Colossians 1:16

Sermon preached on March 9, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Spoiler Alert— If any of you don’t know the story of Charles Dicken’s novel,
Great Expectations and are planning on doing so—you’ll want to plug your ears for a minute because I’m going to give away a vital part of the story. In that novel, the main character Pip, at one point in his life, finds out that he has a rich benefactor. He mistakenly assumes that it’s Miss Haversham, the mean-spirited old lady he once worked for. But in reality it’s Magwitch, the convict that he met in the cemetery out on the marshes when he was a boy. Magwitch had escaped from custody and when Pip stumbled upon him, he demanded that Pip help him by bringing him some food and tools. Pip was terrified and in great fear he helped the escaped convict.

One night, many years later, when Pip is 23, Pip is alone in his apartment during a thunderstorm when he hears heavy footsteps trudging up his stairs. An old sailor enters. Pip treats him with contempt. But then he recognizes him. It’s the convict he met as a boy. When the convict goes to embrace him Pip pushes him away. Pip tells him he didn’t need to bother thank him for the help he gave him on the marsh. Pip informs him that he wants nothing to do with him. Pip is anxious to get rid of him as quickly as he can. Although he offers him something to drink Pip remained standing while the old convict drank it in order not to disguise the fact that he wanted him gone.

Then when Magwitch told him that he was his benefactor, Pip was horrified. The convict told him that he had gone to Australia and made a fortune in sheep farming. He remembered Pip’s kindness to him and he used part of his wealth to make Pip a gentleman. Pip recorded his thoughts on the moment he found out.

“The abhorrence in which I held the man, the dread I had of him, the repugnance with which I shrank from him, could not have been exceeded if he had been some terrible beast.”

In a sense, Pip owed all his good fortune to that convict. All his supposed indebtedness to Miss Haversham vanished and he eventually realizes what a fool he has been. His world is turned upside down. For all those years he despised the convict, when in fact, the convict was his best and truest friend. Pip should have been grateful to him.

Francis Gary Powers was the famous U-2 pilot who was shot down on May 1, 1960 on a mission over Russia. He was put on trial in Russia and convicted of espionage. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but in 1962 he was freed when he was exchanged for a Russian spy that we had caught. After he returned to the US Power worked as a test pilot for Lockheed. In 1970 he wrote a book called, "Operation Overflight". The book was critical of the CIA. Lockheed promptly fired Powers. Lockheed had close ties to the military and it was thought that Powers' criticism of the CIA prompted his firing. According to Power's son, Gary Jr., his father reported that when he was fired, Kelly Johnston, his boss at Lockheed, called him into his office and told him that there was no more work for him at Lockheed. He told Powers that the CIA had been paying his salary at Lockheed. But when he wrote his book that was critical of the CIA—they stopped paying his salary and so Lockheed had to let him go. (Operation Overflight, Epilogue by Francis Gary Powers, Jr. p. 324)

If that's true, all those years that Powers worked for Lockheed, during which he had little love for the CIA, they were punching his lunch ticket. They were paying for his living. He was ungrateful to them when he should have been quite thankful for what they were doing for him.

Being ungrateful is a terrible thing. Yet it's a characteristic that we are all familiar with. It's a characteristic that we all display to a great extent. The examples I just gave pale compared to what we have in our text. It's about Jesus and what all human beings owe Him. It says, (Colossians 1:16)

"For by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers
or rulers or authorities; all things
were created by him and for him."

This is an amazing text—one that is be so illuminating for us and should have a tremendous impact on our lives. This text answers the questions that so many people have:

Why am I here on this earth? What is the purpose of my life? What should I be pursing, doing with my life?

If you're a Christian you have questions like—am I safe in Jesus? Is He going to take care of me? Can anything stop Him from taking care of me?

Our text answers those questions. It tells us that

you were created for Jesus Christ. You, and everything else, were created for His glory—to bring Him glory, honor and praise.

This is incredible. We should all have a great sense of awe. Here we are dealing with our Creator's claim upon each one of us. He made us. We were made for His glory.

This is a great truth that the world totally misses. By and large, the world today despises Jesus.

A few years ago Marg said the name of Jesus in front of one the classes she was teaching. She used it in normal conversation and after she said it one of the little boys put up his hand and told her that she had used a bad word. That's all he knew it as. Jesus' name, when it is used by some people, it's always in vain, when people are angry. They despise Him.

