“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” ~ Colossians 1:17
Explanation of the Text: Continuing on in the passage about who Christ is, Paul moves from Christ as creator to now his position within creation. He first notes that Christ is ‘before all things.’ The meaning of the word ‘before’ often becomes a source of debate for a number of people. Generally the meaning has come to mean one of two things: (1) as a reference to Christ’s position in relation to creation or (2) Christ’s existence in time in relation to creation. The best interpretation, which is accepted by many, is that it references Christ’s existence in relationship to creation. Therefore, it would literally refer to the preexistence of Christ. Lightfoot notes that this is the best interpretation because this produces a natural flow of thought into the next verse; additionally, had it referred to his position, the Greek wording would have expressed it differently. In indicating Christ as preexistent before creation, Paul is expressing his eternality. Jesus Christ existed before all things (John 8:58; 17:5; Philippians 2:6). Often, we think of Jesus as coming into being at the virgin birth. However, it is important to remember that Jesus always existed and through the virgin birth, he came into physical being as the incarnation of God.
We then come to what R. Kent Hughes calls “the apex of Paul’s argument” noting that “Christ is superior in creation because he is the sustainer of creation.” Jesus Christ did not only take part in creation, but it is through Him that creation continues to exist. It is he who sustains everything, or as the verse says, through Him “all things are held together.” As “the one who holds all things together (he) is the very ONE who placed all things together through his reconciling work on the cross (verse 20).”
Examination & Application of the Text: In his large systematic theology book, Norman Geisler notes the following three responses that one can have to recognizing eternality and specifically in relationship to Christ:
- Enjoy the confidence that His purposes will stand (Isaiah 46:10)
- Establish a hope in Christ (Hebrews 6:19-20)
- Recognize that he can help us now (Hebrews 7:23-25)
Speaking of God the Father, Isaiah 46:10 indicates that God has declared the beginning and the end, and thus affirming his own plan to take place. This can be seen throughout the Old Testament as God’s purposes take place according to what He says will take place. Therefore, this should provide a comfort to know that when Jesus Christ preaches of a future with him (Luke 23:43).
Furthermore, there should be comfort in the hope that one can have in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6:19-20). Hope in anything other than Christ is a false hope that even though may provide temporary comfort, will result in failure leaving one feeling more empty than he/she may have felt before. Therefore, one must build a solid foundation that is built on Christ and His word, acceding only to that and not on the temporal, earthly realm.
Finally, the eternality of Christ leads to one who can help now (Hebrews 7:23-25). Christ existed before all created things, appointed to the royal priesthood. He is therefore, a mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) and because of Him we have access to God (John 14:6) because Jesus Christ is God (John 8:58).
Understanding these points should make it easier to lean on and trust Christ for all things. Recognizing that we have a present hope in Him. This is a continuous reality. If you note in the verse, the verbs are present tense. It does not say that Jesus Christ did hold all things together, but rather that He does hold all things together. This ultimate reality is that we have hope in Him who is presently at work in the world in which we live.
 Edwin Blum, Ed., Holman Christian Study Bible (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2010), 2056.
 Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, 8th ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London; New York: Macmillan and Co., 1886), 154.
 R.C. Sproul, Everybody’s A Theologian (Sanford: Reformation Trust, 2014), 143.
 R. Kent Hughes, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), Location 3755.
 Todd D. Still, Colossians, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 290.
 Normal L. Geisler, Systematic Theology in One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 608.