Colossians 1:17

"And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." ESV. My emphasis.

Barnes' notes on the Bible:

"The meaning is, that they [all things] are kept in the present state; their existence, order, and arrangement are continued by his power. If unsupported by him, they would fall into disorder, or sink back to nothing".

Matthew 24:7

"For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places".

Since wars, famines and earthquakes seem to be manifestations of destructive forces causing division and disorder in human life and in nature, in what sense do all things "hold together" as in Col 1:17?

2 Answers 2


This question is much debated and no final consensus has emerged. So, let me offers some suggestions about the possible meaning of Col 1:17.

1. Life

In Isa 42:5 we have:

This is what God the LORD says—He who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and its offspring, who gives breath to the people on it and life to those who walk in it:

We have similar ideas taught in Num 16:22 (see also Num 27:16)

But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”

I note in passing that it remains a deep mystery what living cells are "alive" and what distinguishes a living cell from a dead one even though both consist of exactly the same chemistry.

2. Existence

In his famous book, "A Brief History of Time", Stephen Hawking asked the important question:

"Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?"

Following the same idea that the ultimate reality are the mathematical equations that describe the reality, he also asks:

"Why does the universe go to all the trouble of existing?".

An even more important question is this, What made the equations and their associated constants just right for the universe to exist at all? And, What ensures that these things do not change?


In both these possibilities, God sustains the entire universe by his "powerful word" (Heb 1:3). And, He does this without contravening the free choice of people, whether sinful or not. God did not create sin and dysfunction and one day, God will eliminate sin from the universe and thus eliminate dysfunction as well (see Rom 8:22, 23).

  • What do you mean, please, by "free choice"? Do you agree that, we choose, we choose on the basis of who we are, but we not choose who we are? i.e. free choice is the freedom to express who we are.
    – C. Stroud
    Mar 8 at 16:44
  • @C.Stroud - we are free to choose to accept or reject the prompting of the Holy Spirit for salvation and other such life choices. See Josh 24:15.
    – Dottard
    Mar 8 at 20:01

We have free will - freedom of choice, in everything EXCEPT salvation. Can a dead man choose to live; a corpse choose to sit up in his coffin? If we think we have decided to accept Jesus, it's only because we have already been chosen and called by God. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." Romans 9:16. We are spiritually dead, unable to believe God without first being fitted with our spiritual receiver - the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:14.

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