Others aren't that bad, but they basically ignore Him. They don't think of Him as they live their daily lives. They don't acknowledge Him for the good things that they receive. They try their best to ignore Him.

Even we Christians often fall into that trap. Even though we know that all good things come to us because of Jesus, it's like we almost forget about it most of the time. We live our lives like secular people do—not acknowledging our great Creator, not thinking about Him, not thanking Him, not praising Him as we should.

But if we consider what our text says, it should change our lives so that we acknowledge and honor Him in everything we do. Consider what we're told about Jesus here. We're told three things and this morning we're going to look at the first one.

The first thing is that

all things were created 'in Him'.

You don't see this in the NIV because it and many other translations translate this with the word 'by'. They read, "For by Him all things were created'. That presents Jesus as the instrument of creation. The Father created all things through Jesus. And that's true and is a good translation. But other commentators say that the word should be translated 'in' and that's the most common way that it's used in the New Testament and that's what it means here. F. F. Bruce suggests that Paul used 'in' here rather than the more normal 'through' so that we would see the relationship to the 'in' in Genesis 1:1.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

That may seem like a little bit of a stretch until we consider that just a couple of verses later here in Colossians 1:18, Paul calls Jesus 'the beginning'. He wrote,

"And he is the head of the body,
the church; he is the beginning
and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything he might have the supremacy."

So there is good reason for understanding it as being all things were created 'in Him'. Bruce writes, (Colossians, NICNT; 1984, p. 61)

"The phrase 'in him' seems to mark Christ out as the 'sphere' within which the work of creation takes place; one might compare Eph. 1:4, where the people of God are said to have been chosen 'in him' before time began. God's creation, like his election, takes place 'in Christ'…"

Douglas J. Moo explains, (Colossians, PNTC; p. 121)

"all of God's creative work took place 'in terms of' or 'in reference to' Christ."

At the end of verse 15 we were told that He is the firstborn over all creation. Then our verse begins with the word 'for' or 'because' He is the firstborn over all creation 'because in Him all things were created'. Creation was 'in' Christ. He was pre-existent and all including. J. B. Lightfoot says, (Colossians)

"All the laws and purposes which guide the creation and government of the Universe reside in Him, the Eternal Word, as their meeting-point. The Apostolic doctrine of the Logos teaches us to regard the Eternal Word as holding the same relation to the Universe which the Incarnate Christ holds to the Church. He is the source of its life, the centre of all its developments, the mainspring of all its motions."

So this is a stronger statement than the mere fact that creation was made through Him or by Him. In Him all things were created.

What this means is that

Jesus is Lord of creation.

He is the absolute Lord over creation. Creation is 'in Him'. He rules over it with absolute control. Nothing can thwart His will. No one stop Him from doing His will. Nothing can surprise Him. He is Lord.

As Lightfoot pointed out, this word 'in' is used of both in relation to the church and to creation. So to help us see how it means that Jesus is absolute Lord all we have to do is look at how it is used in regard to the church. For example, in Colossians 2:9–10 we read,

"For in Christ all the fullness
of the Deity lives in bodily form,
and you have been given
fullness in Christ, who is the head
over every power and authority."

Christ is everything to the church. He is our life—the source blessings. The fountain of everything. We read about that in Ephesians 1, which is all about Christians being 'in Him' (verse 4). We were chosen 'in Him' before the creation of the world. Why? Verses 11-12 give us the answer.

"In him we were also chosen,
having been predestined according
to the plan of him who works out
everything in conformity
with the purpose of his will, in order that we,
who were the first to hope in Christ,
might be for the praise of his glory."

The end of that chapter tells how the Father raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, (Ephesians 1:21–22)

"far above all rule and authority, power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age
but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under his feet
and appointed him to be head
over everything for the church,"

He is the goal of the church. He is Lord of the church by virtue of His redeeming work.

But He's not just the goal of the church—He's the goal of all creation. This is by virtue of the fact that He is the Firstborn over all creation and the fact that everything was created in Him. He is not just the goal of redemption, but the goal of creation.

