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This chapter embraces the following topics:
(1) The usual salutation to the church; Colossians 1:1-2.
(2) Thanks to God for what He had done for the Colossians, and for the fruits of the gospel among them; Colossians 1:3-8.
(3) Prayer that they might persevere in the same course, and might walk worthy of their calling; Colossians 1:9-11.
(4) An exhortation to render thanks to God for what He had done for them in redemption; Colossians 1:12-14.
(5) A statement of the exalted dignity of the Redeemer; Colossians 1:15-18.
(6) A statement of what Christ had done in the work of redemption, in making peace by the blood of his cross and reconciling the world to God; Colossians 1:19-20.
(7) Through this gospel, Paul says, they had been reconciled to God, and were now brought into a state in which they might be presented as holy and unblameable in his sight; Colossians 1:21-23.
(8) Of this gospel, Paul says he was a minister; in preaching it he had been called to endure trials, but those trials he endured with joy; and in preaching this gospel he used the utmost diligence, warning every man, and teaching every person in all wisdom, so that he might present each one perfect in Christ Jesus; Colossians 1:24-29.
By the will of God - Notes, 1 Corinthians 1:1.
And Timotheus our brother - On the question as to why Paul associated others with him in his epistles, see the notes at 1 Corinthians 1:1. There was a particular reason why Timothy should be associated with him in writing this Epistle. He was a native of the region where the church was situated Acts 16:1-3, and had been with Paul when be preached there, and was doubtless well known to the church there; Acts 16:6. It is evident, however, from the manner in which Paul mentions him here, that he did not regard him as “an apostle,” and did not wish the church at Colosse to consider him as such. It is not “Paul and Timothy, apostles of Jesus Christ,” but “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother.” Paul is careful never to apply the term “apostle” to Timothy; Philippians 1:1. “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ;” compare 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1. If he had regarded Timothy as an apostle, or as having apostolic authority, it is not easy to conceive why he should not have referred to him as such in these letters to the churches. Could he have failed to see that the manner in which he referred to him was adapted to produce a very important difference in file estimate in which he and Timothy would be held by the Colossians?
Grace be unto you - See the notes at Romans 1:7.
We give thanks to God - See the notes at the parallel place in Ephesians 1:15-16.
Praying always for you - See the Romans 1:9, note; Ephesians 1:16, note; compare 1 Thessalonians 1:2.
Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus - To wit, by Epaphras, who had informed Paul of the steadfastness of their faith and love; Colossians 1:7-8. This does not prove that Paul had never been at Colossae, or that he did not establish the church there, for he uses a similar expression respecting the church at Ephesus Ephesians 1:15, of which he was undoubtedly the founder. The meaning is, that he had heard of their faith at that time, or of their perseverance in faith and love.
Which ye have to all the saints - In what way they had manifested this is not known. It would seem that Paul had been informed that this was a character of their piety, that they had remarkable love for all who bore the Christian name. Nothing could be more acceptable information respecting them to one who himself so ardently loved the church; and nothing could have furnished better evidence that they were influenced by the true spirit of religion; compare 1 John 3:14.
For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven - That is, “I give thanks that there is such a hope laid up for you.” The evidence which he had that this hope was theirs, was founded on the faith and love to the saints which he heard they had evinced. He fully believed that where there was such faith and love, there was a well-founded hope of heaven. The word “hope” here is used, as it often is, for the thing hoped for. The object of hope - to wit, eternal happiness, was reserved for them in heaven.
Whereof ye heard before - When the gospel was first preached to you. You were told of the blessed rewards of a life of faith, in heaven.
In the word of the truth of the gospel - In the true word of the gospel.
Which is come unto you - It has not been confined to the Jews, or limited to the narrow country where it was first preached, but has been sent abroad to the Gentile world. The object of the apostle here seems to be, to excite in them a sense of gratitude that the gospel had been sent to them. It was owing entirely to the goodness of God in sending them the gospel, that they had this hope of eternal life.
As it is in all the world - It is confined to no place or people, but is designed to be a universal religion. It offers the same blessedness in heaven to all; compare the notes at Colossians 1:23.
