Colossians 1:16
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(16) For by him . . . all things were created by (through) him, and for (to) him.—Carrying out the idea of the preceding clause with accumulated emphasis, St. Paul speaks of all creation as having taken place “by Him,” “through Him,” and “for Him.” Now we note that in Romans 11:36, St. Paul, in a burst of adoration, declares of the Father that “from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things;” and in Hebrews 2:10 the Father is spoken of as One “by whom are all things, and for whom are all things” (the word “for whom” being different from the word so rendered here, but virtually equivalent to it). Hence we observe that the Apostle here takes up a phrase belonging only to Godhead and usually applied to the Father, and distinctly applies it to Christ, but with the significant change of “from whom” into “in whom.” The usual language of holy Scripture as to the Father is “from whom,” and as to the Son “through whom,” are all things. Thus we have in Hebrews 1:2, “through whom He made the world;” and in John 1:3-10, “All things were made”—“the world was made”—“through Him.” Here, however, St. Paul twice adds “in whom,” just as he had used “in whom” of God in his sermon at Athens (Acts 17:28), probably conveying the idea, foreshadowed in the Old Testament description of the divine “Wisdom,” that in His divine mind lay the germ of the creative design and work. and indirectly condemning by anticipation the fancy of incipient Gnosticism, that He was but an inferior emanation or agent of the Supreme God.

In heaven and . . . earth . . .—Here again there is a reiteration of earnest emphasis. “All things in heaven and earth” is the ancient phrase for all creation. Then, lest this phrase should be restricted to the sublunary sphere, he adds, “visible and invisible.” Lastly, in accordance with the general tone of these Epistles, and with special reference to the worship of angels introduced into Colossæ, he dwells, like the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, on the superiority of our Lord to all angelic natures, whether they be “thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers.” (Comp. Ephesians 1:21; Philippians 2:9-10.)

Thrones, or dominions . . .—Compare the enumeration in Ephesians 1:21. The word peculiar to this passage is “thrones,” which in all the various speculations as to the hierarchy of heaven, naturally represents the first place of dignity and nearness to the Throne of God. (Comp. Revelation 4:4, “Round about the throne four-and-twenty thrones.”) But it seems difficult, if not impossible, to attach distinctive meanings to those titles, and trace out their order. If St. Paul alludes at all to the Rabbinical hierarchies, he (probably with deliberate intention) takes their titles without attending to their fanciful orders and meanings. Whatever they mean, if they mean anything, all are infinitely below the glory of Christ. (See Note on Ephesians 1:21.)

Colossians 1:16-17. For by him were all things created, &c. — The casual particle οτι, for, or because, with which this verse begins, refers to both parts of the preceding verse. The Son is the image of the invisible God, as well as the firstborn of the whole creation, because by him were all things created. See the note on John 1:3, where the creation of all things by Christ, God’s eternal Word and Son, is explained at large. That are in heaven — And heaven itself; but the inhabitants are named, because more noble than the house; and earth; visible — The material fabric of this world, with all its inhabitants, called, (Hebrews 11:3,) τα βλεπομενα, the things which are seen, including the visible splendour of the celestial luminaries, the sun, moon, and stars, even all the hosts of these lower heavens; and invisible — The different orders of angels, both those that stood and those that afterward fell; called, in the following part of the verse, thrones, dominions, &c. Because, in after times, false teachers would arise and affirm, some, that the world was made by angels; others, that it was made by an evil principle; the apostle may have been directed by the Spirit to declare, in the most express manner, that all things were created by God’s beloved Son, that the sincere might be preserved from these pernicious errors. All things were created by him and for him — They are the productions of his unsearchable wisdom and almighty power, and were made by him, that he might possess and govern them, and be glorified in and by them. To interpret this, as the Socinians do, of the new creation in a spiritual sense, is so unnatural, that one could hardly believe, if the evidence were not so undeniably strong, that any set of learned commentators could have imbibed such an opinion. And he is before all things — In the duration, as well as in the dignity of his nature; or, as Micah expresses it, (Micah 5:2,) he is from everlasting; and by him all things consist — Or subsist in that harmonious order of being which renders this universal system one beautiful whole. For the original expression, συνεστηκε, not only implies that he sustains all things in being, or, as it is expressed Hebrews 1:3, upholdeth all things by the word of his power, but that all things were, and are, compacted in him into one system, and preserved therein; and that he is the cement, as well as support, of the universe. This description of the Son, as the first Maker and continual Preserver of all creatures in earth and heaven, even of the various orders of angelic beings, was most pertinent to his purpose of showing the Colossians the folly of the false teachers who were endeavouring to seduce them from their reliance on Christ for salvation, and to persuade them to confide in and worship angels, as more powerful mediators with God than his own beloved Son, by whom these angels were all created.1:15-23 Christ in his human nature, is the visible discovery of the invisible God, and he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father. Let us adore these mysteries in humble faith, and behold the glory of the Lord in Christ Jesus. He was born or begotten before all the creation, before any creature was made; which is the Scripture way of representing eternity, and by which the eternity of God is represented to us. All things being created by Him, were created for him; being made by his power, they were made according to his pleasure, and for his praise and glory. He not only created them all at first, but it is by the word of his power that they are upheld. Christ as Mediator is the Head of the body, the church; all grace and strength are from him; and the church is his body. All fulness dwells in him; a fulness of merit and righteousness, of strength and grace for us. God showed his justice in requiring full satisfaction. This mode of redeeming mankind by the death of Christ was most suitable. Here is presented to our view the method of being reconciled. And that, notwithstanding the hatred of sin on God's part, it pleased God to reconcile fallen man to himself. If convinced that we were enemies in our minds by wicked works, and that we are now reconciled to God by the sacrifice and death of Christ in our nature, we shall not attempt to explain away, nor yet think fully to comprehend these mysteries; but we shall see the glory of this plan of redemption, and rejoice in the hope set before us. If this be so, that God's love is so great to us, what shall we do now for God? Be frequent in prayer, and abound in holy duties; and live no more to yourselves, but to Christ. Christ died for us. But wherefore? That we should still live in sin? No; but that we should die to sin, and live henceforth not to ourselves, but to Him.For by him were all things created - This is one of the reasons why he is called "the image of God," and the "first-born." He makes God known to us by his creative power, and by the same power in creation shows that he is exalted over all things as the Son of God. The phrase which is used here by the apostle is universal. He does not declare that he created all things in the spiritual kingdom of God, or that he arranged the events of the gospel dispensation, as Socinians suppose (see Crellius); but that every thing was created by him. A similar form of expression occurs in John 1:3; see the notes at that verse. There could not possibly be a more explicit declaration that the universe was created by Christ, than this. As if the simple declaration in the most comprehensive terms were not enough, the apostle goes into a specification of things existing in heaven and earth, and so varies the statement as if to prevent the possibility of mistake.

That are in heaven - The division of the universe into "heaven and earth" is natural and obvious, for it is the one that is apparent; see Genesis 1:1. Heaven, then, according to this division, will embrace all the universe, except the earth; and will include the heavenly bodies and their inhabitants, the distant worlds, as well as heaven, more strictly so called, where God resides. The declaration, then, is, that all things that were in the worlds above us were the work of his creative power.

And that are in earth - All the animals, plants, minerals, waters, hidden fires, etc. Everything which the earth contains.

Visible and invisible - We see but a small part of the universe. The angels we cannot see. The inhabitants of distant worlds we cannot see. Nay, there are multitudes of worlds which, even with the best instruments, we cannot see. Yet all these things are said to have been created by Christ.

Whether they be thrones - Whether those invisible things be thrones. The reference is to the ranks of angels, called here thrones, dominions, etc.; see the notes at Ephesians 1:21. The word "thrones" does not occur in the parallel place in Ephesians; but there can be no doubt that the reference is to an order of angelic beings, as those to whom dominion and power were intrusted. The other orders enumerated here are also mentioned in Ephesians 1:21.

