My undergraduate degree is from Atlantic Baptist University, whose motto is Christus Praeminens (taken from Col. 1:18, “that in all things he might have preeminence”). My Master’s degree came from McMaster Divinity College, who motto is ta panta en christoi sunestheken “In Christ all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). So, Colossians 1 has been right there with me through many years; the crests of these schools pointing me back to this passage, like an ever present reminder of His presence and reign through that part of my life.
Usually the folks who discuss this passage write huge thick books. They have more letters after their names than in them. It’s one of those passages that is just awe-striking awe-inspiring if you will; “High Christology” to use scholarly jargon. It speaks of heavenly truths, complicated ideas, theologically deep concepts.
Or at least that’s how many people look at it.
I want to take something theologically intense and break it down into something tangible here. This content should translate into something real, something close to home. All theological truth should impact us.
But instead of taking this verse by verse, and wading through through how all this hangs together (which would take up a lot of space), I want to hit on something which comes up repeated here; All Things. I want to look at this passage through the lens of this phrase. And from it, I want to highlight three “teaching points” (head knowledge) and three corresponding “application points” (life knowledge)
Teaching point #1: All things exist because of him [Jesus]
All things exist by him and for him. Jesus of Nazareth, a man born 2000 years ago is the one by whom all of existence is there. Every star in space, and every cell in your body, the very idea of light, and each hair on your head, exists because of God, whose fullness dwells in the man Jesus of Nazareth.
Doesn’t that boggle your mind?
Everything that has been, everything that is, everything that ever will be, has its origins in Jesus. Existence itself is from God through the Son.
In Exodus 3, when Moses encounters God and is looking for excuses to avoid going back to his people, Moses asked who shall I say is sending me… “I am that I am… tell them ‘I am’ sends you”. I am… the existing one. The one who always was, and is and is to come. Everything you can see, and even the things you can’t- it’s all about me. Verse 16 says, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
Yep, even Caesar. Even Pilate.
In John 19:11, Jesus says to Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” The guy with the power to crucify the one in whom the fullness of God dwells, has that authority from God. Nero, the guy who set Christians on poles, dipped in kerosene and used them as street lights, got the authority to do so from God. Not that God orchestrated that. But God grants authority which can be used, or misused. Even when it looks most like God has lost control, he is still the sovereign Lord. All things exist because of Him, and for Him.
You exist for God. Not the other way around.
In the Westminster catechism the first thing we read is:
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
You exist for God. But that relationship is not a burden, but a joy.
All things exist because of him and for him
Application point #1
You exist to bring glory to God through Christ and live in fellowship with him. You are called to worship God because of who he is.Worship is to ascribe worth to something; to say you are worthy of praise and honour. He made it, so we worship Him. We worship the triune God, Father, Son, Spirit. When you worship Jesus, you put things into their rightful place. I am a created person. The stuff around me is created. He is creator and I am not. The creation cannot replace the creator. We, as God’s people, need to worship to keep a proper perspective on our place in God’s creation.
Point #2: All things are still his
1:18 says “…so that in all things he might have the supremacy/preeminence” (depending on your translation of choice). He is still sovereign, He is still Lord. His Sovereignty does not depend on your submission. God raised Him from the dead so that He is Lord of even death. Death and Hades submit to Jesus. By submitting to death and rising from the grave:
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2)
His death and resurrection is not a sign of weakness, but of power. It is through the death and resurrection that Sovereignty and Divinity is fulfilled. The Divine Life finds its ultimate expression in Jesus, who dies and is resurrected to reconcile what is his and lives in rebellion.
Application point #2:
Sometimes it looks like things are out of control. Something has gone wrong. The world isn’t living up to its intended purpose. Death and darkness and depravity are hanging around, and when you watch the news its sometimes hard to believe there’s a loving and compassionate God in control. BUT we are told that He has supremacy. He is sovereign. Jesus is Lord. He is sovereign over everything. The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. One day, one glorious day, all will be set right. The Kingdom of God is already here, reclaiming, restoring, and reconciling. In the mean time, we are God’s stewards. Are we being God-honouring in the choices we make?
We are not in charge. Every time we use something within creation, we are using something entrusted to us by God, which should cause us to reflect on how we interact with creation. We should stop and think about what we’re doing and if it is the most God–honouring option. We should be eco-friendly, because the earth is God’s. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the way we do things. The church should be leading the way in terms of environmental protection. All things are his, he is Lord. This means, we should have the highest level of respect for things around us.
Point #3: All things are being reconciled by him
All things. He is reconciling all things. Colossians 1:20 says, “through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” We often think of God’s salvation plan in terms of personal, individual relationship with Christ. But salvation, and redemption is bigger that any one of us. Bigger than all of us. It’s about setting the universe in order. It’s cosmic in nature. Check out Romans 8:20-22:
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hopethat the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
God’s redemptive plan is bigger than humanity. Human beings are not the centre of the universe, but are still a serious part of God redemptive work. We made that redemptive work necessary. The creation was “subjected to futility” because of humanity. We have become “hostile” to God. Hostile to God. Think about that for a second… “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because ofyour evil behaviour” or as Paul puts it in Romans 5:10″For if, while we were God’s enemies,we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.” We are reconciled to God, and saved by the death and victory of Jesus Christ.
The enemy has become the bride.
Ever consider marrying your enemy?
Application point #3:
We are part of this cosmic work of reconciliation. We are reconciled, and we are reconcilers (on a side note, spellcheck tells me reconcilers is not a word). Your job is not to defend God or Christian moral principles, to “circle the wagons” so-to-speak. Your job is to guide people in being reconciled.
You don’t have to lobby against governments to change laws. Concentrate on the people you come in contact with. Focus on transforming lives, not laws.
What if the church gave up trying to convince the government to make abortion illegal, and reached out to young women who are desperately in need of help? What if we walked with them through a difficult situation? What if the the church stepped up to the plate, and obeyed God’s call to be ministers of reconciliation? What if we actually helped someone in distress instead of spending our time convincing the government to enact a law that desperate people will take a risk and disobey?
Reconciliation doesn’t happen through legislation. It happens when God’s people obey the call to love their neighbour, and aid the marginalized, vulnerable and desperate. God is in the business of reconciliation. He is seeking to bring sinners back to himself. He wants his creation to realize who he is, and enjoy him forever.
All things exist because of Christ, which should lead to a deeper commitment to worship
All things belong to Christ, which should lead to a deep commitment to stewardship
All things are being reconciled to God through Christ, which should lead to a deeper commitment to holistic redemptive mission.
Live like you believe that.
Pray like you believe that.
Love like you believe that.
Worship like you believe that.
Because one day all things will laid bare before the throne of the Most High. He will call all things to himself.