And bringing forth fruit - The fruits of righteousness or good living; see the notes at 2 Corinthians 9:10. The meaning is, that the gospel was not without effect wherever it was preached. The same results were observable everywhere else as in Colossae, that it produced most salutary influences on the hearts and lives of those who received it. On the nature of the “fruits” of religion, see the notes at Galatians 5:22-23.
Since the day ye heard of it - It has constantly been producing these fruits since you first heard it preached.
And knew the grace of God in truth - Since the time ye knew the true grace of God; since you became acquainted with the real benevolence which God has manifested in the gospel. The meaning is, that ever since they had heard the gospel it had been producing among them abundantly its appropriate fruit, and that the same thing had also characterized it wherever it had been dispensed.
As ye also learned of Epaphras - Epaphras was then with Paul. Philemon 1:23. He had probably been sent to him by the church at Colossae to consult him in reference to some matters pertaining to the church there. It is evident from this, that Epaphras was a minister of the church at Colossae, though there is no evidence, as has been often supposed, that he was the founder of the church. The apostle here says, that they had learned from Epaphras the true nature of the gospel, and he designs undoubtedly to confirm what he had taught them in opposition to the teachings of errorists; see the Introduction, Section 4. He had doubtless conferred with Epaphras respecting the doctrines which he had taught there.
Our dear fellow-servant - This shows that Paul had contracted a strong friendship for Epaphras. There is no reason to believe that he had known him before, but his acquaintance with him now had served to attach him strongly to him. It is possible, as has been conjectured (see the Introduction), that there was a party in the church at Colossae opposed to Epaphras and to the doctrines which he preached, and if this were so, Paul’s strong expression of attachment for him would do much to silence the opposition.
Who is for you a faithful minister of Christ - “For you,” when he is with you, and in managing your interests here.
Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit - The love wrought in you by the Holy Spirit. It was not mere natural affection, but love worked in their hearts by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
Do not cease to pray for you - Colossians 1:3. The progress which they had already made, and the love which they had shown, constituted an encouragement for prayer, and a reason why higher blessings still should be sought. We always feel stimulated and encouraged to pray for those who are doing well.
That ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will - They had shown by their faith and love that they were disposed to do his will, and the apostle now prays that they might be fully acquainted with what he would have them do. He offered a similar prayer in behalf of the Ephesians; see the parallel place in Ephesians 1:17-19, and the notes at those verses.
In all wisdom - That you may be truly wise in all things; Ephesians 1:17.
And spiritual understanding - In understanding those things that pertain to the “Spirit;” that is, those things taught by the Holy Spirit, and those which he produces in the work of salvation; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; compare 1 John 2:20; 1 John 5:20.
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord - That you may live as becomes the followers of the Lord. How this was to be done he states in this and the following verses.
Unto all pleasing - So as to please him in all things; compare Hebrews 11:5.
Being fruitful in every good work - This is one way in which we are to walk worthy of the Lord, and so as to please him; see the notes at John 15:8.
And increasing in the knowledge of God - This is another way in which we may walk worthy of the Lord, and so as to please him. It is by endeavoring to become better acquainted with his true character. God is pleased with those who desire to understand what he is; what he does; what he purposes; what he commands. Hence he not only commands us to study his works (compare Psalms 111:2), but he has made a world so beautiful as to invite us to contemplate his perfections as reflected in that world. All good beings desire that others should understand their character, and God delights in those who are sincerely desirous of knowing what he is, and who inquire with humility and reverence into his counsels and his will. People are often displeased when others attempt to look into their plans, for they are sensible they will not bear the light of investigation. God has no plans which would not be seen to be, in the highest degree, glorious to him.
Strengthened with all might - This was also an object of Paul’s earnest prayer. He desired that they might be strengthened for the performance of duty; to meet temptations; and to bear up under the various trials of life.
According to his glorious power - Not by any human means, but by the power of God. There is a manifestation of power in the spirit with which Christians are enabled to bear up under trials, which shows that it is not of human origin. It is the power which God gives them in the day of trial. This power is “glorious,” or, as it is in the Greek, it is the “power of his glory.” It is manifestly the power of the great and glorious God, and it tends to promote his glory, and to show forth his praise.