All things were created by him - The repetition, and the varied statement here, are designed to express the truth with emphasis, and so that there could not be the possibility of mistake or misapprehension; compare the notes at John 1:1-3. The importance of the doctrine, and the fact that it was probably denied by false teachers, or that they held philosophical opinions that tended to its practical denial, are the reasons why the apostle dwells so particularly on this point.

And for him - For his glory; for such purposes as he designed. There was a reference to himself in the work of creation, just as, when a man builds a house, it is with reference to some important purposes which he contemplates, pertaining to himself. The universe was built by the Greater to be his own property; to be the theater on which he would accomplish his purposes, and display his perfections. Particularly the earth was made by the Son of God to be the place where he would become incarnate, and exhibit the wonders of redeeming love. There could not be a more positive declaration than this, that the universe was created by Christ; and, if so, he is divine. The work of creation is the exertion of the highest power of which we can form a conception, and is often appealed to in the Scriptures by God to prove that he is divine, in contradistinction from idols. If, therefore, this passage be understood literally, it settles the question about the divinity of Christ. Accordingly, Unitarians have endeavored to show that the creation here referred to is a moral creation; that it refers to the arrangement of affairs in the Christian church, or to the kingdom of God on earth, and not to the creation of the material universe. This interpretation has been adopted even by Grotius, who supposes that it refers to the arrangement by which all things are fitted up in the new creation, and by which angels and men are reconciled. By "the things in heaven and in earth," some Unitarian expositors have understood the Jews and the Gentiles, who are reconciled by the gospel; others, by the things in heaven, understand the angels, and, by the things on earth, men, who are brought into harmony by the gospel plan of salvation. But the objections to this interpretation are insuperable:

(1) The word "created" is not used in this sense properly, and cannot be. That it may mean to arrange, to order, is true; but it is not used in the sense of reconciling, or of bringing discordant things into harmony. To the great mass of men, who have no theory to support, it would be understood in its natural and obvious sense, as denoting the literal creation.

(2) the assertion is, that the "creative" power of Christ was exerted on "all things." It is not in reference to angels only, or to men, or to Jews, or to Gentiles; it is in relation to "everything in heaven and in earth;" that is, to the whole universe. Why should so universal a declaration be supposed to denote merely the intelligent creation?

(3) with what propriety, or in what tolerable sense, can the expression "things in heaven and things in earth" be applied to the Jews and Gentiles? In what sense can it be said that they are "visible and invisible?" And, if the language could be thus used, how can the fact that Christ is the means of reconciling them be a reason why he should be called "the image of the invisible God?"

(4) if it be understood of a moral creation, of a renovation of things, of a change of nature, how can this be applied to the angels? Has Christ created them anew? Has he changed their nature and character? Good angels cannot need a spiritual renovation; and Christ did not come to convert fallen angels, and to bring them into harmony with the rest of the universe.

(5) the phrase here employed, of "creating all things in heaven and on earth," is never used elsewhere to denote a moral or spiritual creation. It appropriately expresses the creation of the universe. It is language strikingly similar to that used by Moses, Genesis 1:1; and it would be so understood by the great mass of mankind. If this be so, then Christ is divine, and we can see in this great work a good reason why he is called "the image of the invisible God," and why he is at the head of the universe - the first-born of the creation. It is because, through him, God is made known to us in the work of creation; and because, being the great agent in that work, there is a propriety that he should occupy this position at the head of all things.

16. For—Greek, "Because." This gives the proof that He is not included in the things created, but is the "first-begotten" before "every creature" (Col 1:15), begotten as "the Son of God's love" (Col 1:13), antecedently to all other emanations: "for" all these other emanations came from Him, and whatever was created, was created by Him.

by him—rather as Greek, "in Him": as the conditional element, pre-existent and all-including: the creation of all things BY Him is expressed afterwards, and is a different fact from the present one, though implied in it [Alford]. God revealed Himself in the Son, the Word of the Father, before all created existence (Col 1:15). That Divine Word carries IN Himself the archetypes of all existences, so that "IN Him all things that are in heaven and earth have been created." The "in Him" indicates that the Word is the ideal ground of all existence; the "by Him," below, that He is the instrument of actually realizing the divine idea [Neander]. His essential nature as the Word of the Father is not a mere appendage of His incarnation, but is the ground of it. The original relation of the Eternal Word to men "made in His image" (Ge 1:27), is the source of the new relation to them by redemption, formed in His incarnation, whereby He restores them to His lost image. "In Him" implies something prior to "by" and "for Him" presently after: the three prepositions mark in succession the beginning, the progress, and the end [Bengel].

all things—Greek, "the universe of things." That the new creation is not meant in this verse (as Socinians interpret), is plain; for angels, who are included in the catalogue, were not new created by Christ; and he does not speak of the new creation till Col 1:18. The creation "of the things that are in the heavens" (so Greek) includes the creation of the heavens themselves: the former are rather named, since the inhabitants are more noble than their dwellings. Heaven and earth and all that is m them (1Ch 29:11; Ne 9:6; Re 10:6).

invisible—the world of spirits.

thrones, or dominions—lordships: the thrones are the greater of the two.

principalities, or powers—rather, "rules, or authorities": the former are stronger than the latter (compare Note, see on [2402]Eph 1:21). The latter pair refer to offices in respect to God's creatures: "thrones and dominions" express exalted relation to God, they being the chariots on which He rides displaying His glory (Ps 68:17). The existence of various orders of angels is established by this passage.

all things—Greek, "the whole universe of things."

were—rather, to distinguish the Greek aorist, which precedes from the perfect tense here, "have been created." In the former case the creation was viewed as a past act at a point of time, or as done once for all; here it is viewed, not merely as one historic act of creation in the past, but as the permanent result now and eternally continuing.

by him—as the instrumental Agent (Joh 1:3).

for him—as the grand End of creation; containing in Himself the reason why creation is at all, and why it is as it is [Alford]. He is the final cause as well as the efficient cause. Lachmann's punctuation of Col 1:15-18 is best, whereby "the first-born of every creature" (Col 1:15) answers to "the first-born from the dead" (Col 1:18), the whole forming one sentence with the words ("All things were created by Him and for Him, and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist, and He is the Head of the body, the Church") intervening as a parenthesis. Thus Paul puts first, the origination by Him of the natural creation; secondly, of the new creation. The parenthesis falls into four clauses, two and two: the former two support the first assertion, "the first-born of every creature"; the latter two prepare us for "the first-born from the dead"'; the former two correspond to the latter two in their form—"All things by Him … and He is," and "By Him all things … and He is."

For by him were all things created: he proves Christ to be before and Lord over every creature, more excellent than them all, with a prerogative other princes want, for none of them is a creator of his subjects, who were not made by him or for him, as all creatures without exception were made by and for Christ. The apostle here is as cautious as may be, lest by speaking of Christ as

the firstborn of every creature, he should seem to put him in the order of creatures, which he shows do depend upon him for their creation and preservation, since he brought them out of nothing into being, and therein doth sustain them.

By him; in whom they have their beings, live and move, Acts 17:28. Some render the particle in, rather than by. But they disclaim the philosophical notions about Platonic ideas, only conceive all to be made in Christ, as the exemplary cause, whom God had in his eternal decree set up as the pattern of all perfections, being his image, according to which it was agreed, in the council of the Trinity, man should be made, Genesis 1:26. But the most do, according to our translation, render it (as a Hebrew phrase) by, ( being of the same import with that in the end of the verse), or through, which is expressive of the principal efficient, not the instrumental cause, for all the things made were produced out of nothing into being immediately by him, John 1:3,10 Heb 1:8,10: he might well be Lord over them all, who was the first founder of them, Acts 10:36 1 Corinthians 8:6; and whatever the adversaries allege, it is plain in Scripture that by is used of the principal cause, Colossians 1:1 Romans 11:31,36 1 Corinthians 1:1 1 Corinthians 12:8,9 2 Corinthians 1:1 Galatians 1:1 1 Thessalonians 4:2 2 Thessalonians 3:12.

