The verse in question, Colossians 1:17, states “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” This verse speaks to the preeminence and sovereignty of Jesus Christ in relation to all of creation. There are several important truths contained in this concise statement about the supremacy of Christ:
1. Christ existed before all things
To say Christ is “before all things” means He existed before anything was created. This affirms the eternal pre-existence of Christ. He was not created, He has always been. The apostle John wrote in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus Christ is the eternal “Word” who was with the Father and was God from the beginning. As Paul says in Colossians 1:17, there was never a time when Christ did not exist.
The term “all things” encompasses everything that was created – the universe, the earth, humanity, animals, plants, all of nature. Christ preceded all of it. He is eternal. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existed in Trinitarian unity before the universe was brought into being. Christ’s going “before all things” speaks to His divine nature and eternality.
2. Christ is preeminent over all of creation
Not only did Jesus Christ exist before anything was created, He exercises authority and preeminence over all creation. The Son shares equal divine authority with the Father and the Spirit as one God in three Persons. Saying Christ is “before” all things means He takes precedence over everything. As Paul says in Colossians 1:15, Christ is the “firstborn over all creation.” This phrase means Christ occupies the rank and position of supreme authority over all created things.
As the second Person of the Trinity, Christ played an active role in bringing the world into being. Genesis 1 and John 1:1-3 teach that the Son was involved in creation. God the Father spoke creation into existence, while the Son carried out the actual work of creating all things. Christ occupies the place of highest honor because all things were created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16). He preceded creation and reigns supreme over it all.
3. Christ holds all things together
The second part of Colossians 1:17 teaches that Christ sustains the universe – “in Him all things hold together.” Not only did Jesus Christ create all things, He maintains the existence of all things and prevents the universe from chaos and destruction. The author of Hebrews says Christ is “upholding the universe by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).
This reveals that Christ governs the physical universe and all the laws of nature. He engineered and structured the cosmos with precise physical laws and properties that allow it to operate in an orderly, controlled fashion. Christ actively maintains the cohesion and stability of the created order. All the forces holding atomic particles together and governing motion, gravity, electricity, light, and energy are under His divine providence. Without Christ’s continual upholding power, the material world would disintegrate.
4. Christ is supreme over all powers, including angels
In addition to material creation, Jesus Christ has authority over all spiritual powers – including angels. Paul states this explicitly in 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.”
Here Paul broadly defines “all things” to incorporate the material world as well as the spirit world, including angels. Christ preceded and presides over all ranks of angelic beings, whether seraphim, cherubim, or archangels. As the Son of God, Christ is worshiped by angels and has authority to dispatch them as He pleases (Heb. 1:6-7). No celestial being is exempt from serving at the pleasure of Christ. He outranks them all because they were created by Him and for Him.
5. Christ’s supremacy means absolute fullness dwells in Him
The conclusion Paul draws from the supremacy of Christ is that all the divine fullness resides in Him: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19). Because Jesus Christ contains the infinite fullness and summation of deity within Himself, it means He holds the highest position and authority.
The Son shares the identical, undiminished divine nature of the Father. Jesus claimed, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) and “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The Son is the visible image of the invisible God, containing all the attributes, glory, authority, and power of deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9). For this reason, Christ is supreme over all creation and all spiritual powers.
6. Christ must have the supremacy in all things
For the church to operate properly and fulfill God’s purposes, Christ must have first place in everything. Paul admonishes the Colossian Christians, “that in everything [Christ] might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18). His rightful place is over and above all else – He must reign supreme.
If Christ is not preeminent in the church, it will falter and fail. When the church pursues things like political power, social status, material wealth, or doctrinal novelty over the true knowledge of Jesus Christ, it has lost its way. Paul says, “let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism… not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Col. 2:18-19).
The Head of the body is Christ, and He must hold the highest place in the church. Christ as preeminent delivers life, growth, and maturity to His people. His supremacy is vital to the health and witness of the church in the world.
7. Believers must set Christ first in their own lives
Not only is the supremacy of Christ essential to the corporate life of the church, but also for the individual Christian’s life. God’s people must make Christ first place in their values, choices, priorities, and relationships. He must occupy the throne at the center of their lives.
Paul exhorted, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated… Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3). Being raised with Christ means enthroning Him above all earthly things. This brings spiritual empowerment because the believer is tapping into the resurrection life of Christ.
When Christ occupies first place in the believer’s life, decisions and activities begin to align with God’s purposes. Life takes on new meaning and direction with Christ as the guiding focus. His love compels and empowers believers to live not for self but for Him (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
8. Christ must have first place in the home and family
For families to experience wholeness and carry out God’s design, Christ must be central. Paul wrote this instruction: “Wives, submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord… Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord… Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Col. 3:18-21).
Note how these household relationships come into proper alignment when Christ is given first place. When both husband and wife submit to the Lordship of Jesus, they can live in mutually edifying harmony. Parents lead children lovingly by pointing them to Christ, not provoking them to anger. Children obey parents with the motivation of honoring Jesus above all.
Putting Jesus Christ first allows family members to know their value and fulfill their roles according to God’s design. His Kingdom principles bring wholeness as husbands, wives, parents and children together bow their lives to honor Christ as supreme.
9. Believers can be victorious through Christ’s supremacy
Because Christ is supreme over all things, including every earthly and spiritual power, believers have access to His superior strength and ability. Paul taught that union with Christ allows God’s people to successfully overcome sin and all forms of spiritual evil:
“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses… God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col. 2:11-13).
Being spiritually circumcised in Christ removes the sinful flesh nature and places the believer into a new life of resurrection power with Him. Because Christ lives in the believer, they can live and walk in victory (Col. 2:6-7). His divine life brings liberation from sin’s dominion.
10. Christ will reconcile all things to Himself
God purposes to bring all of creation into harmony under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. His aim is to “reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20). This will involve judgment of unbelievers as well as universal exaltation of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:9-11 predicts a coming day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. All creation will ultimately submit to the supremacy of Christ. The redemption He purchased by His blood will extend to God’s entire universe.
At the name of Jesus every knee will 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 2:10-11)
Colossians 1:17 succinctly encapsulates the preeminent place the Lord Jesus Christ occupies in relation to the universe. He is supreme over all of creation and everything exists through His sustaining power for His purposes. Christ must have first place in everything, especially the lives of His people. His exalted position secures great victory for those who love and follow Him wholeheartedly.