Unto all patience - So that you may be enabled to bear all your trials without complaining. It is only the power of God that can enable us to do that.
And long-suffering - Notes, 1 Corinthians 13:4.
With joyfulness - Romans 5:3, note; 2 Corinthians 7:4, note. The Syriac version, Chrysostom, and a few manuscripts attach this to the following verse, and read it: “With joyfulness giving thanks to the Father,” etc. The only difference is in the pointing, and either reading makes good sense.
Giving thanks to the Father - This is another mode by which we may “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” Colossians 1:10; to wit, by rendering appropriate thanks to God for his mercy. The particular point which the apostle here says demanded thanksgiving was, that they had been called from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. This had been done by the special mercy of the Father who had provided the plan of salvation, and had sent his Son to redeem them. The connection shows that the word “Father” refers, in this place, not to God as the Father of his creatures, but to the Father as distinguished from the Son. It is the “Father” who has translated us into the kingdom of the “Son.” Our special thanks are due to the “Father” in this, as he is represented as the great Author of the whole plan of salvation - as he who sent his Son to redeem us.
Who hath made us meet - The word used here - ἱκανόω hikanoō - means properly to make sufficient, from ἱκανός hikanos - sufficient, abundant, much. The word conveys the idea of having sufficient or enough to accomplish anything; see it explained in the notes at 2 Corinthians 3:6. The verb is not elsewhere used in the New Testament. In its use here, there seems to be implied the idea of conferring the privilege or the ability to be thus made the partakers of the kingdom, and the idea also of rendering us fit for it. The sense is, he has conferred on us grace sufficient to make it proper that we should partake of the blessings of his kingdom. In regard to this “fitness” or “meetness” for that kingdom, we may remark:
(1) That it does not mean that we are rendered fit by our own merits, or by anything which we have done; for it is expressly said that it is God who has thus rendered us “meet” for it. No one, by his own merits, even made himself fit for heaven. His good works cannot be an equivalent for the eternal rewards of heaven; nor is the heart when unrenewed, even in the best state, fit for the society and the employments of heaven. There is no adaptedness of such a heart, however amiable and however refined, to the pure spiritual joys of the upper world. Those joys are the joys of religion, of the love of God, of pleasure in holiness; and the unrenewed heart can never be wrought up to a fitness to enter into those joys. Yet.
(2) There is a fitness or meetness which Christians possess for heaven. It consists in two things. First, in their having complied with the conditions on which God promises heaven, so that, although they have no merit in themselves, and no fitness by their own works, they have that meetness which results from having complied with the terms of favor. They have truly repented of their sins, and believed in the Redeemer; and they are thus in the proper state of mind to receive the mercy of God; for, according to the terms of mercy, there is a propriety that pardon should be bestowed on the penitent, and peace on the believing. A child that is truly brokenhearted for a fault, is in a fit state of mind to be forgiven; a proud, and obstinate, and rebellious child, is not. Secondly, there is, in fact, a fitness in the Christian for the participation of the inheritance of the saints in light. He has a state of feeling that is adapted to that. There is a congruity between his feelings and heaven - a state of mind that can be satisfied with nothing but heaven. He has in his heart substantially the same principles which reign in heaven; and he is suited to find happiness only in the same objects in which the inhabitants of heaven do, He loves the same God and Saviour; has pleasure in the same truths; prefers, as they do, holiness to sin; and, like the inhabitants of heaven, he would choose to seek his pleasure in holy living, rather than in the ways of vanity. His preferences are all on the side of holiness and virtue; and, with such preferences, he is fitted for the enjoyments of heaven. In character, views, feelings, and preferences, therefore, the Christian is made suitable to participate in the employments and joys of the saints in light.
To be partakers of the inheritance - The privileges of religion are often represented as an heirship, or an inheritance; see the notes at Romans 8:17.
