Praising Christ with Prepositions (1:16)
I admit it sounds pretty weird at first, but there’s something stunning about prepositions. That’s right, prepositions. I’m really not nuts. Trust me. Yes, I’m talking about those words like “in” and “over” and “through” and “by” and “for”, just to mention a few.
There is immeasurable spiritual wealth in those little words. I’m fascinated to think that God would entrust the revelation of his glory to something as mundane as prepositions, words that few of us ever pause in the course of a day to notice. But the more I meditate on prepositions the more I see the beauty and majesty of Jesus. Let me prove it to you.
When Christians gathered for worship in the early church they sang hymns of praise like we do. Many scholars contend that the words to one such hymn are found in the passage we are studying in Colossians. Read it closely and take special note of the capitalized prepositions it contains:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For BY [literally, 'in'] 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" (vv. 15-17).
Perhaps an analogy will help make my point. Consider the stages involved in building a home. The first thing you do is hire an architect who draws up the blueprints. He formulates the plan and lists the many specifications on how everything is to be constructed. You then contract a builder, the person who actually puts brick to mortar and nail to wood. The house is then put to the use for which it was built: you move in. You occupy it and enjoy the many special features it contains, whether a special den or a hot-tub on the deck. Finally, as its inhabitant and owner, you maintain it. You are careful to make timely repairs and perhaps a bit of remodeling here and there.
Here’s my point. Jesus Christ is all of these in relation to the whole of the universe! He is the architect. This is what Paul means in Colossians 1:16a when he says that all things were created “in” him. He is the artisan. He is the one in whose eternal mind the blueprints for every nook and cranny of the cosmos were conceived.
And Paul is pretty specific about the extent of Christ’s creative input. It encompasses literally everything: “all things” (v. 16a), by which he means everything “in heaven and on earth,” be they massive galaxies billions of light years away or the dust mites beneath your feet. The “all things” includes what you can see and can’t see, whether visible but intangible, like a mirage or beam of light; whether invisible but tangible, like a summer breeze or the heat of the sun; whether visible and tangible, like an oak tree or a book or a baseball; even things invisible and intangible like a proton or gravity or a feeling or a dream. He conceived them all!
But it doesn’t stop there. He is the architect of every spiritual being, here described as “thrones” and “dominions” and “rulers” and “authorities,” typical Pauline language for every conceivable variety of angel, both good and evil, both hellish and holy. They were all Christ’s idea!
He is not only the architect who conceived their existence and their manifold properties and powers, he is the artisan who actually constructed their being. They were made THROUGH him, says Paul (v. 16b). John echoed this thought by saying that “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).
Yes, he is both architect and artisan, as well as the aim for which they were created. As Paul put it, “all things were created . . . FOR him” (v. 16c; oh blessed preposition!). Whatever is, is, that he might be glorified and praised and enjoyed forever. He’s the reason, the goal, the aim, the intent, the point, the purpose, the end, the terminus, the consummation and culmination of every molecule that moves.
Does that please you? Do you find unparalleled joy in knowing that it's about him and not you? Do you find delight in knowing that God didn't create the world so he could have you, but so that you could have him? John Piper put it this way, and with his words, I'll close:
“Do you love the thought that you exist to make God look glorious? Do you love the thought that all creation exists to display the glory of God. Do you love the truth that all of history is designed by God to one day be a completed canvas that displays in the best way possible the greatness and beauty of God? Do you love the fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to vindicate the righteousness of God and repair the injury that we had done to the reputation of the glory of God? Do you love the truth you personally exist to make God look like what he really is – glorious? I ask again: Do you love the fact that your salvation is meant to put the glory of God’s grace on display? Do you love seeing and showing the glory of God? This is why God created the universe. This is why he ordained history. This is why he sent his Son. This is why you exist. Forever to see and savor and show the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . Do you embrace this calling as your treasure and your joy?”
By him, through him, and for him,