Were all things created: creation is simply, universally, and absolutely attributed to him; for whatever subtilties some would suggest,

all things created by him is equivalent to he created all things; compare Psalm 96:5 102:25, with Isaiah 44:24 48:13 Jeremiah 10:12 Acts 17:24, with Romans 11:36: (like 1 Corinthians 1:9, with 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

That are in heaven, and that are in earth: the apostle speaks extensively of all proceeding from not being into being, both generally and distributively, agreeably to the common expression of

all things that were made at the beginning, Acts 4:24: though in Scripture, where mention is made of the creation, heaven and earth be not always expressed, Isaiah 40:26 Mark 10:6 13:19 Acts 17:24 Romans 1:20 2 Peter 3:4 Revelation 4:11; but here, where all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, are expressed, it is evident that heaven and earth are together comprehended.

Visible and invisible: these two adjuncts of visible and invisible do divide all creatures whatsoever, there being nothing made that is not one or the other.

Whether they be; all enumeration is particularly made of the latter, which for their excellency (if any) might seem to be exempted (by those in danger of being beguiled to the worshipping of angels) from the state and condition of being created by Jesus Christ; particularly,

thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; those he here names, as elsewhere, Romans 8:38 Ephesians 1:20,21 3:10 6:12, in the abstracts for the concretes, the invisible inhabitants of the world. I know some would have dignities in human policy to be meant, as Titus 3:1 2 Peter 2:10 Judges 1:8; but it is more rational, with the generality of ancient and modern interpreters, as Colossians 2:15, to expound these titles of incorporeal and angelical creatures, whether by an emphatical synonyme, angels generally, by a metonymy, being ministers of the heavenly state; or more probably, as should seem from the scope of the place, by such a subdivision of invisibles as the apostle did conceive there was, according to the properties wherein they were eminent, and the offices whereunto they were delegated of God, which he expressed disjunctively by borrowed titles from the distinctions of men in dignities and offices here below, as dukes, earls, lords, and other magistrates; the Scriptures elsewhere initmating distinctions amongst the spiritual ministers attending the commands of the heavenly Majesty upon his throne, represented shadowed by the cherubims, Genesis 3:24 Exodus 25:18,22 1 Samuel 4:4 2 Samuel 6:2 1 Chronicles 28:18 Psalm 80:1 Isaiah 37:16 Ezekiel 1:13; denominated archangels and princes, Daniel 10:13,21 1 Thessalonians 4:16 Judges 1:9; which imply some distinctions and orders amongst angelical beings, but what that is we know not, (whatever is disputed in the Roman schools from the spurious Denys), and therefore having no ground from Scripture, account it no better than curiosity to inquire, and rashness to determine.

All things were created by him: after his enumeration and distribution of things created, the apostle doth, for further confirmation, repeat the universal proposition or assumption, with a preposition expressive of the same absolute efficiency of causality that is attributed to God the Father and the Holy Ghost; all created things being made by him, i.e. by Christ, whose works without are undivided from those of the other Persons in the Trinity; they were all brought out of nothing into being by him, not by angels.

And for him; which is more fully proved from his being the final (as well as efficient) cause of them; they all had their being in respect of him or for him, i.e. his glory, Romans 11:36, to manifest his Divine power and infinite goodness, John 5:17,23Jo 17:5; he is their end as well as founder, Revelation 5:13; the apostle affirms the same of him that is affirmed of the Father, Job 9:8 Proverbs 16:4 Isaiah 44:24; he made them all for his own sake. The Socinians, in derogation to Christ’s Divinity, would restrain, limit, and narrow what Christ saith here in this verse to the new creation, or reparation, but against manifest reason. For:

1. The words creature and creation in the foregoing verse and this, are used absolutely, as was before suggested, and so created here repeated twice, and joined with the word all, and therefore to be understood, as elsewhere, absolutely of the old or first creation, Mark 10:6 13:19 16:15 Romans 1:20,25 1 Corinthians 11:9 1 Timothy 4:3 Hebrews 4:13 2 Peter 3:4 Revelation 10:6; for when it is used of the second creation, or restoration, the restrictive additament of new is joined with it, Isaiah 65:17,18 2 Corinthians 5:17 Galatians 6:15 Ephesians 2:15 4:24, not left indefinitely as here.

2. In parallel places, the making and founding of the old creation is ascribed to Christ, both negatively and positively, John 1:3 Hebrews 1:3,10; not one thing is excepted, and therefore should not be restrained to men.

3. It is most evident from the context the apostle doth in this verse discourse of creation, in contradistinction to what he speaks of afterwards in, {Colossians 1:18,20} when he comes to treat of Christ as Head of his church, and we have no reason to charge the apostle with a useless repetition further.

4. The apostle’s significant enumeration and distinction of things created, doth evidence that he understood the subject, the creation, in the most extensive and unlimited consideration of it. He reckons up material as well as immaterial things, and those in heaven, which needed no restoration, as well as those on earth, which did, being polluted with sin. Those angels who had not put off the honour of the first, did not belong to the new creation; having not divested themselves of their original integrity, they needed not to be reinvested with that they never lost: and devils cannot be ranked among new creatures, neither can wicked souls, Matthew 25:41 Revelation 22:15; neither are there new and old orders of angels; so that the dominion Christ is here (as elsewhere) asserted as founder of, is the whole, not only the new creation, Revelation 5:13. For by him were all things created,.... This is a reason proving Christ to be before all creatures, to be the common Parent of them, and to have the government over them, since he is the Creator of them. The creation of all things, by him, is not to be understood of the new creation, for whenever that is spoken of, the word "new" is generally used, or what is equivalent to it, or some clause or phrase added, which determines the sense, and is not the case here: besides, all things that are in heaven are said to be created here: which, to say nothing of the sun, moon, and stars, which are not capable subjects of the new creation, to restrain them to angels, cannot be true of them; for as for those who were once in heaven, but kept not their first estate, and quitted their habitation, these find no place there any more; they never were, nor will be renewed and restored by Christ; and as for the good angels, since they never sinned, they stand in no need of renovation. Moreover, all things that are on earth are also said to be created by him, and are, but not anew: for to confine these only to men, all men are not renewed in the spirit of their minds; all have not faith, nor a good hope through grace, nor love to God and Christ, the greater part of the world lies in open wickedness; and all that profess religion are not new creatures, these are a chosen generation, and a peculiar people: wherefore these words must be understood, not metaphorically, but literally; in which sense all things are created by Christ, not by him as an instrument, but as the efficient cause; for the preposition "by" does not always signify the former; but sometimes the latter; see 1 Corinthians 1:9; nor to the exclusion of the Father and Spirit, who, with the Son, were jointly concerned in the creating of all things out of nothing: and these "all things" can only refer to the things that are made: eternal things can never be said to be created; this is a contradiction in terms; the Father is not created by him, nor he himself as the Son of God, nor the Spirit; but everything that is made is created by him: hence it follows, that he himself is no creature, otherwise he must create himself, which also is a contradiction, since every creature is made by him; and consequently he must be God, for he that made and built all things is God. These are divided as to the subject of them, or place where they are, into things

that are in heaven, and that are in earth. The things that are in heaven, are the things that are in the airy and starry heavens, and in the heaven of heavens. The things in the airy heavens, the fowls thereof, were on the fifth day created by him; and the things in the starry heaven, the sun, moon, and stars, were on the fourth day ordained by him; and the inhabitants of the third heaven, the angels, were made by him, Hebrews 1:7; and, as the Jewish writers (i) say, on the second day of the creation, though some say on the fifth. The earth comprehends the whole terraqueous globe, consisting of land and sea; and the things in it are all that are in the seas, the fishes and other things in it; and all that are in the bowels of the earth, as well as on the surface of it, all metals and minerals, all plants, herbs, and trees, every beast of the forest, the cattle on a thousand hills, the fowls on the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field, and all human creatures. Again, these all things are, as to the quality of them, distributed into