Of the saints in light - Called in Colossians 1:13, “the kingdom of his dear Son.” This is a kingdom of light, as opposed to the kingdom of darkness in which they formerly were. In the East, and particularly in Persia, there prevailed early the belief that there were two great kingdoms in the universe - that of light, and that of darkness. We find traces of this opinion in the Scriptures, where the kingdom of God is called “light,” and that of Satan is called “darkness.” These are, of course, figurative expressions; but they convoy important truth. Light, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of holiness, knowledge, happiness; and all these are found in the kingdom over which God presides, and of which Christians are the heirs. Accordingly, we find the word “light” often used to describe this kingdom. Thus, it is said of God, who presides over it, that he “is light, and in him is no darkness at all,” 1 John 1:5; of Christ, that he is “the light of man,” John 1:4; that he is “the true light,” John 1:9; that he is “the light of the world,” John 8:12; compare John 12:35; Luke 2:32. The angels of that kingdom are “angels of light,” 2 Corinthians 11:14. Those who compose that kingdom on earth are “the children of light,” Luke 16:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5. And all the descriptions of that kingdom in heaven represent it as filled with light and glory, Isaiah 60:19; Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5.
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness - The power exerted over us in that dark kingdom to which we formerly belonged - the kingdom of Satan. The characteristic of this empire is darkness - the emblem of:
(3)Misery and death.
Over us, by nature, these things had uncontrollable power; but now we are delivered from them, and brought to the enjoyment of the privileges of those who are connected with the kingdom of light. Darkness is often used to represent the state in which men are by nature; compare Luke 1:79; Acts 26:18; Rom 13:12; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 2:8.
And hath translated us - The word rendered here “translated” is often used in the sense of removing a people from one country to another; see Josephus, Ant. ix. 11. 1. It means, here, that they who are Christians have been transferred from one kingdom to another, as if a people were thus removed. They become subjects of a new kingdom, are under different laws, and belong to a different community. This change is made in regeneration, by which we pass from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light; from the empire of sin, ignorance, and misery, to one of holiness, knowledge, and happiness. No change, therefore, in a man’s life is so important as this; and no words can suitably express the gratitude which they should feel who are thus transferred from the empire of darkness to that of light.
In whom we have redemption; - See this explained in the notes at Ephesians 1:7. The passage here proves that we obtain forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ; but it does not prove that this is all that we obtain through that blood.
Who is the image of the invisible God - εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου eikōn tou Theou tou aoratou. The objects. here, as it is in the parallel place in Ephesians 1:20-23, is to give a just view of the exaltation of the Redeemer. It is probable that, in both cases, the design is to meet some erroneous opinion on this subject that prevailed in those churches, or among those that claimed to be teachers there. See the Introduction to this Epistle, and compare the notes at Ephesians 1:20-23. For the meaning of the phrase occurring here, “the image of the invisible God,” see the Hebrews 1:3, note, and 2 Corinthians 4:4, note. The meaning is, that he represents to mankind the perfections of God, as an image, figure, or drawing does the object which it is made to resemble. See the word “image” - εἰκὼν eikōn - explained in the notes at Hebrews 10:1. It properly denotes that which is a copy or delineation of a thing; which accurately and fully represents it, in contradistinction from a rough sketch, or outline; compare Romans 8:29; 1Co 11:7; 1 Corinthians 15:49.
The meaning here is, that the being and perfections of God are accurately and fully represented by Christ. In what respects particularly he was thus a representative of God, the apostle proceeds to state in the following verses, to wit, in his creative power, in his eternal existence, in his heirship over the universe, in the fulness that dwelt in him. This cannot refer to him merely as incarnate, for some of the things affirmed of him pertained to him before his incarnation; and the idea is, that in all things Christ fairly represents to us the divine nature and perfections. God is manifest to us through him; 1 Timothy 3:16. We see God in him as we see an object in that which is in all respects an exact copy of it. God is invisible. No eye has seen him, or can see him; but in what Christ is, and has done in the works of creation and redemption, we have a fair and full representation of what God is; see the notes at John 1:18; John 14:9, note.
