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If you were asked why you believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, how would you answer? Listen to this lesson to understand that when the Apostle John calls Christ the "Logos", he was emphasizing that Christ pre-existed eternally in personal fellowship with God the Father. See how Christ is the Creator of all things and then became flesh as the God-Man, fully human and fully God. Learn how Isaiah in the Old Testament saw all three Members of the Trinity hundreds of years before Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem.
Also includes Isaiah 7:14, 9:6; Micah 5:2; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:3
Promises of a Divine Messiah
Romans 9: 3-5, Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2, John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1:3
Open your Bibles to John, chapter 1. We've been studying in Romans 9:5 which says, "Whose are the fathers [patriarchs] and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." I would move the appositional phrase, "who is over all" after Christ. By putting it in its correct location, it clarifies the fact that this is one of the most profound statements in the New Testament on the deity of the Messiah. He doesn't say Jesus, which is His human name. Jesus is emphasized when we're talking about His role as Savior or about His humanity.
When christos is used, Christ, which is the Greek translation from the Hebrew Messiah, it should be understood that way. Paul's talking from his Jewish background and he is saying the Messiah was the eternally blessed God. He's making a profound claim that the Messiah was to be deity. We've been looking at these passages in the last couple of weeks. We've looked at Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:6. Now I want to go back to a couple of the passages I briefly touched on because they point out major themes on the Messiah passages in the Old Testament.
In Isaiah 8:21 and 22, talking about the judgment God was going to bring on Israel and Judah because of their disobedience to God, he expresses in verse 22, "Then they will look to the earth and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish, and they will be driven away into darkness." Darkness is a depiction of the harsh judgment of God and removal from the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and removal from that ongoing revelation that God provided via His presence in the temple.
In Isaiah 9:1 a promise is given, "But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish." This gloom and darkness was not permanent. It was temporary and would be replaced by seeing a "great light" in verse 2 and being restored to a position and blessing and recipients of the divine revelation and the divine presence. There's a contrast here in verse 1 between being in gloom and then God making the land glorious." Verse 2, "The people who walk in darkness [spiritual darkness at the time of the arrival of Jesus] have seen a great light." This verse is quoted in Matthew. "Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them." So this is a theme that we're going to pick up in the New Testament in these three passages that we talked about last time.
You can't fully comprehend everything going on in the New Testament unless you know the Old Testament. Not that you can't understand a certain amount. But when you get into John 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1 they're borrowing imagery, specifically imagery of light and darkness, and it comes right out of the Old Testament. You have to connect the dots. When we get into studying the Bible we remember the four basic principles: Observation: what does the text say? Interpretation: what does the text mean? Correlation: How does this fit with other passages of Scripture by comparing Scripture with Scripture or what some call the analogy of Scripture. Application: What does this mean to me?
What we see is that the context of John 1:1-5 which is where we'll begin tonight, is John 1:1-18. That's the prologue to the gospel of John. The context of John 1:1-18 is the gospel as a whole. The gospel of John is in the context of four gospels. It fits a particular picture of the Lord Jesus Christ which is somewhat distinct from that of the other three. The four gospels are in a broader context of the New Testament. The New Testament is in the context of the whole Bible.
The New Testament is a continuing revelation from the Old Testament after a period of approximately 400 years when there was no new revelation. And so, when talking about context we don't just talk about the narrow, immediate context but we broaden out until it relates to the whole Bible. Once we do that then things that are said in a particular verse or passage gains a certain greater level of significance because we're tying it to the whole of Scripture. God didn't just give us isolated verses. Now Proverbs is that way but the rest of the Bible is not. They're not just isolated verses or clauses or paragraphs. They fit within a structure of thought.
So we have this light and darkness idea depicted in Isaiah as well as the other prophets in the Old Testament. As I said last time there are three passages central to understanding the deity of Christ in the New Testament. John1:1-5 and 14, Colossians 1:15-17, and Hebrews 1:3. Now there are many other passages that emphasize the deity of Christ but if you can remember those three, then if you're talking to someone and they raise this question, then you can go to this passage. Write these down in your margins so you can go to them quite easily.
