What Keeps the Atom from Flying Apart?

My chemistry teacher stood in front of our Sophomore class, surrounded by her beakers and lab equipment. On the counter between her and the front row stood a complex looking example of an atom with its protons and neutrons surrounded by electrons, balanced in a perfect orbit. Mrs. Smith laid out a challenge to the class with a suspicious tone in her voice:

“Who can explain how the atom remains intact? Why doesn’t it fly apart?”

Several seconds of silence passed.

A few students seemed to be puzzling over the answer. Most were in a semi-comatose state, when I blurted out the memory verse that immediately came to mind:

[box]“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17)[/box]

Mrs. Smith looked startled and wasn’t sure how to respond (keep in mind, this wasn’t a Christian high school), so I rushed on with my thoughts on the fact that since Jesus is the creator of the universe and He’s the one who put the atom together, it only made since to me that He is able to hold the atoms intact.

No comment from Mrs. Smith. She forged ahead after gaining her composure by stating that no one really understands exactly why the atom doesn’t fly apart, but there is a force that holds the atom’s components in place. That was a few decades ago, and I imagine there are more specific answers now that involve things like “quarks” and other interesting discoveries from physics. But my answer would still remain the same.

He is before all things. He is superior to all creation because He is the creator, and all things are held together by His command.

That is just one of the many encouraging truths we glean from studying Colossians. I absolutely love how Jesus is presented in this passage:

[box]He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by 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. (Col. 1:15–17)[/box]

We’ve been studying the book of Colossians together. If you missed those posts, I hope you’ll click back to read through those and then come back here to dig into this powerful book with us! We worked through the first eleven verses yesterday, so we’ll pick up our study today by answering a few questions beginning in Col. 1:12.

If you’re ready to dig in with me, pull out your Bible and read through Colossians 1 before answering these questions. Spend some time in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to teach you as you study. I hope you used a good commentary or Study Bible to answer the context questions, but put away your study helps for now as you dig in and read Colossians 1 and answer the questions just using your Bible.

We’ll pick up the commentaries to check our answers later, but for now—dig it out yourself from the Word!

Look up the references and answer the questions below.

  1. Write out, in your own words, a description of what is happening in Col. 1:12–14 (Also, see Acts 26:18; Eph. 4:18; Eph. 5:8–9).
  1. Write out a prayer of thanksgiving for what God did in your life personally in reference to the actions of vv. 12–14.
  1. How is Col. 1:14 similar to Eph. 1:7?
  1. How is Col. 1:14 significant in presenting the gospel to unbelievers? What other Scriptures can you reference that support this truth?
  1. Verses 15–20 became a hymn for the early Church. How would this hymn serve to encourage believers who were facing persecution and also dealing with many pagan philosophies and beliefs?
  1. We know that Jesus Christ is eternal, has always existed (see Col. 1:17 to support this), so what do you think v. 15 means when it refers to Him as “the firstborn of all creation?” (See Psalm 89:27)
  1. What do you think v. 18 means when it refers to Him as “the firstborn from the dead?”
  1. What statement is Paul making about Jesus in v.19 (see Col. 2:9; John 1:1–3, 14)? What other Scriptures can you reference that support this claim?
  1. What similarities do you see in Col. 1:16–19 and Heb. 1:3–13?
  1. What truths about God did you observe in your study today? How does that affect you? Do you have a greater love for Him after seeing these truths?

I would love for you to leave the answer to the last question in the form of a comment below!

Image courtesy of cooldesign/


  • Julie Musil

    Kimberly, I love how you answered that question in class! Your teacher’s expression must have been priceless.

    I’ll be gone throughout the day today, but I’ll dig in to this deeper tonight. Thanks for the thought-provoking questions.

  • Pauline Butler

    God is always working on my behalf, for my good. All things, whether I look at them as good or bad, are tools in His hands for His sanctifying purposes in my life. He is a faithful God in whom I can trust. He does not leave me to go through life alone, but is ever present and goes before me in all things. These truths cause me to want to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” They lead me to a greater depth of love and gratitude for all that I have in Christ Jesus.

  • Kimberly Wagner

    What is really cool, Julie, is that years later–as an adult–I had the opportunity to reconnect with that teacher when her brother (who had started attending our church) was near death. I’m thankful that God gave that opportunity to talk with her again about who God is. I don’t know where she is today, but I know that God gave her many opportunities to respond to the truth of who He is, and my hope is that she responded and received His grace for salvation.

    So glad you’re digging in with us!

  • Kimberly Wagner

    So true, Pauline ~

    Digging into this book allows me to again be reminded of His mercy, and as you said, “His sanctifying purposes in my life.” He is faithful and I’m so thankful He does not forsake us. These truths, as you said, “lead me to a greater depth of love and gratitude for all that I have in Christ Jesus.”

    So glad you’re sharing your thoughts as we study Colossians together!