The first-born of every creature - Among all the creatures of God, or over all his creation, occupying the rank and pro-eminence of the first-born. The first-born, or the oldest son, among the Hebrews as elsewhere, had special privileges. He was entitled to a double portion of the inheritance. It has been, also, and especially in oriental countries, a common thing for the oldest son to succeed to the estate and the title of his father. In early times, the first-born son was the officiating priest in the family, in the absence or on the death of the father. There can be no doubt that the apostle here has reference to the usual distinctions and honors conferred on the first-born, and means to say that, among all the creatures of God, Christ occupied a pre-eminence similar to that. He does not say that, in all respects, he resembled the first-born in a family; nor does he say that he himself was a creature, for the point of his comparison does not turn on these things, and what he proceeds to affirm respecting him is inconsistent with the idea of his being a created being himself.
He that “created all things that are in heaven and that are in earth,” was not himself created. That the apostle did not mean to represent him as a creature, is also manifest from the reason which he assigns why he is called the first-born. “He is the image of God, and the first-born of every creature, for - ὅτι hoti - by him were all things created.” That is, he sustains the elevated rank of the first-born, or a high eminence over the creation, because by him “all things were created in heaven and in earth.” The language used here, also, does not fairly imply that he was a creature, or that he was in nature and rank one of those in relation to whom it is said he was the first-born. It is true that the word “first-born” - πρωτότοκος prōtotokos - properly means the first-born child of a father or mother, Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:7; or the first-born of animals. But two things are also to be remarked in regard to the use of the word:
(1) It does not necessarily imply that anyone is born afterward in the family, for it would be used of the first-born, though an only child; and,
(2) It is used to denote one who is chief, or who is highly distinguished and pre-eminent. Thus, it is employed in Romans 8:29, “That he might be the first-born among many brethren.” So, in Colossians 1:18, it is said that he was “the first-born from the dead;” not that he was literally the first that was raised from the dead, which was not the fact, but that he might be pre-eminent among those that are raised; compare Exodus 4:22. The meaning, then, is, that Christ sustains the most exalted rank in the universe; he is pre-eminent above all others; he is at the head of all things. The expression does not mean that he was “begotten before all creatures,” as it is often explained, but refers to the simple fact that he sustains the highest rank over the creation. He is the Son of God. He is the heir of all things. All other creatures are also the “offspring of God;” but he is exalted as the Son of God above all.
(This clause has been variously explained. The most commonly received, and, as we think, best supported opinion, is that which renders πρωτοτοκος πασης κτισεως prōtotokos pasēs ktiseōs; “begotten before all creation.” This most natural and obvious sense would have been more readily admitted, had it not been supposed hostile to certain views on the sonship of Christ. Some explain πρωτότοκος prōtotokos actively, and render “first begetter or producer of all things,” which gives, at all events, a sense consistent with truth and with the context, which immediately assigns as the reason of Christ being styled πρωτότοκος prōtotokos, the clause beginning ὁτι εν αυτω εκτισθη hoti en autō ektisthē, “For by him were all things created.” Others, with the author explain the word figuratively, of pre-eminence or lordship. To this view however, there are serious objections.
It seems not supported by sufficient evidence. No argument can be drawn from Colossians 1:18 until it is proved that “firstborn from the dead,” does not mean the first that was raised to die no more, which Doddridge affirms to be “the easiest, surest, most natural sense, in which the best commentators are agreed.” Nor is the argument from Romans 8:29 satisfactory. “Πρωτότοκος Prōtotokos,” says Bloomfield, at the close of an admirable note on this verse, “is not well taken by Whitby and others, in a figurative sense, to denote ‘Lord of all things, since the word is never so used, except in reference to primogeniture. And although, in Romans 8:29, we have τον ρωτοτοκος εν πολλοις αδελφοις ton prōtotokos en pollois adelphois, yet there his followers are represented not as his creatures, but as his brethren. On which, and other accounts, the interpretation, according to which we have here a strong testimony to the eternal filiation of our Saviour is greatly preferable; and it is clear that Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18 are illustrative of the nature, as Colossians 1:16-17 are an evidence of the pre-existence and divinity of Christ.”)
