The Creator and Sustainer of Everything
Study #6 Colossians 1:16-17
by Bob Burridge ©2021
When there’s a job to be done, we need enough energy to get it done. When I was a Boy Scout, I used to go winter camping on weekends just outside of Buffalo, New York. The snow was usually over 2 to 3 feet deep, and the temperatures never got much above zero.
The log cabins we stayed in each had bunk beds for 8 boys. Our only heat was from a single cast-iron wood burning potbelly stove in the middle of the cabin. One of our daily chores was to make sure we had enough good burnable wood. Dry logs had to be chopped up and brought in every day to get us through each night.
Each summer we formed teams to plant hundreds of new trees in that camping area. They were to replace the ones we used for wood the winter before. We actually replaced more than we used. The supply of trees was increasing because of our responsible use of the wilderness area.
We were also trained to contain natural fires in the forest. If left to burn, the forest fires would burn up more trees than we would ever use to keep our cabins warm. I remember forming bucket brigades and digging trenches when fires would break out. When the fire bell would ring, we would stop whatever we were doing and report for fire detail. Thankfully it didn’t happen too often, but I had a chance to fight several forest fires.
The woods took care of us so we took care of the woods. The trees provided all the energy we needed for the job of keeping us warm in the winter. We found the trees to be a valuable and easily replenishable resource.
In the early days of our world, that was the kind of energy situation people had to live with. In the past century we’ve come a long way. We have electric lights, air-conditioning, heating, television, phones, computers, clocks, razors, mixers, coffee-makers, can openers, washers, dryers, refrigerators, microwaves, video games, just to name a few things! We use gasoline to run our automobiles, buses, trucks, airplanes, lawnmowers, edgers, generators, and various other kinds of internal combustion devices. Most of those things also have electric versions.
We can hardly keep up with the demands on nuclear and conventional power plants. We can convert wind and solar light into electrical power. With more demanding jobs to do today, there are more demanding needs for power.
Twenty years ago we put a Space Shuttle into orbit that carried a $1.4 billion science laboratory into space. We’ve landed exploration vehicles and laboratories on Mars. It’s amazing the amount of power it takes to put things like that into space.
We live day to day assuming the supply of all the energy we want. We buy gasoline, batteries, propane, and shop for food to keep our bodies working. But where do we go to find the power we need spiritually to live in ways pleasing to God? That’s a need and supply that’s never changed!
In our study of Colossians 1 so far:
Paul offered thankful prayer
for the believers in Colossae.
He prayed that they would know God’s will, walk pleasing to the Lord, bear spiritual fruit, learn more about God,
and that they would be strengthened in endurance and patience.
He also directed them to their Source of Power, God the Father, who alone qualifies us to receive his blessings. He transferred us from the kingdom of darkness, to the Kingdom of his Son, Jesus Christ. He is our Redeemer from sin, the image of God, the firstborn of all creation.
Since holy living requires so much spiritual ability, and in our fallen estate we have none in ourselves, he turns us to our only hope: Jesus Christ, our all-sufficient power, who enables us to live for God’s glory.
Jesus is above all other powers
because he made all things.
Colossians 1:16, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.”
This Jesus Christ, who transforms us into his kingdom, who strengthens us, who is our Good Shepherd, who intercedes for his Sheep, who died to redeem them, is the same one described in John 1:3 when it says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
What an amazing truth! For infinite ages, before time could even be measured, God always existed. Then, beginning with nothing but his word everything that exists came into being to declare his awesome glory. This includes all things both in the heavens and on earth.
Likely the “heavens in this verse are the things above us physically, the sky and all that appears in it. The Bible writers and readers knew nothing of the vastness of space beyond the sky. But they knew of some things God put there:
the sun that warmed and lit the day, the moon and stars that lit up the night. They saw lights that moved in patterns year after year which they called planets. They saw but didn’t understand comets and meteors. They saw clouds drifting overhead and birds that seemed to float on the air.
Our astronauts and amazing telescopes see more of the amazing vastness and grandeur of the universe. We’ve had explorers walk on the moon. We’ve had our space probes land, on other planets, their moons, and on an asteroid. They’ve sent back detailed pictures of places totally unknown to those when the Bible was written.
These visible things boggle our minds! The complexity and majesty of what we know so well humbles us when we take time to look closely. Yet all we can see is just a small fragment of all that our Lord Jesus Christ made.
A while ago I took a bike ride along the 2-mile trail in the park near our house. I rode past the little lake inside the trail and stopped for a while to admire an amazing sight. There out on the bank sunning themselves were 2 rather large alligators. One was about 6 or 7 feel long. The other one would have been about 2 feet longer if it wasn’t for a piece missing from the end of its tail.
I stopped to sit on a bench not more than 20 feet from them. Their eyes followed my every move. One of the gators pushed up on his front legs and lifted his head to get a better look at what I was up to.
I was admiring their power and aware of the potential danger. I didn’t tried not to appear to be a danger to them so they wouldn’t attack me. They had my deep respect and I wasn’t about to disturb them.
