Commentary on Colossians, 1:17-19 (Preeminence of Christ)

Colossians 1:17-19

“17 He is before all things, and in Him all things are held together.”

“He is before all things”

Notice that it says, “He is” rather than, “He was,” as in the present tense, which conveys the timelessness of Deity. Christ is before all things, because He has always existed as the Second Person of the Trinity of God. God is eternal and has no beginning nor ending. This phrase is also a reference to His preeminence.

“in Him all things are held together”

Believer’s Bible Commentary:

“This means that He is the Sustainer of the universe and the Source of its perpetual motion. He controls the stars and the sun and the moon. Even while He was here on earth He was the One who was controlling the laws by which our universe functions in orderly manner.”

Preceptaustin:

Sunistao conveys the idea of consistence, harmony, congruence. It represents the unifying power, the integrating principle. Every atom in the universe holds together because it is in Christ. There is order and harmony in all creation. It is a universe, not a chaos, and Christ is the unifying force. Do you feel like your life is in chaos, falling apart? Christ has the power to “hold your life together”. Will you trust Him to do so? The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus “upholds all things by the word of His power” or as the Amplified version says –  Jesus is “upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power”! (He 1:3note) He alone is able!

The perfect tense of the verb “hold together” emphasizes the permanence of the cohesion in Christ. He created all things at a point in time, making them cohere and this cohesion continues to the present or as the Message says He “holds it all together right up to this moment.”

Vine’s:

“Christ is the personal means by which all the parts of the universe are maintained in cohesion. This solidarity and coherence are not due merely to natural forces and principles: everything depends upon His continuous sustaining power. Even the force of gravitation, which regulates the condition of things, is not only due to His creative act, but is the effect of His upholding power. When the present universe is dissolved (2Pe 3:10note), it will be His act.

Knowing that Christ is the Ruler of all, that He holds this universe together by His power, it should be comforting and an encouragement to our faith that He also has the power to keep our life together, even when it seems like everything is falling apart. We must trust not only in His infinite power, but also in His love that is without end. We must trust that He loves us and cares about every little detail of our lives. We must trust that He is moving all things together according to a glorious plan of which every one of us is a part. 

No matter what is going on in our lives, we must keep our focus on the Lord of the universe, who has it all under His control. Trusting Christ with our lives has an eternal reward:

“32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings;
33 partly, being publicly exposed to both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, becoming partakers with them that were so used.
34 For you both had compassion on them that were in bonds, and accepted joyfully the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.
35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which has a great reward.
36 For you have need of patience, that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”  (He 10:32-36)

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy begat us again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in manifold trials,
7 that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ:
8 whom not having seen you love; and though you do not see Him now, yet believing, you rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
9 receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  (1 Pet 1:3-9)

Things in our life may be hard now, but if we continue to trust, continue to follow, continue love, it will pay off in the end. We’ll have a reward that will last forever, and we’ll be able to look back with thankfulness in our hearts that we didn’t give in to those things that would rob of us of all the wonderful things that God has in store for us. 

“18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.”

“He is the head of the body,  the church”

Jesus is the corporate Head of the Church, which consists of all believing Jews and Gentiles – everyone who places their faith in Him as Lord and Savior.

At some point in eternity, God chose to save mankind from their sins. He chose to save a people out of this world for Himself, and that people is the Church. He chose His Son to be the means by which we are saved, who was also chosen to be the Corporate Head of the Church. God did not choose specific individuals for salvation, He chose a people group. The only individual that God chose was His Son (Luke 9:35). Everyone who places their faith in Christ, become a part of His election; they become a part of the Elect Church. We are a part of the Church not because we are elect, but we are elect because we have come into union with the Elect Christ, who is Head of the Church. 

God chose to save individuals only in the sense that He chose to save anyone who would come to Him via the plan of salvation that He has provided, and that plan is faith in His Son. All who do become a part of the elect people of God. Those who try to come to God by any other way, are rejected, and are therefore the non-elect. 

“who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence.”

Jesus is the beginning or the source of spiritual life, which He secured for us through His resurrection. Again “firstborn” refers to His preeminence. Christ is preeminent in “all things,” both in regard to the universe, and in His resurrection. He was the first to be raised from the dead in a glorified body and in newness of life (1 Cor 15; Ro 6:4-11), and never again to return to the grave. His resurrection secured our resurrection. His resurrection proved that He was who He said He was, the Son of the living God, the Savior of the world. What separates Christianity from all other religions is the empty tomb, and who it is that walked away from it.

“19 For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell.”

“fullness”

NAS:  “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,”

ESV:  “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”

NIV:  “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,”

LEB:  “because he was well pleased [for] all the fullness to dwell in him,”

AMP:  “For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him permanently.”

I believe Col 2:9 interprets this verse for us:

“For in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”

LEB:  “because in him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily,”

ESV:  “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,”

NAS:  “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,”

NIV:  “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,”

Since the Bible is the best commentary on itself, there is no doubt that the “fullness” spoken of here refers to the fullness of God, or the Deity of Christ. God fully dwelt in Christ.

These two verses provide us with one of the strongest statements in the Bible regarding the Deity of Christ, that Jesus is God. He left His glorious throne in Heaven as the eternal Son of God, and came into this world via the human race. To see Jesus is to see God. To see the life and character of Christ is to see the life and character of God. As Jesus said, “he who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) To understand what God is like, we need not look any further than Jesus Himself.