visible and invisible, both in heaven and in earth: the visible things in heaven are the fowls that fly in the airy heaven, the sun, and moon, and stars in the starry heaven, and the bodies of those saints that have been either translated, or raised, in the third heaven; the visible things in the earth are all creatures, animate and inanimate, rational and irrational, all bodies, all corporeal and material beings: the invisible things in earth are not only those that are in the innermost parts of it, but the spirits or souls of men; and those in heaven are not the invisible God, Father, Son, and Spirit, but the angels, who are incorporeal and immaterial spirits, and so invisible: and which,

whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, are all made by him; by these some understand civil magistrates among men, and the various degrees and orders of them. By "thrones" they think kings, or monarchs, are meant, who sit on thrones; and by "dominions", little petty kings, or lords, dukes, and earls; and by "principalities", governors of provinces and cities; and by "powers", interior magistrates; and indeed, political governors are sometimes called dominions, dignities, principalities, and powers; and there are different orders of them, the king as supreme, and governors under him; see Jde 1:8. But since these seem rather to be said of the invisible things in heaven, and to be an explanation of them, angels may rather be thought to be intended; and are so called, not as denoting different orders and degrees among them, which some have rashly ventured to describe, but because of the use that God makes of them in the government of the world, and the executions of the various affairs of Providence relating to particular persons and kingdoms; though these several names are not so much such as the apostle chose to call them by, as what they were called by others; the three latter are indeed elsewhere used by himself, Ephesians 1:21; but not the former, "thrones", which yet are used by Jewish writers, and given to angels. Thus, in a book of theirs, which they esteem very ancient, and ascribe to the patriarch Abraham, it is said (k),

"there is no angel in which the name Jehovah is not found, which is everywhere, as the soul is in every member; wherefore men ought to allow Jehovah to reign in all the members, , "and in all the thrones", and in all the angels, and in every member of men.

And elsewhere, speaking of the garments of God,

"by these (say they (l)) , "the holy blessed God created the thrones", and the angels, and the living creatures, and the "seraphim", and the heavens, and the earth, and all that he created.

And the thrones in Daniel 7:9; are interpreted (m), of

"the superior princes, , "the spiritual angels", who sit first in the kingdom; and they are called in the words of the Rabbins, "the throne of glory"; for so is the way of kings, that their princes sit before them, everyone on his throne, according to their dignity.

Now the apostle's sense is, that the angels, the invisible inhabitants of the upper world, are all created by Christ, let them be called by what names they will, that the Jews, or the false teachers, or any sort of heretics of those times thought fit to give them, whether they called them thrones or dominions, &c. And so the Arabic version, rather interpreting than translating the words, renders them thus, "whether you say thrones, or whether you mention dominions, or whether you understand princes, or whether you say powers"; speak of them under what title or appellation you please, they are all the creatures of the Son of God. The apostle seems to have in view, and to oppose some notions of some heretics of his time, the followers of Simon Magus, who held, that the angels were created by his Helena; or, as others, by what they call "Ennea", and that these angels created the world, and are to be worshipped; but he here affirms, that

all things were created by him, by Christ, even all the angels; and therefore he, and not they, are to be worshipped, a notion he afterwards takes notice of in the following chapter: and as all things are affirmed to be created by him, which demonstrates the dignity and deity of his person, so likewise

for him; that is, for his pleasure, that he may take delight and complacency in them, and in his own perfections displayed by them; and for his service and use, as the angels, to worship him and minister to him and for others, he sends them to: elect men are made to serve and glorify him with their bodies and spirits, which are his; and even the non-elect are made to subserve his mediatorial kingdom and interest; yea, the whole world is built and kept in being purely on his account, until he has finished the great affair of the salvation of his people, in the application of it to each of them, as he has completed the impetration of it; and then he will dissolve the heavens, and burn up the earth and all the works that are therein: all are made for his glory, and that end is, and will be answered by them in one way or another,

(i) Targum Jon. in Gen. i. 26. Bereshit Rabba, fol. 1. 1. & 3. 3. Menass. ben Israel, Conciliator in Gen. Qu. 12. (k) Sepher Jetzira, p. 17, Ed. Rittangel. (l) Tikkune Zohar in ib. p. 127, 128. & Zohar in Exod. fol. 18. 2. & in Lev. fol. 39. 1. & 47. 2.((m) Abarbinel in Dan. fol. 45. 4. & 46. 4.

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be {k} thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

(k) He sets forth the angels with glorious names, so that by the comparison of most excellent spirits, we may understand how far surpassing the excellency of Christ is, in whom alone we have to content ourselves with, and let go of all angels.

Colossians 1:16. For in Him were all things created,—the logically correct confirmation of πρωτότοκος πάσ. κτίσεως. For if the creation of all things took place in Christ, it is evident that He must stand before the series of created things, and be πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως.

ἐν αὐτῷ] is not equivalent to διʼ αὐτοῦ (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Erasmus, Beza, Bleek, and many others), but: on Christ depended (causally) the act of creation, so that the latter was not done independently of Him—in a causal connection apart from Him—but it had in Him the ground essentially conditioning it. In Him lay, in fact, the potency of life, from which God made the work of creation proceed, inasmuch as He was the personal principle of the divine self-revelation, and therewith the accomplisher of the divine idea of the world. A well-known classical usage to denote the dependence of a state of things, the causality of which is contained in any one. See Bernhardy, p. 210; Kühner, II. 1, p. 403 f.; from the N. T., Winer, p. 364 [E. T. 521]. Not as if the “causa principalis” of the creation lay in Christ, but the organic causality of the world’s becoming created was in Him; hence the following διʼ αὐτοῦ affirms not a different state of things, but the same thing under a varied form of conception and designation, by which it is brought out in greater definiteness. The primary ground of creation is ever God, Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 11:3. The speculative interpretation of scholastic theology, which found here the “causa exemplaris,” according to which the idea omnium rerum was in Christ, is indeed followed in the main again by Beyschlag, as earlier by Kleuker, Böhmer, Bähr, Neander, Schleiermacher, Steiger, Julius Müller, Olshausen (the latter saying: “the Son of God is the intelligible world, the κόσμος νοητός, that is, things in their very idea; He bears their essence in Himself”), but is destitute of confirmation from the modes of conception and expression elsewhere in the N. T., and, as ἐκτίσθη denotes the historical fact of the having been created, it would require not ἐν αὐτῷ, but ἐξ αὐτοῦ, by which the coming forth of the real from the ideal existence in Christ might be expressed. Huther finds the inward connection indicated by ἐν αὐτῷ in the idea, that the eternal essence of the universe is the divine essence itself, which in Christ became man. This idea in itself has no biblical ground; and Paul is speaking here, not of the existence and essence of the universe in Christ, but of the becoming created, which took place in Christ (ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, John 1:4), consequently of a divine act depending on Christ; comp. John 1:3 : χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἓν ὃ γέγονεν; Hebrews 1:2; and Bleek in loc. Lastly, de Wette finds in ἐν besides the instrumental agency at the same time something of a telic idea (comp. also Ewald and Weiss, Bibl. Theol. p. 424 f.); but this blending together of two heterogeneous references is not justified by the διʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτόν that follows.

