J. N. Darby.
On the whole I should judge that pro panton is not merely before all things in point of time, nor the head of them when taken up in power. Christ is prototokos pases ktiseos, He has this headship in place, because He has created them all. He must therefore have existed before them; and to say merely that He was before creatures as they are does not say a great deal. I apprehend that it is His natural superiority, not taken place, to all things, as having a being independent of? superior and prior to, them all; more than prototokos, which is a consequence of His being their Creator, more than priority in time; but distinctness of being superior to all in nature, independent of any place He took, and existing without them, hence in a nature which was superior to them all, referred to them all, but naturally as wholly above them; a divine place, because it was of nature in Himself, not given but estin, what He is, not egeneto. Autos estin pro p. And what follows confirms this; for all things subsist and consist as a whole, and the parts have each their sustaining and ordering energy in Him. He was first alone, independent of them, and then, when they existed, is the constant sustainer of them in the co-ordination in which they subsist, as of their subsistence itself. Still He is viewed as the Christ, but it is what the Christ is. We have no en in Hebrews 1, but elalesen en. All the rest is mediatorial in character, though the Mediator is fully recognised as being God — indeed it is the object of the chapter, but it is the Christ who is recognised as being so.
So in Colossians 1 you have His place, only founded on what He is, and His creative and sustaining power, the creation having been en auto, the pro panton as said not being the place He takes in virtue of creation in the resulting order of God, but what He is in His personal place and glory, always in respect of the panton naturally, in divine place, power, and priority.
As to the church estin arche prototokos ek ton nekron inagenetai en p. autos pr. It is only by resurrection; and here we have result, what He becomes genetai. And then we get the resulting effect, and how far it is fulfilled.
Thus we have of the Christ what He did, verse 16; what He is, verse 17 and half 18; then what He becomes, or will be. Verse 15 is His general place and title as manifested, but fully accomplished at the end; His relationship in His place toward God and toward the creature, His mediatorial glory according to counsels. Verse 19 is part of the egeneto, though here only the eidokia as to it. The fact is in chapter 2:9, only it is not here His personality as one. Then in verse 20 et seqq. comes the effect.
188 John is simpler, speaking but of His Person. He was God, and all was created by Him. The rest is egeneto, as particularly verse 14. Colossians is more complicated, because, while saying what involves it, it does not state His divinity, but gives the place rather than the nature, though that place be naturally, or rather supernaturally, above or before all and the Creator's, while John and Hebrews state that He is God.
En has the force of what characterises by the power which operates in that governed by it, dia used in similar connection is of course instrumental. Thus en auto ektisthe ta panta. This past act of creation was wrought in the power which was personally in Him. For this reason He is prototokos when He personally takes His place in creation. So continuously all things consist en auto. It is the same power which continuously holds all together in the unity of the kosmos. When He speaks of the instrumental action by which all have been and are created, it is dia and eis auton. In verse 19 en has the ordinary sense of "in," or place, pan to pleroma being the nominative (compare chap. 2:9), and this will reconcile di aulou: so verse 22, en to somati, and dia tou thanatou. So en in a lesser case, verse 29, en dunamei, and chapter 2:2, en agape: cf. 2:23; as often en sarki, en pneumati, ye are en pn; Rom. 8.
Thus the creation of all things was characterised and wrought by the inherent power which was in the Lord Jesus Christ, and all things subsist together as one ordered and law-governed whole by the same constant and inherent power. When the pleroma is spoken of, then His Person is distinguished as the One by whom and for whom, He being to take it personally as the prototokos. All the fulness was pleased to dwell in Him, and by Him to reconcile: prototokos is what He is in creation, the reason oti en auto ektisthe. It is what He is, not His divine nor His human nature. Cf. 2:9-10, where we have the pleroma tes theotetos in Him on one side, and we are pepleromenoi in Him on the other. This is consequently the place He has taken before God, head of all principality and power. The pleroma of Godhead dwells in Him, but when He takes a place as man before God, a man, but personally and above all principalities as man. The way in which the Godhead and Person of Christ are connected, or both, before the mind of the Spirit, is striking in what follows. Verse 13 is clearly God; verse 14 passes on to Christ. He has taken it out of the way, beginning a new sentence grammatically distinct really.
189 The prototokos clearly holds a special place in the revelation of God's counsels. He takes it as man; He takes it as Son; but He takes it as having created all, all things having been created en auto. As a fact it is His creation, but also dia, looked at as the actual instrument of God's counsels; the object also, all is eis auton. But then in sovereign grace He is also prototokos amongst many brethren. So the prototokos is introduced into the world, and the angels worship Him. But then all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him, and we are complete, pepleromenoi, in Him. And now continually all things subsist in Him. Hebrews 1, though the same general truth, presents more a personal Messiah, and so manifestation. God has spoken en uio. He is the express image of His substance. Indeed in Colossians we have the eikon of the invisible God in the prototokos, and all this is in a man! It is a wonderful thing, and the place among men holds the first place, as in Proverbs 8. The church, as His body, is another line of thought, though closely connected. In John it is more the Son in and with the Father, and we in Him, more personal and relationship though it is in. With the Father it is ex (1 Corinthians 8:6), so Romans 11:36, ex, dia, eis. In Hebrews 1 it is di on and di ou. But this is another thought.