Now John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God and all things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." Notice, in light of the emphasis on the Creator-creature distinction in Paul's presentation of the gospel in Acts 17, John begins with creation... Most people will tell you that if you're going to have one book in the Bible that will clarify the gospel, it ought to be John. John says in John 20:31, "These things are written that you might believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name."
Well, look where John starts. He starts with creation. Creation isn't some ancillary, secondary doctrine of Scripture. I have heard people say sadly, "Why get into any discussion on creation when you're trying to witness to someone? It's a distraction." Maybe the Apostle Paul should have been told that. Maybe John should have been told that. Maybe the Holy Spirit should have been told that. Oh, wait. They're writing under the inspiration of Scripture.
Verse 3-5 continue, "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life and the life was the Light of the men. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not comprehend it." Where do you think John got the idea of light shining in darkness? He got it because he knew the Hebrew Old Testament. He's writing this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit but he's not inventing it. He's not just a mindless robot with a tube going through his mind and the Holy Spirit pours the words and they go through his mind without being by his own knowledge, his own frame of reference, his own personality, his own background. John is writing this.
It's just that the Holy Spirit is the hidden quality control agent that's going to make sure that what John writes is without errors. "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." Connect that back to what we read in Isaiah 8. So let's look at what he says here. This is one of the most profound passages in Scripture. It's sort of a truism in Greek studies, that the simplest Greek is the Greek of the Apostle John. It may be simple, basic vocabulary, it may be simple sentence structure, but it is some of the most profound, erudite reasoning and thought that's ever been put to paper. It may not be difficult to translate it but it is certainly something that is challenging to fully comprehend and understand, especially when you get into the epistles of John. He has such an economy of language. Every phrase, every word counts. It's simple but it's profound.
"In the beginning" is the first statement. This starts off with the Greek preposition en plus the word for beginning which is arche. What we see in John 1, this phrase right here, en arche. It has the preposition en but it has no article. That's important to understand but it's correctly translated as a definite noun "in the beginning" Now I'll show you why with this particular screen. I ran a search on the word arche which is a way to do a word study. I have a list of all 55 times that the noun arche is used in the New Testament.
In a grammar study what we're looking for is whether there's some significance to the fact that there's not an article there. Is it "in a beginning or "in the beginning"? Now there are some words like God that are inherently definite. There are also many other words in English that are definite and do not carry the definite article in English because we know English and we know that when that word is used, it's a definite noun. In British English, it's more common for them to talk about going to "hospital", "when I was in "village" the other day". They tend to leave out the definite article because it's understood that certain nouns are inherently definite and the article does not need to be there. This is the same for Greek. We see that arche is always translated definite even if an article is not there.
The best place to see this is Mark 1:1 which says, "In the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ…" Now we wouldn't translate that as "a beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ." That would not make sense at all. The word arche is inherently definite and should always be translated, unless the context demands otherwise, as "the beginning".
Another sort of idiosyncrasy related to Greek is that when you have an article and a noun, if you're going to put a preposition in front of that noun, it replaces the article. There are some exceptions to that. If you go through all of the uses of the word arche in the New Testament, there is no place where whenever you have arche used as "beginning" it never has an article. So it shouldn't be translated as "a beginning" at all. It should be translated "the beginning" just as it in the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1, re shyith. The article is replaced by the preposition. This is what is known also as a Semitism and John, being a native Israelite, understands exactly what he is doing when he says, en arche he means "in the beginning". It is a specific point in time. In fact, the Greek text makes it very clear in the dictionary, that the word arche is inherently definite but that it refers to a point in time before which nothing had occurred. It's talking about the beginning of time, the beginning of successive events, and the beginning of any kind of creation.
