviously, this is speaking of the resurrection. Therefore, Jesus is the first fruit of those to be permanently resurrected.
However, while this phrase tells us of his role in the resurrection, the word "firstborn" does not refer to his rising up from the dead (ie. it does not mean that he was "born first" from the dead). It means that he is preeminent among all creation, including the new creation that comes from the resurrection. He is the firstborn in that he has the position of the firstborn, the Son who rules over his Father's domain and inherits all things.
Jesus is God.
The phrases in this verse repeat what was said in verse 15, verse 16, and verse 17. Jesus is the beginning, meaning that he pre-existed. Jesus is preeminent, necessarily implying that he is the creator. These things could not be true if he were not God.
The INC misuses Colossians 1:18 due to their confusion with the word "firstborn". This verse teaches (as does the rest of the chapter) that Jesus is the creator who pre-existed all things.
INC members should repent of their unbelief and submit their thinking to scripture. The true gospel is found in a Jesus who is powerful enough to save; a Jesus who is God.