ἐκτίσθη] physical act of creation; Schleiermacher ought not to have called in question the linguistic usage to this effect, with a view to favour the ethical interpretation of the founding of the church. See Wis 1:14; Wis 10:1; Wis 11:18; Deuteronomy 4:32; comp. Genesis 6:7; Sir 24:9, comp. Sir 15:14; Jdt 13:18; comp. Genesis 1:1; 1 Corinthians 11:9; Ephesians 3:9; Romans 1:25; Revelation 10:6, comp. Revelation 14:7. The word may have the meaning adopted by Schleiermacher: to obtain its arrangement and constitution (Herod. i. 149, 167, 168; Thuc. i. 100; Aesch. Choeph. 484; Soph. Ant. 1101; Pind. Ol. vi. 116; 3 Esdr. 4:53), and that according to the relative nature of the notion implied in the word condere (comp. Blomf. Gloss, in Aesch. Pers. 294); but not here, where it is correlative with πάσης κτίσεως, and where the quite general and in no way to be restricted τὰ πάντα follows. Throughout the N. T., in general κτίζω, κτίσις, κτίσμα, denote the original bringing forth, never merely the arrangement of that which exists; and even in such passages as Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 2:15; Ephesians 4:24, the relation is conceived, only in a popular manner, as actual creation.

Observe, moreover, the distinction of the tenses: ἐκτίσθη, which denotes the act that took place; and then ἔκτισται, which denotes the creation which has taken place and now subsists. See Winer, p. 255 [E. T. 340]; Kühner, II. 1, p. 143 f., and ad Xen. Mem. iii. 1. 4, iii. 7. 7.

τὰ πάντα] the collective whole, namely, of what is created. This is then specified in a twofold way, as well in regard to place as in regard to nature.

τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς κ.τ.λ.] the things to be found in the heavens and those to be found on earth. This is certainly a less exact designation of all created things than that in Revelation 10:6 (τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ κ.τ.λ.; comp. Nehemiah 9:6; Genesis 2:1, et al.), but does not differ from it, as it does not exclude heaven and earth themselves, the constituent elements of which, in the popular view, are included in these two categories. Comp. 1 Chronicles 29:11. It is incorrect, therefore, to press this expression in opposition to the explanation which refers it to the creation of the world (Wetstein: “non dicit ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ ἐκτίσθη sed τὰ πάντα, etc., quo habitatores significantur, qui reconciliantur,” comp. Heinrichs and others, also Catech. Racov. 132, p. 214, ed. Oeder), and to think, with Schleiermacher, of the kingdom of heaven; but it is arbitrary also, especially after τὰ πάντα, to make the apostle mean primarily the living (Bähr, de Wette) or rational creatures. The expression embraces everything; hence there was neither need for the mention of the lower world, nor, looking at the bipartite form of enumeration, occasion for it (it is otherwise in Php 2:10; Revelation 5:3). The idea that Paul could not have adduced those under the earth as a special class of created beings, because God had not created them with the view of their being under the earth (de Wette), would imply a reflection alien to the vivid flow of the passage before us.

τὰ ὁρατὰ κ. τὰ ἀόρατα] By the latter is meant the heavenly world of spirits, the angelic commonwealth, as is evident from the more precise enumeration which follows, and not the souls of men (Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others), which, on the contrary, as animating a portion of the ὁρατά, are included among the latter. Theodoret erroneously asserts that even τὰ ὁρατά applies to heavenly things (sun, moon, and stars); it applies to everything visible, as in Plat. Phaed. p. 79 A: θῶμεν οὖν, εἰ βούλει, ἔφη, δύο εἴδη τῶν ὄντων τὸ μὲν ὁρατόν, τὸ δὲ ἀειδές.

The ἀόρατα are now more precisely specified disjunctively by εἴτε, sive … sive (put more than twice; comp. Plat. Rep. p. 612 A, 493 D; Sir 41:4). As to the four denominations of angels which follow—whose difference of rank Hofmann groundlessly denies,[35] understanding thereby merely “spirits collectively, of whatever name they may be”—see on Ephesians 1:21; Romans 8:38. In accordance with Ephesians 1:21, where the grades of angels are mentioned in descending order, the arrangement here must be understood so, that the θρόνοι are the highest and the κυριότητες the lowest class, the ἀρχαί and the ἐξουσίαι being two middle orders lying between these two extremes. At Eph. l.c. Paul names also four grades of the angelic hierarchy; but neither there nor here has he intended to give a complete enumeration of them, for in the former case he omits the θρόνοι, and in the latter the δυνάμεις. The θρόνοι are not mentioned elsewhere in the N. T. (nor yet in Ignat. ad Trail. 5), but they occur in the Test. Levi, p. 548, in which they are placed in the seventh heaven (ἐν ᾧ ἀεὶ ὕμνοι τῷ θεῷ προσφέρονται), also in Dionys. Areop. Hier. coel. 6 ff., and in the Rabbins (Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 1097; Schoettgen, Hor. p. 808). As regards the expression, the last three denominations are to be taken as abstracts, which represent the respective concretes, and analogously the concrete noun θρόνοι is used for those to be found on the thrones (for those enthroned); comp. Kühner, II. 1, p. 11; Ruhnken, ad Tim. p. 190. In this case the very natural supposition that the angels, whose designation by the term θρόνοι must have been in current use, were, in the imagery which gave sensuous embodiment to religious ideas, conceived as on thrones, is not to be called in question (in opposition to Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 226). They were probably conceived as enthroned round the throne of God (comp. Revelation 4:4; Revelation 20:4). It is to be observed, moreover, generally that Paul presupposes the various classes of angels, which he names, as well known; although we are unacquainted with the details of the case, this much is nevertheless certain, that the apostle was far removed from the dreamy fancies indulged in on this point by the later Rabbins (see Eisenmenger, entdeckt. Judenth. II. p. 374). But very soon after the apostolic age (comp. Hermas, Past. vis. iii. 4), instruction as to τοποθεσίας τὰς ἀγγελικάς was regarded as teaching for the more perfect. See Ignatius, ad Trall. 5. For the Christian faith there remains and suffices the testimony as to different and distinctively designated stages and categories in the angelic world, while any attempt to ascertain more than is written in Scripture passes into the fanciful domain of theosophy.

With ἐξουσίαι is concluded the confirmatory sentence (ὅτι), so that a full stop is to be placed after ἐξουσ. With τὰ πάντα begins a new sentence, in which τὰ πάντα and αὐτός correspond to one another; hence a comma only must stand after ἔκτισται. There is no reason for placing (with Lachmann) τὰ πάντα down to ἐκκλησ. in a parenthesis.

τὰ πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ κ.τ.λ.] a solemn recapitulation,[36] but in such a way that, instead of the act of creation previously mentioned, there is now presented the finished and ready result (ἔκτισται); the causal relation which was previously denoted by ἐν is now more precisely indicated as a relation of mediate agency (διʼ αὐτοῦ, comp. 1 Corinthians 8:6); then in εἰς αὐτόν a new element is added, and the emphasis which in Colossians 1:16 lay on ἐκτίσθη, is now laid on τὰ πάντα which stands at the head of the sentence. We cannot say with Hofmann, that by διʼ αὐτοῦ and εἰς αὐτόν the Son comes to stand in contradistinction to what has been created as Creator, after by ἐν αὐτῷ the creative act has been presented as one that had taken place only not without the Son. By the latter, ἐν αὐτῷ would become too general and indefinite a thought; while διʼ αὐτοῦ in fact leaves the Father as the Creator, which He is, and predicates of the Son merely the “causa medians” of the execution of the work, just as εἰς αὐτόν predicates the “causa finalis” of the same.