So we say, "At the point at which creation began". At the point when we went from nothing to something. At the point of ex nihilo which is a Latin phrase for "out of nothing". If you're taking an observation of this particular passage, just paying attention to what's there, you notice that three times we have the English word "was". It is a translation of the Greek word eimi which is an imperfect active indicative. Now you often hear me talk about these parts of speech. Sometimes it's not as significant in a passage as other times so I don't always make a point of it. But many times it is significant to understand each element in the parsing of a verb, especially. An imperfect tense is one of the forms of the past tense. The imperfect tense looks at past action as being continuous, continually going on. Sometimes it can be a short time frame; sometimes it's a long time frame; but it's not looking at it as just a snapshot. It's looking at it more like a movie. For those of you who are very young, it's like looking at an AVI file or a .mod file or a YouTube video. It's action in progress. Whereas the aorist tense is like looking at a snapshot. Now that snapshot is just summarizing something that happened without saying anything about the length or duration of the action. It's very important that this is an imperfect tense because it's talking about a point in time when time began and when that point in time occurred, the Word was continuously already in existence. Okay? So there was an existence before the beginning.
What existed continuously before that point in time of a beginning was something referred to here in the text as the logos. This term here can be and is translated a wide variety of ways depending on the context. We translate it "the word" because word has to do with revelation. Word has to do with communication of content. It has to do with that communication of God to man and this fits the context where we look down in John 1:18 where we read, "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father. He has explained [declared] Him."
The Greek word for declared in that verse is exegeomai. Sound familiar? Like exegesis? That's where we get our word to unpack something, like you unpack your suitcase after a trip. That's the idea of exegeomai. Jesus Christ has unpacked for us who the Father is. So that has to do with revelation. When you have a word here that can mean a number of different things, how do we know what's in the context? Well, you have to read and understand the context.
The idea that "word" as communication or revelation is important. Another idea in logos is reason. We use words like biology, zoology, the study of life. We have a word in Greek logizomai which we've studied a lot. logos is the root of it as a noun. As a verb it means to give an account for something. It's an accounting term, to add something up to reckon it, or in some cases, to make an imputation of something. logos can refer to word, matter, or a thing. It can refer to something that is spoken. So in this verse, John 1:1 we see that in the beginning something was already in existence before that point in time and the Word continuously was existing with God and the Word was continuously God.
We have this second preposition in the text pros which indicates a relationship, a close proximity. Sometimes that's been translated "face-to-face" but it's not just face-to-face like two stones statues standing nose-to-nose, chest-to-chest, eyeball-to-eyeball. It emphasizes a relationship. It emphasizes fellowship -a husband being with his wife, a father being with his children. It indicates that kind of relationship between persons. So it's emphasizing that the logos is a person and that God is a person. So that's one of the implications here with that particular preposition, "The word was with [in relationship or proximity or fellowship] with God and the Word was God."
Now this last phrase has brought up quite a bit of discussion in the sense of how in the world are we to understand this? In the Greek the word has the article as it does in the English, then you have the verb, then you have the word God without the article. At this point you have some people in history, called Arians, back in the early 4th century who didn't believe that Jesus was eternal. They believed there was a point in time in eternity past when the second person of the Trinity was created. Today they're known as Jehovah's Witnesses. If they ever knock on your door and they present their little New World translation to have you read from it. It will read, "And the Word was a god." The claim is that the Word just had deity but there is a Greek word that is perfectly good to use if you're just going to simply express that idea that the Word was divine. That would be the Green word theos. That's not the word that is used here.
So we have some really profound things going on in John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, the logos." This was a key term for both Greeks and Jews. In rabbinical thought by this time, the saying of God in the Old Testament amar is the Hebrew word for God said, they used a participial form of that which was memra. So memra would also be translated as logos. So if you were Jewish and you were reading this you would be thinking in terms of the memra of God but John isn't really writing this to a Jewish audience. It is known there are Jews around where John is writing. By the time he wrote the gospel of John, he was living in /Ephesus. He was far from the land of Israel. It's late in his life. There's debate even among conservatives over the timing of the writing of the gospel of John in relationship to the writing of Revelation. Some people think that Revelation was written last. Other people think the Gospel of John was written last. I'm not sure how to solve that or if we can solve that debate. We know, though, that this is late, after the fall of Jerusalem. The Apostle John is living as a pastor in Ephesus and so he is communicating to a Greek mind. Also, we know from our study in Acts, that there are a number of Jewish-background Christians who were present. So this is one of one of those words that is a double or triple entendre that has a loaded sense to it. For Jews it would remind them of the memra of God, the revelation of God, from the Old Testament.