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.
And he is before all things - As he must be, if he created all things. Those who regard this as referring to a moral creation, interpret it as meaning that he has the pre-eminence over all things; not as referring to his pre-existence. But the fair and proper meaning of the word “before” (πρὸ pro) is, that he was before all things in the order of existence; compare Matthew 8:29; John 11:55; John 13:1; Acts 5:36; Acts 21:38; 2 Corinthians 12:2. It is equivalent to saying that he was eternal - for he that had an existence before any thing was created, must be eternal. Thus, it is equivalent to the phrase, “In the beginning;” Genesis 1:1; compare the notes at John 1:1.
And by him all things subsist - Or are sustained; see the notes at Hebrews 1:3. The meaning is, that they 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. If this be the proper interpretation, then it is the ascription to Christ of infinite power - for nothing less could be sufficient to uphold the universe; and of infinite wisdom - for this is needed to preserve the harmonious action of the suns and systems of which it is composed. None could do this but one who is divine; and hence we see the reason why he is represented as the image of the invisible God. He is the great and glorious and everactive agent by whom the perfections of God are made known.
And he is the head of the body, the church - Notes Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:23, note.
Who is the beginning - In all things - alike in the work of creation and in the church. He is the fountain of authority and power, and commences everything that is designed to uphold the order of the universe, and to save the world.
The first-born from the dead - At the head of those who rise from their graves. This does not mean literally that he was the first who rose from the dead for he himself raised up Lazarus and others, and the bodies of saints arose at his crucifixion; but it means that he had the pre-eminence among them all; he was the most illustrious of those who will be raised from the dead, and is the head over them all. Especially, he had this pre-eminence in the resurrection in this respect, that he was the first who rose from death to immortality. Others who were raised undoubtedly died again. Christ rose to die no more; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:20.
That in all things - Margin, “among all.” The Greek will bear either construction, and either will accord with the scope of the apostle’s remarks. If the former, it means that he is at the head of all things - the universe; if the latter, that he is chief among those who rose from the dead. Each of these is true, but the scope of the passage seems rather to require us to understand this of everything, and to mean that all the arrangements respecting him were such as to give him supremacy over the universe.
He might have the pre-eminence - Greek, “might be first” - πρωτεύων prōteuōn. That is, might be first in rank, dignity, honor, power. He has the pre-eminence:
(1)As over the universe which he has formed - as its Creator and Proprietor;
(2)As chief among those who shall rise from the dead - since he first rose to die no more, and their resurrection depends on him;
(3)As head of the church - all synods, councils, and governments being subject to him, and he alone having a right to give law to his people; and,
(4)In the affections of his friends - being in their affections and confidence superior to all others.
For it pleased the Father - The words “the Father” are not in the original, but they are not improperly supplied. Some word must be understood, and as the apostle in Colossians 1:12 referred to “the Father” as having a claim to the thanks of his people for what he had done, and as the great favor for which they ought to be thankful is that which he immediately specifies - the exaltation of Christ, it is not improper to suppose that this is the word to be understood here. The meaning is, that he chose to confer on his Son such a rank, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence, and that there might be in him “all fulness.” Hence, by his appointment, he was the agent in creation, and hence he is placed over all things as the head of the church.
That in him should all fulness dwell - That in him there should be such dignity, authority, power, and moral excellence as to be fitted to the work of creating the world, redeeming his people, and supplying everything needful for their salvation. On the word “fullness,” see John 1:14, note, 16, note; compare Romans 11:12, Romans 11:25; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 3:19; Colossians 2:9. This is to us a most precious truth. We have a Saviour who is in no respect deficient in wisdom, power, and grace to redeem and save us. There is nothing necessary to be done in our salvation which he is not qualified to do; there is nothing which we need to enable us to perform our duties, to meet temptation, and to bear trial, which he is not able to impart. In no situation of trouble and danger will the church find that there is a deficiency in him; in no enterprise to which she can put her hands will there be a lack of power in her great Head to enable her to accomplish what he calls her to. We may go to him in all our troubles, weaknesses temptations, and needs, and may be supplied from his fullness - just as, if we were thirsty, we might go to an ocean of pure water and drink.