εἰς αὐτόν] in reference to Him, for Him, as the aim and end, “in quo Pater acquiescit,” Beza. Comp. Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Barnab. Ep. 12: ἐν αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα καὶ εἰς αὐτόν. The more exact purport of this relation is apparent from all that follows down to Colossians 1:20. Everything, namely, is created, in order to be dependent on Christ and to serve His will and aim.[37] Comp. on Ephesians 1:23Colossians 1:16. Paul now gives the ground for the designation of the Son as πρωτότ. π. κτίσεως. In Him τὰ πάντα were created. From this it follows that the Son cannot be a creature, for creation is exhausted by the “all things” which were so created in Him (“omnem excludit creaturam,” Bengel).—ἐν αὐτῷ: this does not mean “by Him”. The sense is disputed. The schoolmen, followed by some modern theologians, explain that the Son is the archetype of the universe, the κόσμος νοητός, the eternal pattern after which the physical universe has been created. So Philo held that the Logos was the home wherein the eternal ideas resided. But it is by no means clear that Alexandrian influence can be traced in the Epistle. Further, the notion of creation is not suitable to the origin of the ideal universe in the Son. If the Son was from eternity the archetype of the universe, then ἐκτίσθη ἐν αὐτῷ ought not to have been used, both because the aorist points to a definite time and the idea of creation is itself inapplicable. But that the ideal universe was at some time created in the Son is an highly improbable, if it is even an intelligible, idea. Again, the sense of ἐκτίσθη is controlled by that of κτίσις, which does not refer to the ideal universe. It must therefore refer to the actual creation of the universe. If Paul had intended to speak of the realisation in creation of the ideal universe which had in the Son its eternal home he would have said ἐξ αὐτοῦ. Others (Mey., Ell., Moule) take ἐν αὐτῷ to mean simply that the act of creation depended causally on the Son. This is perhaps the safest explanation, for Haupt’s interpretation that apart from His Person there would have been no creation, but with His Person creation was a necessity—in other words, that creation was “given” in Christ—seems with the aorist and the choice of the word ἐκτίσθη to be inconsistent with the eternal existence of the Son.—τὰ πάντα, i.e., the universe in its widest sense regarded as a collective whole.—ἐν τ. οὐρανοῖς κ. ἐπὶ τ. γῆς. As Lightfoot points out, “a classification by locality,” while τὰ ὁρατὰ κ. τ. ἀόρατα is a “classification by essence”. The two do not precisely correspond, for the divisions cross each other to some extent, though some confine the things in heaven to the world of spirits, and the things on earth to the world of men, in which case they would correspond to things invisible and things visible. Against this see above on π. κτίσεως.—εἴτε θρόνοι κ.τ.λ. This is not an exhaustive definition of τὰ πάντα, for Paul selects for mention those creatures to whom worship was paid by the false teachers. The names, as in similar lists, denote angels and not earthly powers. For some of them occur in Jewish angelology, and a reference to earthly dignities would be irrelevant to the polemical purpose of the passage. These angels, Paul insists, so far from being superior or equal to Christ, were as inferior to Him as the creature is to the Creator. They owed their very existence to Him, and could not therefore be allowed for one moment to usurp His place. Lightfoot thinks that Paul is expressing no opinion as to their objective existence, but is simply repeating subjective opinions; and that both here and in Colossians 2:18 he shows a “spirit of impatience with this elaborate angelology”. But in face of the detailed proof that he accepted the doctrine of various orders of angels (given most fully by Everling), this cannot be maintained, nor is there any polemical reference in Ephesians 1:21. It may be questioned whether any inference can be drawn as to the order of the ranks of angels. The order in the parallel list, Ephesians 1:21, is ἀρχή, ἐξουσία, δύναμις, κυριότης, on which Godet remarks that in Col. the question is of creation by Christ from whom all proceed, hence the enumeration descends; but in Eph. of the ascension of the risen Christ above all orders, hence the enumeration ascends. But it must be urged against this not merely that only three out of the four titles coincide, but that the order is not fully inverted. Possibly Paul employs here the order of the false teachers (so Kl[8]). The order apparently descends, but it is questionable if this is intentional, for if the highest orders were inferior to Christ, a fortiori the lower would be. θρόνοι: taken by some to be the angels of the throne, that is angels who, like the cherubim, bear the throne of God. But it is more probable that they are those seated on thrones (cf. Revelation 4:4). On these orders, cf. the Slavonic Enoch, xx. 1. In the seventh heaven Enoch saw “a very great light and all the fiery hosts of great archangels, and incorporeal powers and lordships and principalities and powers; cherubim and seraphim, thrones and the watchfulness of many eyes”. Also Enoch, lxi. 10, “and all the angels of powers and all the angels of principalities”. Test., xii., Patr. Levi., 3, ἐν δὲ τῷ μετʼ αὐτόν εἰσι θρόνοι, ἐξουσίαι, ἐν ᾧ ὕμνοι ἀεὶ τῷ Θεῷ προσφέρονται.—κυριότητες: apparently inferior to θρόνοι.—ἀρχαὶἐξουσίαι usually occur together and in this order.—τὰπάντασυνέστηκεν: thrown in as a parenthesis.—διʼ αὐτοῦ. The Son is the Agent in creation (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6); this definitely states the pre-existence of the Son and assumes the supremacy of the Father, whose Agent the Son is.—εἰς αὐτὸν. That the Son is the goal of creation is an advance on Paul’s previous teaching, which had been that the goal of the universe is God (Romans 11:36; cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6, ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν). It is urged by Holtzmann and others as decisive against the authenticity of the Epistle as it stands. But in 1 Corinthians 15:25 sq. all things have to become subject to the Son before He hands over the kingdom to the Father. We find the same thought in Matthew 28:18 and Hebrews 2:8. And, as Oltramare and others point out, in 1 Corinthians 8:6, διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα is said of Christ, but of God in Romans 11:36. Yet this difference is not quoted to show that Romans and Corinthians cannot be by the same hand, and it is equally illegitimate to press εἰς αὐτ. as inconsistent with Pauline authorship.—ἔκτισται. The perfect, as distinct from the aorist, expresses the abiding result as distinct from the act at a definite point of time (cf. John 1:3, ἐγένετο followed by γέγονεν).

[8] Klöpper.16. for] because. Now follows the proof, given in the creative action of the Son, of His priority to and lordship over created being.

by him] Lit. and far better, in Him. “The act of creation is supposed to rest in Him, and to depend on Him for its completion and realization” (Ellicott). In other words, the mighty fact that all things were created was bound up with Him, as its Secret. The creation of things was in Him, as the effect is in its cause.

A meaning so to speak more recondite has been seen here. The text has been taken to mean that the Son, the Logos, is as it were the archetypal Universe, the Sphere and Summary of all finite being as it existed (above time and temporal development) in the Eternal Mind; and accordingly that, when it came into being in time, its creation was “in” Him who thus summed it up. We venture to think that such a view is rather “read into” the words of the Christian Apostle, from non-Christian philosophies, (see Appendix C), than derived from the words.

were … created] A real event, or real events, in time. The Son is seen to have been “First with regard to creation” by the fact that He produced it; Himself existing before (or rather above) time, above all succession, all becoming.

Created:”—the Greek verb denotes the making, constituting, of a new state of things. As a Divine operation, such “creation” is the ordering by sovereign will of the material (of whatever kind) which by that will exists. See on Ephesians 2:10; and cp. John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 1:10-12; Hebrews 3:3-4.

The “Creator” here in view is properly the Father, working “in” the Son. But such, in the light of the context, is the Son, that, being from one point of view the Instrument, He is also from another the eternal Co-Agent of the Father’s will.

that are in heaven, and that are in earth] In all regions of finite being; in the whole created universe. Cp. Genesis 1:1, and a long chain of passages down to Revelation 21:1.

visible and invisible] Belonging to all orders of finite being. The division is not precisely between “material” and “spiritual;” for e.g. human beings might be classed under both these. It practically emphasizes the fact that personal powers of the Unseen Universe were as truly “created in” the Son of God as existences (of any kind) that could be seen. Here, as through the whole passage, the errors current at Colossæ are in view; errors which put “Christ” and the unseen Powers in a very different relation. See Introd., ch. 3.

thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers] More strictly, thrones, or lordships, or governments, or authorities. See Ephesians 1:21 for a close parallel. The word “thrones” is absent there, as “powers” (dunameis) is absent here. For similar language cp. Romans 8:38; below, Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 3:22. See further our notes on Ephesians 1:21 (partially quoted below, Appendix D).