To Greeks it would speak of communication. It had a rich history with them, the philosophical tradition. On Tuesday nights in our Acts study we've been looking at Paul's presentation to the philosophers at the Aeropagus. This is composed of two different groups: the Stoics and the Epicureans. The Stoics believed in logos. For them it was a rational first principle by which everything existed. When they heard the word logos they're thinking of it as something in the creation, not something distinct from creation. They violated that Creator/creature distinction. Stoics understood logos to be this principle of reason by which everything existed and which the essence of the rational, human soul is. So every human being participates in this logos.
On Tuesday night I started getting into this abstract doctrine a lot of people haven't heard before. If you listen to Charlie Clough's framework series, he talks about it and few others have talked about it but it's really not talked about much. We have to understand that it's that thing called the Chain of Being. Everything participates in logos, in reason, as the first principle according to Stoicism. Further down that chain you go where there's less and less sentient life the less it participates in logos. logos is like that divine spark in modern thought that everybody has in them. So this is where these kinds of ideas come from.
Philo was a Jew who lived at that same time and he talked about the logos of God but he had a totally different meaning for it. For him the logos of God is almost like the Biblical idea of the image of God but not really. He's using it to refer to the ideal man or the primal man. For him logos has no personhood or personality and can't become incarnate. So this word logos took on different senses with different philosophical systems.
John gives it a whole new sense the way he uses it in the gospel of John. It describes a person as we're going to see who is in close fellowship with God. He's with God and He was God. In verse 2 we read, "And He was in the beginning with God." So at that point in time when time begins, when creation begins, when we move from nothingness and the only thing that exists is God, the Word is present with God. Then in verse 3 we have a creation statement. Verses one and two clearly talk about a state prior to creation. Verse 3 talks about the act of creation. "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." Notice the emphasis on the word "being".
Tuesday night, what have we been talking about? We're talking about that Chain of Being, the chain of existence, the same word. Here what we see is Jesus and the Father are completely separate and distinct from being. Being is something they create. There is a wall between God and his creation, that Creator-creature distinction. This is a clear statement of deity because only God can create out of nothing.
Then the next two verses, "In Him was life and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it." Not only was He the source of all creation but He's the source of life and His life is what illuminates mankind. I want you to notice something else. Look at verse 6. Here we shift. We saw act one, scene one in verses 1-5, now we see act one, scene two, in verses 6-13.
We have a new character on the stage and this is a man named John. In English we read, "There came a man sent from God, whose name was John." In the English translation, the second word was is in italics in the New King James. The American Standard didn't italicize it but it's italicized because it's not in the original Greek. "There was a man…" See you have the word was and you have it all the way through verses 1 through 5. This was sort of reminds you of whatever the meaning of "is" is. Was here in verse 6 isn't the same was as you have in verses 1-5. That was the verb eimi in the imperfect tense. Now we have a different Greek word, ginomai. There are three words in Greek where you want to talk about something existing, something is. It's called the existential verb. Something comes into existence. So is means is. The past tense is was. ginomai is the word to come into existence.
And so the contrast is that in the beginning the Word always existed but in contrast to what always existed or continuously existed in the past, there was a man named John who came into existence. Throughout this chapter there's this contrast between the logos who continually exists, which means He's God, and the human, John the Baptist. This passage goes on to talk about the role of John the Baptist as a witness in verse 7 and he's there to bear witness of the Light. Notice that imagery for the purpose that all through him, John the Baptist, all might believe.
This is our first usage of 95 uses of belief in the gospel of John. Not believe and repent. Repent was his message but the issue was belief. Verse 8 says, He was not the Light but he came to testify about the Light." Then verse 9, "There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." What do you think we're talking about? Light, Light, Light. This light coming in from darkness. Verse 11 says, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as did receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God even to those who believe in His name who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
We believe God regenerates. We cannot regenerate ourselves. We can only believe but God is the One Who regenerates us. Now verses 14 and 18 really tie it together for us. "And the Word became flesh…" That's ginomai. The word eimi indicates continuously existing and that indicates His deity. But when it says the Word became flesh, that's the same word that was used of John in verse 6. "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Often when the word glory is used in the New Testament it has that idea of the radiance of God's essence, so often the word stands for the essence of God. So when it says we beheld His glory, it's not talking about the shekinah glory, the brilliant light. That was only seen one time during the incarnation, during the Mount of Transfiguration. That was only seen by John and James. It wasn't seen by everybody. So John isn't talking about that glory. He's talking about the essence of God as revealed through the Son. That's that light shining in darkness.
