Question: "What does it mean that all things were created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16)?"
Answer: Colossians 1:16 says, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” The Him here is a reference to Jesus, the image of the “invisible God” mentioned in the previous verse. These verses are some of the most beautiful and theologically rich statements about Jesus in the New Testament. Many scholars believe they comprised an early hymn circulated among believers in the first century.
When Paul says that all things were made by Him and for Him, he is expressing Jesus’ central and superior role in creation. Several verses at the beginning of Colossians further highlight and elevate Jesus’ status as the Son of God over creation. Paul refers to Jesus as “the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15) and later says that Jesus is “before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). He also says that Jesus is the “head of the body” and “the beginning and firstborn from among the dead” (Colossians 1:18).
What Paul is saying is that Jesus has the ultimate position of honor and holds divine power over all the created order. Everything in creation was made by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus (Romans 11:36). He was there at the beginning of creation when all things were made through Him, He is the One seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:19–21), and He is the end goal of all creation. In other words, all things were created for Him in order to bring Him glory and display God’s power (Revelation 4:11).
In Genesis 1:1–2, we’re told that “God created the heavens and the earth” and that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” At first, this may seem to contradict what Paul says in Colossians 1:16 about all things being created by Jesus and for Jesus. However, considering that Jesus is God (John 8:58; 10:30) and that God is triune (2 Corinthians 13:14), no contradiction really exists. In God’s action of creating all things, He acted as the Trinity. Just because one verse appears to say that God the Spirit created everything doesn’t mean that God the Son and/or God the Father were not involved. One way to understand this would be to say that everything in creation was made according to God the Father, by and through God the Son, and empowered by God the Spirit (see John 1:1–5).
So, when Paul says that all things were made by Him and for Him in Colossians 1:16, he is confirming Jesus’ supreme role as the Son of God over all creation.