First-born – πρωτότοκον – implies that others are to follow. The significance of “firstborn” has its roots in the Old Testament. Being the firstborn son carried prestige, honor, privilege, blessing, authority, preeminence, and double portion inheritance. Being the firstborn was also a matter of consecration to God, Exodus 13:3,11-16.
“First-born” defines the first of anything that is born of the flock, the heard, or of men. Jesus became the first, the προς τον τυπον – the one for the pattern. He is the prototype of a new society of those who by faith, become sons of God, Romans 8:29. These sons of God are those of whom John says in John 1:12-13, “are born not of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of the will of God.” Jesus became the forerunner, the older brother, the firstborn among the sons of God through his resurrection, “You are my Son; Today I have begotten you.”
In the New Testament, Jesus is called “firstborn” eight times. As first-born:
a. He was appointed him “heir of all things.” Hebrews 1:6
b. He was the first-born of Mary, Luke 2:7, Matthew 1:25. We know Mary had other children whose names are recorded in Matthew 13:55-56, but Jesus was her firstborn. He was the first in the order of others who followed.
c. He is called the firstborn among many brethren, Romans 8:29. He is the prototype – the first, into whose image all Christians are to conform.
d. He is called the firstborn in Hebrews 12:23 to whom the church belongs.
e. He is called the firstborn of every creature, Colossians 1:15-17. He is not firstborn because he was created first. He is first-born because:
All things were created by him. He is the active cause of all things that exist and the one to whom all things belong.
He is before all things – this confirms divine preeminence.
He holds all things together. This illustrates divine power.
d. He is called firstborn from among the dead, Colossians 1:18.
This does not mean that he was the first one ever resurrected from the dead. It does not even mean that he is the first one resurrected from the dead never to die again. What it means is that he holds preeminent status because:
He is the head of the body.
He is the arxa – the beginning, as in the active cause, the one through whose power all things had their beginning.
AND, because He is the first one of a new society of people who are called sons of God.