He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:17)
We left the last verse discussing the greatness of our Lord Jesus as the creator of all things. Continuing on that thought, we will begin by looking at just what it means that He is before all things. Does it mean before all things in time, or does it mean that He is before all things in position?
From my understanding of the purpose of these verses, to me it appears to mean before all things in position. While it is true that He certainly was before all things in time, as He said emphatically in John:”Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58), and in case we miss the full weight of what the Lord meant by this statement, the next verse says that the Jews present “took they up stones to cast at Him” (John 8:59); but this verse is not speaking of the time element. It says that He is before all things, the all things being those things that He created. He is before all things visible and invisible. He is before the thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers. He is preeminent in creation as the Creator. As Creator, He has a greater position and a greater glory than anything in this creation.
So let us continue also to look at what it means that “by Him all things consist”. This is very rich indeed. When discussing Christ as the image of God, I brought attention to the following verse:
Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high… (Hebrews 1:3)
Notice the flow from His glory because of WHO He is to His powerful word to keep all things functioning. What holds the universe together? It is “by Him that all things consist”. He upholds all. Greek mythology pictured a “god” bearing the weight of the earth on his shoulders and nearly buckling under the load. Jesus Christ upholds the universe by the word of His power! This entire universe that He created holds together because Jesus Christ says so!
We can look at the planets and stars and moons and suns and notice that they all function like “clockwork”. Consistent and on time—every time. Why are they so consistent? Maybe because they are clockwork:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: He made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. (Genesis 1:14-19)
Stepping away from the vast expanse of the universe, how about the irreducible complexity of the cell, or further yet, to the atom, and the nucleus of the atom. Mankind’s keen ability to efficiently kill each other reached a new high when it discovered the energy contained in splitting the atom. But what is it that holds the nucleus together in the first place? It is the word of His power! It is because Jesus Christ says so that all of the atomic and subatomic particles hold together.
A guide took a group of people through an atomic laboratory and explained how all matter was composed of rapidly moving electric particles. The tourists studied models of molecules and were amazed to learn that matter is made up primarily of space. During the question period, one visitor asked, “If this is the way matter works, what holds it all together?” For that, the guide had no answer.
But the Christian has an answer: Jesus Christ! Because “He is before all things,” He can hold all things together. Again, this is another affirmation that Jesus Christ is God. Only God exists before all of creation, and only God can make creation cohere. To make Jesus Christ less than God is to dethrone Him.—Warren Weirsbe¹
How great to know that the Creator who upholds the universe and makes it function is able also to uphold the believing sinner who takes Him at His word, and by faith accepts the gift of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Who died and conquered death and rose from the dead!
The only way any of us can know that we are saved is that we know that Jesus Christ saved us. If He saved us, then we are saved. God counts His righteousness to us when we believe, and He lays all of our sin on Him. What a weight for the Saviour to bear! He who upholds all things by the word of His power died to bear the weight of our sins. And He did this and rose victorious. He is not a victim, but He is a mighty Victor—through the cross!
For [God] hath made [Christ] to be sin for us, [Christ], who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5)
[Christ] was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:31)
- Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Complete: Become the Whole Person God Intends You to Be: NT Commentary, Colossians. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008. Print. P.61