And having made peace - Margin, “making.” The Greek will bear either. The meaning is, that by his atonement he produces reconciliation between those who were alienated from each other; see the notes at Ephesians 2:14. It does not mean here that he had actually effected peace by his death, but that he had laid the foundation for it; he had done that which would secure it.
By the blood of his cross - By his blood shed on the cross. That blood, making atonement for sin, was the means of making reconciliation between God and man. On the meaning of the word “blood,” as used in this connection, see the notes at Romans 3:25.
By him to reconcile all things to himself - On the meaning of the word reconcile, see the Matthew 5:24, note; Romans 5:10, note, and 2 Corinthians 5:18, note. When it is said that “it pleased the Father by Christ to reconcile all things to himself,” the declaration must be understood with some limitation.
(1) It relates only to those things which are in heaven and earth - for those only are specified. Nothing is said of the inhabitants of hell, whether fallen angels, or the spirits of wicked men who are there.
(2) It cannot mean that all things are actually reconciled - for that never has been true. Multitudes on earth have remained alienated from God, and have lived and died his enemies.
(3) It can mean then, only, that he had executed a plan that was adapted to this; that if fairly and properly applied, the blood of the cross was fitted to secure entire reconciliation between heaven and earth. There was no enemy which it was not fitted to reconcile to God; there was no guilt, now producing alienation, which it could not wash away.
Whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven - That is, to produce harmony between the things in heaven and in earth; so that all things shall be reconciled to him, or so that there shalt be harmony between heaven and earth. The meaning is not, that “the things in heaven” were alienated from God, but that there was alienation in the universe which affected heaven, and the object was to produce again universal concord and love. Substantially the same sentiment is found in Ephesians 1:10; see the notes at that verse. Much has been written on the meaning of this expression, and a great variety of opinions have been entertained of it. It is best, always, unless necessity require a different interpretation, to take words in their usual signification. If that rule be adopted here,” things in heaven” will refer to God and the angels, and perhaps may include the principles of the divine government, “Things on earth,” will embrace men, and the various things on earth which are now at variance with God and with heaven. Between these, it is designed to produce harmony by the blood of the cross, or by the atonement. As in heaven nothing is wrong; as it is not desirable that anything should he changed there, all the change that is to take place in order to produce reconciliation, is to be on the part of men and the things of this world. The only effect of the blood of the atonement on the “things” of heaven in effecting the reconciliation is, to render it consistent for God to be at peace with sinners. The effect on earth is, to dispose the sinner to a willingness to be reconciled; to lead him to lay aside his enmity; to change his heart, and to effect a change in the views and principles prevailing on earth which are now at variance with God and his government. When this shall be done there will be harmony between heaven and earth, and an alienated world will be brought into conformity with the laws and government of the Creator.
And you, that were sometime alienated - In this work of reconciling heaven and earth, you at Colossae, who were once enemies of God, have been reached. The benefit of that great plan has been extended to you, and it has accomplished in you what it is designed to effect everywhere - to reconcile enemies to God. The word “sometime” here - ποτε pote - means “formerly.” In common with all other men they were, by nature, in a state of enmity against God; compare the notes at Ephesians 2:1-3.
In your mind - It was not merely by wicked works, or by an evil life; it was alienation seated in the mind, and leading to wicked works. It was deliberate and purposed enmity. It was not the result of passion and excitement; it had a deeper seat, and took hold of the intellectual powers The understanding was perverse and alienated from God, and all the powers of the soul were enlisted against him. It is this fact which renders reconciliation with God so difficult. Sin has corrupted and perverted alike the moral and the intellectual powers, and thus the whole man is arrayed against his Creator; compare the notes at Ephesians 4:18.
By wicked works - The alienation of the mind showed itself by wicked works, and those works were the public evidence of the alienation; compare Ephesians 2:1-2.