Lightfoot remarks here: “No stress can be laid on the sequence of the names, as though St Paul were enunciating with authority some precise doctrine respecting the grades of the celestial hierarchy.… He does not profess to describe objective realities, but contents himself with repeating subjective opinions.… His language here shews the same spirit of impatience with this elaborate angelology as in Colossians 2:18.” We venture to dissent, in measure, from this statement. It is most certain that St Paul is not here directly and as a main purpose teaching a doctrine of angels. But he is glorifying the Son of God by a view of His relation to created being; and assuredly this would not be best done by alluding to phases of created being which might all the while be figments of the imagination. Passingly, but distinctly, so we hold, he does affirm the existence both of angels and of angelic orders, “the powers that be” of the invisible world, “created in” the eternal Cornerstone of order, the Son of God.—In Ephesians 3:10, beyond question, “the principalities and powers” are regarded as facts of the unseen world.

all things] From the details of his allusion to the hierarchies he returns to the universal statement.

were created] Lit. have been created, stand created. (Not so in the first clause of this verse.)

by him] Quite precisely, through Him; the phrase of e.g. John 1:3; John 1:10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2. It teaches that the Son, in creation, while Himself a true Divine Origin (“Beginning,” Revelation 3:14) of finite being, is the Divine Instrument of the Father’s supreme Origination.—The phrase alone does not quite fix this meaning, for in a very few passages (e.g. Hebrews 2:10) it is used of a supreme Agent’s action. But phrase and context together, as here, are decisive.

for him] “The Word is the final cause as well as the creative agent of the Universe … the goal of the Universe, as He was the starting-point.… This expression has no parallel, and could have none, in the Alexandrian phraseology and doctrine” (Lightfoot). Thus interpreted, this wonderful phrase points to that “far-off Divine event” shadowed out by 1 Corinthians 15:28; when all finite existence, even all existence which from its own side is “hostile” to God, shall be “put under the feet” of the Son, made the footstool of His throne, contributing with a harmony perfect from the side of God to the glorification of the Son, and the realization of the Father’s eternal purpose in Him. Meanwhile the words surely refer not to the mysterious future only, but to the present, to all periods and moments. From one side or another all finite being is, consciously or not, willingly or not, always subserving the glory of the Son of God, and of the Father in Him.

We gather from 1 Corinthians 15:28 that the “event” of the final subjection of all things to the Son will open up, in eternity, a mysterious “subjection” of the Son to the Father. What that means we cannot enquire here. Whatever it is, it is no dethronement of the Son (Revelation 22:3); most surely no revolution in the inner and eternal Relations of Godhead; rather, a mighty Manifestation of Sonship and Fatherhood. It is instructive in this direction to remember that the present passage was written some years later than 1 Corinthians 15, and that thus the course of inspiration did anything but lower the Apostle’s language about the glory and eternity of the Son.

In the light of this phrase deep is the significance of, e.g., Romans 14:8, and of every Scripture in which Christ appears as the Lord and God of the believer’s life and being.

F. CHRIST AND CREATION. (Colossians 1:16.)

“The heresy of the Colossian teachers took its rise … in their cosmical speculations. It was therefore natural that the Apostle in replying should lay stress on the function of the Word in the creation and government of the world. This is the aspect of His work most prominent in the first of the two distinctly Christological passages. The Apostle there predicates of the Word [the Son] not only prior but absolute existence. All things were created by Him, are sustained in Him, are tending towards Him. Thus He is the beginning, middle, and end of creation. This He is because He is the very Image of the Invisible God, because in Him dwells the Plenitude of Deity.

“This creative and administrative work of Christ the Word [the Son] in the natural order of things is always emphasized in the writings of the Apostles when they touch on the doctrine of His Person … With ourselves this idea has retired very much into the background … And the loss is serious … How much more hearty would be the sympathy of theologians with the revelations of science and the developments of history, if they habitually connected them with the operations of the same Divine Word who is the centre of all their religious aspirations, it is needless to say.

“It will be said indeed that this conception leaves … creation … as much a mystery as before. This may be allowed. But is there any reason to think that with our present limited capacities the veil which shrouds it ever will be removed? The metaphysical speculations of twenty-five centuries have done nothing to raise it. The physical investigations of our own age from their very nature can do nothing; for, busied with the evolution of phenomena, they lie wholly outside this question, and do not even touch the fringe of the difficulty. But meanwhile revelation has interposed, and thrown out the idea which, if it leaves many questions unsolved, gives a breadth and unity to our conceptions, at once satisfying our religious needs and linking our scientific instincts with our theological beliefs.”

Lightfoot, Colossians, pp. 182, 183.

“From dearth to plenty, and from death to life,

Is Nature’s progress, when she lectures man

In heavenly truth; evincing, as she makes

The grand transition, that there lives and works

A soul in all things, and that soul is God.

The Lord of all, Himself through all diffused,

Sustains, and is the life of all that lives.

Nature is but a name for an effect

Whose Cause is God. He feeds the secret fire

By which the mighty process is maintain’d …

[All things] are under One. One Spirit, His

Who wore the platted thorns with bleeding brows,

Rules universal Nature. Not a flower

But shews some touch, in freckle, streak, or stain,

Of His unrival’d pencil. He inspires

Their balmy odours, and imparts their hues,

And bathes their eyes with nectar, and includes

In grains as countless as the seaside sands,

The forms with which He sprinkles all the earth.

Happy who walks with Him! whom what he finds

Of flavour or of scent in fruit or flower,

Or what he views of beautiful or grand, …

Prompts with remembrance of a present God.”

Cowper, The Task, Book vi.

The views outlined by Bishop Lightfoot, in the passage quoted above, are pregnant of spiritual and mental assistance. At the same time with them, as with other great aspects of Divine Truth, a reverent caution is needed in the development and limitation. The doctrine of the Creating Word, the Eternal Son, “in” Whom finite existence has its Corner-stone, may actually degenerate into a view both of Christ and Creation nearer akin to some forms of Greek speculation than to Christianity, if not continually balanced and guarded by a recollection of other great contents of Revelation. Dr J. H. Rigg, in Modern Anglican Theology (3rd Edition, 1880), has drawn attention to the affinity which some recent influential forms of Christian thought bear to Neo-Platonism rather than to the New Testament. In particular, any view of the relation of Christ to “Nature” and to man which leads to the conclusion that all human existences are so “in Christ” that the individual man is vitally united to Him antecedent to regeneration, and irrespective of the propitiation of the Cross, tends to non-Christian affinities. It is a fact never to be lost sight of that any theology which on the whole gives to the mysteries of guilt and propitiation a less prominent place than that given to them in Holy Scripture, tends to a very wide divergence from the scriptural type. Here, as in all things, the safety of thought lies on the one hand in neglecting no great element of revealed truth, on the other in coordinating the elements on the scale, and in the manner, of Divine Revelation.


In the precise form presented in Colossians the revelation of the Creative Work of the Son is new in St Paul’s Epistles. But intimations of it are to be found in the earlier Epistles, and such as to make this final development as natural as it is impressive. In 1 Corinthians 8:6 we have the “one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him;” which is in effect the germ of the statements of Colossians 1. And in Romans 8:19-23 we have a passage pregnant with the thought that the created Universe has a mysterious relation to “the sons of God,” such that their glorification will be also its emancipation from the laws of decay; or at least that the glorification and the emancipation are deeply related to each other. Nothing is wanted to make the kinship of that passage and Colossians 1 evident at a glance, but an explicit mention of Christ as the Head of both worlds. As it is, His mysterious but most real connexion with the making and the maintaining of the Universe is seen lying as it were just below the surface of the passage in Romans.