This is important and should be a great source of comfort for us. F. F. Bruce writes, (p. 62-63)

"So then, the one through whom the divine work of redemption has been accomplished is the one through whom the divine act of creation took place in the beginning. His mediatorial relation to the created universe provides a setting to the gospel of salvation which helps his people to appreciate that gospel the more. For those who have been redeemed by Christ, the universe has no ultimate terrors; they know that their Redeemer is also creator, ruler, and goal of all."

Nothing should be a terror for the people of God. The universe wasn't made by Jesus like a clockmaker makes a clock—after he makes it he winds it up and it goes along without Him. No. God's creation was not like that. It was 'in Him', in Jesus. Moment by moment, Jesus upholds, sustains all things. Hebrews 1:3 refers to Jesus and says that He sustains,

"all things by his powerful word."

Colossians 1:17 says of Jesus,

"He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together."

No one, no power can thwart His will. In Him all things were created.

Yes, the devil is real. Yes the devil is evil. Yes, the devil is strong. He is much stronger than us. Yes the devil is crafty. He is much smarter and has more experience than any of us. Yes, the devil hates us and is doing all he can to destroy us. Yes, the devil has lots of helpers in that goal—both demons and people.

But we must remember that the devil is part of creation. Jesus is Lord over Him. The devil couldn't touch Job without God's permission. The devil has been bound. He has been defeated.

Christians, trust Jesus. Have faith in your Great Shepherd. In John 10:28–39 Jesus said about His sheep.

"I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish;
no one can snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all; no one can snatch them
out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

I love how John Frame sums up the Bible's teaching on God's providence. He wrote, (Systematic Theology, p. 169)

"the conclusion is that every event is part of God's great plan to bring the richest blessing to his people."

Nothing should frighten us. It is 'in Him' that creation took place. He is the Lord over all creation.

Secondly, this means that

Jesus is to be your all in all.

You were created 'in Christ'. In Romans 11:36 the apostle Paul wrote,

"For from him and through him
and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen."

We are to live for Him—for His glory. In Philippians 1:20–21 the apostle Paul told us about the goal of His life,

"I eagerly expect and hope
that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always Christ
will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Thirdly, this means that

you Christians are to have a great passion for evangelism.

It's not enough for us to know the Lord and serve Him. Everyone who is on this earth should be serving Him. That's what we should desire and live for.

Jesus is worthy. Everything created should be serving Him. Everything that is created is created for His glory yet He is despised and neglected.

People today are concerned about justice. Yet the fact that Jesus is not served and honored by people on earth is the greatest injustice that there is. He is so good to people—yet they care nothing for Him, for His commands.

They are blinded by Satan. They are slaves of their own lusts. They are in a most pitiful condition. We need to change that.

During the recent winter Olympic Games the whole country of Canada was excited about their Olympic men's hockey team. I even saw a cartoon in a newspaper. It showed a pair of scales with 9 gold medals on one side and one gold on the other. The one that was alone was the men's hockey gold medal. The scale showed that it outweighed all the other Canadian gold medals. That's true. The hockey one was so important to Canada. We went over to Canada to a Chinese restaurant just before the game and the Chinese Canadian man who served us was as excited about it as I was. The whole country was united around that game.

How great it would be if everyone was united behind Jesus and His glory like that. That's what every human being should be doing.

It's the greatest things. As David said in Psalm 103:20–22,

"Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion."

Fourthly, for those of you who are not Christians, this shows you that

Jesus is your Lord.

What are you going to do about that? You have two choices.

First, you can resist and fight against Him. You can be like ancient Pharaoh who refused to obey the Lord. When Moses came to him from God and told him to let the people of Israel go, Pharaoh replied, (Exodus 5:2)

"Who is the LORD, that I should
obey him and let Israel go?
I do not know the LORD and
I will not let Israel go."

He resisted God's command. He found out who the Lord was the hard way.

Jesus is Lord. Everything in all creation is one day going to honor Him. As we read in Philippians 2:10–11,

"at the name of Jesus every knee
should bow, in heaven and on earth
and under the earth, and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

You are going to glorify Jesus one day. If you continue to reject Him, He will be glorified by your being cast into outer darkness. Your eternal punishment will be to the praise of His holiness, justice and righteousness.

But there is another way. You can repent of your sins and go to Jesus. Bow the knee to Him now and ask for mercy—and He will save you and give you eternal life. He came to die for sinners. He is a Lord that is good. He is a Lord who is merciful. Go to Him today.