In verse 15 we shift back to John, "John testified about Him and cried out saying, "This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me." In verse 18 we read, "No one has seen God at any time, the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." So the Word becomes flesh, that's the incarnation. His pre-existence was the deity of Christ. He's not just human; He is divine. He is one, therefore, who can explain God because He is one with God. So John 1 emphasizes the deity of Christ first, and then it's joined with the humanity of Christ.
So to summarize it, number one, it teaches that Christ as the logos already was, continued existence in past time, in the beginning at that point of creation, emphasizing His pre-existence, His eternal pre-existence. Second, we saw that it states that He was with God, personal fellowship. It's a distinct person but they're having personal fellowship with one another, so God is personal, the logos is personal. It's not an impersonal principle of reason which is how the Greeks understood it. Third, the text says that He was God, meaning that He is fully divine, which means He's eternal. It doesn't mean He came into existence sometime in eternity past and He'll live forever but that He has always been and always will be.
Fourth, we learn from this that He's the ultimate revelation of God to man. Nothing can surpass Him. Fifth, He became flesh so that He is the God-Man. This fits with everything we saw in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6 and Micah 5:2, that the Messiah would be fully human and fully divine. Sixth, we see also in this passage that He is the Creator of all things; therefore He is God. In verse 18, He's called the only begotten Son. The word begotten is from monogenes which really means unique or one of a kind. It doesn't emphasize birth or being born. It emphasizes uniqueness. mono meaning one, genes meaning genus or species. That word genes is a category or a type. So it's a one of a kind, the unique Son of God.
A couple of other passages just so you relate to them. The first is John 8:58. This is when Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees and he's been talking about Abraham looking forward to seeing His day and they said to him, "Well Abraham has been in his grave. How can you talk about what Abraham wants?" He replied by saying, "Before Abraham was [there's that past tense again], I am [present tense]." So the present tense there is emphasizing His continuous existence. Abraham had a temporary existence in the past.
The second verse is in John 12. We're coming to the conclusion of the first main part of the gospel of John. The gospel of John was written why? To show the signs that Jesus gave of His messiah ship. In John 20:31 it says, "These were written…" What are the "these"? Well you have to go back to the verse before. This is when Thomas was doubting whether or not Jesus had been raised from the dead and he doesn't really believe it. He says he wants to put his hand on the nail prints in His hand and he wanted to feel the wound in His side and only then would he believe. Then suddenly Jesus appeared in the upper room there and Thomas fell down and said, "My Lord and my God." John then says that this was a sign of His resurrection. That's the eighth sign in the gospel of John. So in John 20:31 it says, "So these are written…" These refers back to the signs of the verse before. "These signs are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
Seven of those signs were performed between chapter one and chapter twelve. There's a clear break there before we get into the last sign, which is the resurrection, so John 13 begins with the upper room discourse, the night before He goes to the Cross, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. Now as John concludes this first section of the book he says that Jesus had done so many signs before. It wasn't just the eight signs. He did many, many other signs but these eight are the ones that John emphasizes but the great one is the resurrection. In John 12:37, John points out, "But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah, the prophet which he spoke: "Lord who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" For this reason they could not believe for Isaiah said again, "He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart…" Now that's not saying that God just reached down and turned their volition to negative. See, they've already gone negative. God is just allowing them and strengthening the choice they've already made. "…lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart and be converted so that I should heal them. These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory and spoke of Him."
Now when did Isaiah see the glory of Jesus? In Isaiah chapter 6, when he's before the Throne of God and he saw the glory of God. He saw the seraphim singing, "Holy, holy, holy" before the Lord. This was when he saw the glory of God and there is the fullness of God. All three members of the Trinity are there so these things Isaiah said when he saw His glory. So again, emphasizing the eternality, the glory, and the essence of Jesus as fully God.