Then I noticed movement out in the lake. It was a baby alligator, slowly making its way across the still waters. I’ve often enjoyed the quiet peaceful scene around that lake. I personally call it “Mai Menukhot” (מי מנחות) the Hebrew words in the 23rd Psalm, “still waters”.
I thought about the two huge gators on the embankment in front of me, and realized that they had seen many Florida seasons, and maybe endured a fight that took off that now shorter tail. They might have been the parents of that baby gator, and maybe others that lived in the lake. They would have passed on their characteristics to the next generation. One day that little one would probably grow up to be just like these big ones. Amazing!
Then my mind turned to this text in Colossians 1. I’d been working on it in my study before that bike ride. Behind the powerful jaws and tails of these creatures, behind their ability to reproduce, behind their ability to survive in the wilds uncared for by humans, was the power of the One who created these gators, and who made me too.
It’s amazing to watch gators in lakes, and dolphins playing off the coast. God made our whole universe to display his creative powers: stars, nebula, planets, moons, clouds, seas, birds, alligators, dolphins, and Floridians — and yes, even the tourists.
Together they all bring pleasure to God by manifesting his glory and declaring his truth. Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
But it’s not just the physical world though. Here in Colossians 1:16, He made the “… visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him.”
There are unseen dimensions beyond our comprehension. Even the earthly and unearthly spiritual powers are all under his rulership. All the kingdoms of men and spirits are held in his powerful hand. Jesus, our Creator and Redeemer is said in Ephesians 1:21-22 to be “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,”
Some over-exegete this verse and imagine that it’s just speaking about 4-ranks of the angels: “rule and authority and power and dominion.” But there is no indication of such an interpretation here or elsewhere in Scripture. These are close synonyms chosen by the Holy Spirit, not for our vain imaginations to run wild, but to drive home how our loving Shepherd is Lord over all powers in the universe. He’s over them because by his power and decree, they all exist.
The one who made all things determines their purpose, and sets the boundaries within which they can exercise the limited powers he gives them. Jesus isn’t just a teacher, example, or religious symbol: he’s the awesome Creator of all things! In Psalm 33:6 the psalmist wrote, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”
Therefore Jesus Christ has
the preeminence over all things.
Colossians 1:17, “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
He’s before all things in both time, and in all superiority. In fact, that which sustains all things in none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. He upholds his creation moment by moment, both in whole and in all its parts.
He’s the power behind all that is. Even those who rebel, do so only by the power God gave them. Those who use their minds to devise philosophies so complex that they attempt to explain God away, do so with mental abilities the Creator they try to deny gave them. They use the order and uniformity of God’s Creation to make up foolish theories to deny its real origin. They toy with powers they don’t understand. But doing so, they heap condemnation upon themselves for stealing the glory of the God who made them.
The Bible teaches that in him, all live and move and have their being (Acts 17:28). Even with our grand theories of cosmology and quantum mechanics, we only describe, but don’t really understand the forces that hold all things together. But whatever physical laws we discover and define, declare the power of the God who not only made them, but who also continues to make them operate as they do.
There’s no room for deism in the Bible. God didn’t just set things in motion, then wait around to see it all unfold like a great machine. He oversees every breath and turn, as creation and history display his glory.
While we may not perceive his hand in all things, we’re assured of the fact. Every battle, victory, crime, arrest, rescue, and disaster is coordinated for the glory of God. Until all things are resolved at the end of this present age, we can’t fully perceive its place in the Creator’s order.
Paul wrote about Jesus in Romans 11:36 saying, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” The writer of Hebrews 1:3 explained that Jesus ” … is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. ..”
The world seems very concerned with all the energy we need for cars, airplanes, refrigerators, and lights. We hear debates about how we should produce all the power we need every day. When I was a kid I remember shoveling coal into a furnace to heat our house. Now we use electricity and natural gas. Electric cars, trains, and trucks are becoming popular, but that demands more electricity. To get all that electricity some use solar and nuclear power and wind turbines. There are some new creative ideas but we have a lot to learn yet about how God’s created things can be best used. But the power behind all these sources of energy is the active power of our Creator, our Triune God.
But where do we find the power spiritually
to live as God calls us to live?
Our Creator, who is also our loving Redeemer, promises all the power we need. In Christ we have the power to overcome temptation and our human weaknesses. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
The Holy Spirit is there to enable us to live the way we should. Galatians 5:22-25, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
In Christ we have the power to live as a kingdom of light in spite of the surrounding kingdom of darkness. No power on all the earth or in all the unseen realms of the universe both physical and spiritual can prevail against us when we sincerely trust in Jesus Christ.
We have no reason to fear all the politics, philosophies, economic powers, or military forces arrayed against us! We need nothing more than what Christ earned for us and promises us in the gospel. In Jesus Christ, fear is obliterated. We are children of the one who made all things, who is before all things, and by whom all things hold together!
The power of our Creator, promised to us in the gospel, is all we need. Behind all we see with our eyes, and experience day to day, is the mighty hand of our Triune God. In him, we have all the power we need, to accomplish all we’re called to be and to do.
Colossians 1:16-17, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.