H. “THRONES AND DOMINIONS.” (Colossians 1:16)

We transcribe here a note from our edition of Ephesians in this Series; on the words of Ephesians 1:21 :

“Two thoughts are conveyed; first, subordinately, the existence of orders and authorities in the angelic (as well as human) world; then, primarily, the imperial and absolute Headship of the Son over them all. The additional thought is given us by Colossians 1:16, that He was also, in His preexistent glory, their Creator; but this is not in definite view here, where He appears altogether as the exalted Son of Man after Death. In Romans 8, Colossians 2, and Ephesians 6 … we have cognate phrases where evil powers are meant.… But the context here is distinctly favourable to a good reference. That the Redeemer should be “exalted above” powers of evil is a thought scarcely adequate in a connexion so full of the imagery of glory as this. That He should be “exalted above” the holy angels is fully in point. 1 Peter 3:22 is our best parallel; and cp. Revelation 5:11-12. See also Matthew 13:41; “The Son of Man shall send forth His angels.”

“We gather from the Epistle to the Colossians that the Churches of Asia Proper were at this time in danger from a quasi-Jewish doctrine of Angel-worship, akin to the heresies afterwards known as Gnosticism. Such a fact gives special point to the phrases here. On the other hand it does not warrant the inference that St Paul repudiates all the ideas of such an angelology. The idea of order and authority in the angelic world he surely endorses, though quite in passing.

“Theories of angelic orders, more or less elaborate, are found in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, (cent. 1–2); Origen (cent. 3); St Ephrem Syrus (cent. 4). By far the most famous ancient treatise on the subject is the book On the Celestial Hierarchy, under the name (certainly assumed) of Dionysius the Areopagite; a book first mentioned cent. 6, from which time onwards it had a commanding influence in Christendom. (See Article Dionysius in Smith’s Dict. Christ. Biography). “Dionysius” ranked the orders (in descending scale) in three Trines; Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; Dominations, Virtues, Powers (Authorities); Principalities, Archangels, Angels. The titles are thus a combination of the terms Seraphim, Cherubim, Archangels, Angels, with those used by St Paul here and in Colossians 1.

“Readers of Paradise Lost, familiar with the majestic line,

‘Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Pow’rs,’

are not always aware of its learned accuracy of allusion. The Dionysian system powerfully attracted the sublime mind of Dante. In the Paradiso, Canto xxxviii., is a grand and characteristic passage, in which Beatrice expounds the theory to Dante, as he stands, in the Ninth Heaven, in actual view of the Hierarchies encircling the Divine Essence:

‘All, as they circle in their orders, look

Aloft; and, downward, with such sway prevail

That all with mutual impulse tend to God.

These once a mortal view beheld. Desire

In Dionysius so intensely wrought

That he, as I have done, ranged them, and named

Their orders, marshal’d in his thought.’

Cary’s Dante.”Colossians 1:16. Ὅτι, because) The second part of the 15th verse is hereby explained.—ἐν, in) ἐν ᾧ denotes something prior to διὰ and εἰς, which presently occur. There is here noticed the beginning, the progress, the end. The same is summarily repeated in the following verse.—αὐτῷ, by Him) He Himself, often used here, signifies His great majesty, and excludes every creature.—ἐκτίσθη, were created) It is evident from the enumeration which immediately follows, that the discussion here relates to that creation which is described, Genesis 1; comp. Colossians 1:23.—τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, those things that are in the heavens) and the heavens themselves. But those things which are in the heavens are rather named, because the inhabitants are more noble than their dwellings.—τὰ ὁρατὰ, the visible things) There follows by gradation, and invisible, of which the species are subjoined. [Since visible things, such as the sun, moon, stars, are named first, invisible things subsequently, in succession, it may not be unworthy of consideration, whether the visible things may not have been created during the period of the six days, and the invisible things on the seventh day? Genesis 2:1-2; Exodus 31:17.—V. g.]—εἰτε θρόνοι εἰτε κυριότητες, whether thrones or dominions) The former greater than the latter. The abstract for the concrete.—εἴτε ἀρχαὶ εἴτε ἐξουσίαι, whether principalities or powers) The former stronger than the latter. Both of these two express an exercise of an office in respect of the creatures; but thrones and dominions seem rather to have their appellation in their exalted relation to God, in so far as they are ὀχήματα, the chariots, on which He displays His majesty, Ephesians 1:21.Verse 16.

(b) For in Him were created all things,

(c) In the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible - whether thrones, whether lordships, whether principalities, whether dominions - By him (ἐν αὐτῶ)

Rev., in Him. In is not instrumental but local; not denying the instrumentality, but putting the fact of creation with reference to its sphere and center. In Him, within the sphere of His personality, resides the creative will and the creative energy, and in that sphere the creative act takes place. Thus creation was dependent on Him. In Christ is a very common phrase with Paul to express the Church's relation to Him. Thus "one body in Christ," Romans 12:5; "fellow-workers in Jesus Christ," Romans 16:3. Compare Romans 16:7, Romans 16:9, Romans 16:11; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 4:15, etc.

All things (τὰ πάντα)

The article gives a collective sense - the all, the whole universe of things. Without the article it would be all things severally.

Were created (ἐκτίσθη)

See on John 1:3. The aorist tense, denoting a definite historical event.

Visible - invisible

Not corresponding to earthly and heavenly. There are visible things in heaven, such as the heavenly bodies, and invisible things on earth, such as the souls of men.

Thrones, dominions, principalities, powers (θρόνοι, κυριότητες, ἀρχαὶ, ἐξουσίαι)

Compare Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Romans 8:38; Colossians 2:10, Colossians 2:15; Titus 3:1. In Titus 3:1, they refer to earthly dignities, and these are probably included in 1 Corinthians 15:24. It is doubtful whether any definite succession of rank is intended. At any rate it is impossible to accurately define the distinctions. It has been observed that wherever principalities (ἀρχαὶ) and powers (ἐξουσίαι) occur together, principalities always precedes, and that δύναμις power (see Ephesians 1:21) when occurring with either of the two, follows it; or, when occurring with both, follows both. The primary reference is, no doubt, to the celestial orders; but the expressions things on earth, and not only in this world in the parallel passage, Ephesians 1:21, indicate that it may possibly include earthly dignities. Principalities and powers are used of both good and evil powers. See Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15. The passage is aimed at the angel-worship of the Colossians (see Introduction); showing that while they have been discussing the various grades of angels which fill the space between God and men, and depending on them as media of communion with God, they have degraded Christ who is above them all, and is the sole mediator. Compare Hebrews 1:5-14, where the ideas of the Son as Creator and as Lord of the angels are also combined. Thrones occurs only here in enumerations of this kind. It seems to indicate the highest grade. Compare Revelation 4:4, θρόνοι thrones, A.V. seats, and see note. Thrones here probably means the enthroned angels. Dominions or dominations, also Ephesians 1:21. Principalities or princedoms. In Romans 8:38, this occurs without powers which usually accompanies it.

All things (τὰ πάντα)

Recapitulating. Collectively as before.

Were created (ἔκτισται)

Rev., correctly, have been created. The perfect tense instead of the aorist, as at the beginning of the verse. "The latter describes the definite, historical act of creation; the former the continuous and present relations of creation to the Creator" (Lightfoot). So John 1:3. "Without Him did not any thing come into being (ἐγένετο, aorist) which hath come into being" (and exists, γέγονεν, see note).


Colossians 1:16 Interlinear
Colossians 1:16 Parallel Texts

Colossians 1:16 NIV
Colossians 1:16 NLT
Colossians 1:16 ESV
Colossians 1:16 NASB
Colossians 1:16 KJV

Colossians 1:16 Bible Apps
Colossians 1:16 Parallel
Colossians 1:16 Biblia Paralela
Colossians 1:16 Chinese Bible
Colossians 1:16 French Bible
Colossians 1:16 German Bible

Bible Hub
Colossians 1:15
Top of Page
Top of Page