So John1:1 is our first New Testament passage emphasizing the deity of Christ. The second passage is a relatively short one in Colossians, chapter 1, verses 15-18. Verse 15 is the key verse, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." The first thing Paul says about Christ in this passages that first He's the image of God, and then He created everything. Oh yeah, creation isn't important. That's just a distraction. It gets people all caught up in the wrong idea so let's just not worry about creation and evolution. Let's just concede ground here. Really?
I was really saddened recently because I read a book review on my recent trip on vacation. It was a book review written by the Institute of Biblical Research. It doesn't matter the name of the book or the authors but one of the authors was a man I'd almost done my pastoral internship under in 1979 but he decided to resign from his church here in Houston at that time. He went on to be the president of Columbia Bible College. Later he came back to that church for a while. I had first met him and gotten to know him when he spoke several times at Camp Peniel. He had written an excellent little pamphlet on creation. He was a "young earth" creationist. Now he's become an "old earth" creationist. He made a shift about fifteen years ago. About twenty years ago he also went sort of semi-charismatic. It just breaks my heart as I watch individual after individual begin to compromise with the thinking of the world. I've seen this with people in the pew. I've seen this with pastors in the pulpit and with theologians in the seminary and they just compromise the truth. I look back at the men who were the most instrumental in teaching me the truth of God's word when I was a young man, both before I went to college as a teen-ager and later, and there were some from a certain generation who held their ground but many younger ones who came up after them in that intervening generation started off right and have shifted over the years.
This is one of the reason we see the visible church today in the mess that's it in. These men have compromised their spiritual integrity with the thinking of the world. They no longer believe the things that I heard them teach me when I was a young man in my twenties. Creation is important! "For by 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 hold together." These are referring to different divisions of angels. Jesus Christ is the Creator. Again and again we hear this clear statement of his full deity. He is before all things. Through Him all things consist.
In verse 18, "He is also head of the body, the church, and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything." So we see these phrases, "He is the image of the invisible God." This is the word ikon. He is a representation of the invisible God. We're going to see this same idea in Hebrews 1:3. He is the flashing forth, the express image or radiance, effulgence of the essence of God. This is expressed in His glory. Notice 2 Corinthians 4:4 which says "In whose case [unbelievers] the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." See, this isn't just something that Paul throws in as a nice idea. It's foundational to everything he says about Christ and about the Christian life and about salvation. It's not secondary.
In John 17:5 Jesus prayed, "Now Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." This is the same glory that Jesus expresses to people in His ministry. "He is the image of the invisible God." God the Father is unseen. No one has seen Him at any time. John 1:18 said, "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father. He has explained [declared] Him." Then he's called the firstborn. This is a term that can mean first in time but it is also used many times to refer to somebody who is first in rank, the preeminent one. That's how it's used here to describe Jesus. He's not the first of those who were born but He is the preeminent One; He is the exalted One. He is the One who is set over everything else.
This comes again out of an Old Testament context. Psalm 89:26-27 uses this term firstborn in relationship to the Messiah. This is a meditation on the Davidic covenant. In this Psalm written by David as he's reflecting upon what God has done in giving this promise to him that one of his descendants would be eternally on his throne, he says in the words of God, the Father, "You will cry to Me, 'You are My Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation. I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth." So this is talking about His position, part of which is His ranking because of His exaltation at the Ascension that He is set over all humanity as the One who is elevated to the right hand of God the Father.
Then it is explained further in Colossians that He is the One by whom all things were created, and for Him. So He is the One who will be the ruler of all things. I'm going to stop here because we're about to run out of time, looking at verses 16 and 17 next time and then Hebrews 1:3 before we go back into our passage in Romans 9 and begin to deal with this. It just struck me as we're looking at Romans 9:5 that Paul is talking about the significance of the Jews and the Jewish people and God's continuous love for them even though they're in rebellion and right there at the beginning he makes a non-compromising affirmation on the full deity of the Messiah. He never backs down on these important principles and neither should we.