Yet now hath he reconciled - Harmony has been secured between you and God, and you are brought to friendship and love. Such a change has been produced in you as to bring your minds into friendship with that of God. All the change in producing this is on the part of man, for God cannot change, and there is no reason why he should, if he could. In the work of reconciliation man lays aside his hostility to his Maker, and thus becomes his friend; see the notes at 2 Corinthians 5:18.
In the body of his flesh through death - The death of his body, or his death in making an atonement, has been the means of producing this reconciliation. It:
(1) Removed the obstacles to reconciliation on the part of God - vindicating his truth and justice, and maintaining the principles of his government as much as if the sinner had himself suffered the penalty of the law - thus rendering it consistent for God to indulge the benevolence of his nature in pardoning sinners; and,
(2) It was the means of bringing the sinner himself to a willingness to be reconciled - furnishing the strongest possible appeal to him; leading him to reflect on the love of his Creator, and showing him his own guilt and danger. No means ever used to produce reconciliation between two alienated parties has had so much tenderness and power as those which God has adopted in the plan of salvation; and if the dying love of the Son of God fails to lead the sinner back to God, everything else will fail. The phrase “the body of his flesh” means, the body of flesh which he assumed in order to suffer in making an atonement. The reconciliation could not have been effected but by his assuming such a body, for his divine nature could not so suffer as to make atonement for sins.
To present you - That is, before God. The object of the atonement was to enable him to present the redeemed to God freed from sin, and made holy in his sight. The whole work had reference to the glories of that day when the Redeemer and the redeemed will stand before God, and he shall present them to his Father as completely recovered from the ruins of the fall.
Holy - Made holy, or made free from sin; compare Luke 20:36.
And unblameable - Not that in themselves they will not be deserving of blame, or will not be unworthy, but that they will be purified from their sins. The word used here - ἄμωμος amōmos - means, properly “spotless, without blemish;” see Ephesians 1:4, note; Ephesians 5:27, note; Hebrews 9:4, note. It is applied to a lamb, 1 Peter 1:19; to the Savior, Hebrews 9:14, and to the church, Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:27; Jude 1:24; Revelation 14:5. It does not elsewhere occur. When the redeemed enter heaven, all their sins will have been taken away; not a spot of the deep dye of inquiry will remain on their souls; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 7:14.
And unreproveable in his sight - There will be none to accuse them before God; or they will be free from all accusation. The law will not accuse them - for the death of their Redeemer has done as much to honor it as their own punishment would have done; God will not accuse them - for he has freely forgiven them; their consciences will not accuse them - for their sins will all have been taken away, and they will enjoy the favor of God as if they had not sinned; holy angels will not accuse them - for they will welcome them to their society; and even Satan will not accuse them, for he will have seen that their piety is sincere, and that they are truly what they profess to be; compare the notes at Romans 8:33-34.
If ye continue in the faith - In the belief of the gospel, and in holy living. If this were done, they would be presented unblameable be fore God; if not, they would not be. The meaning is, that it will be impossible to be saved unless we continue to lead lives becoming the gospel.
Grounded - On a firm foundation; see the notes at Ephesians 3:17, where the same word occurs.
And settled - Greek, “firm;” as a building is that is founded on a rock; compare Matthew 7:25.
And be not moved away from the hope of the gospel - By the arts of philosophy, and the allurements of sin.
Which was preached to every creature which is under heaven - It cannot be supposed that it was literally true that every creature under heaven had actually heard the gospel. But this may mean:
(1) That it was designed to be preached to every creature, or that the commission to make it known embraced everyone, and that, so far as the provisions of the gospel are concerned, it may be said that it was a system proclaimed to all mankind; see Mark 16:15. If a vast army, or the inhabitants of a distant province, were in rebellion against a government, and a proclamation of pardon were issued, it would not be improper to say that it was made to every one of them, though, as a matter of fact, it might not be true that everyone in the remote parts of the army or province had actually heard of it.
(2) The gospel in the time of Paul seems to have been so extensively preached, that it might be said that it was proclaimed to everybody. All known countries appear to have been visited; and so zealous and laborious had been the heralds of salvation, that it might be said that the message had been proclaimed to all the world; see Colossians 1:6; compare the notes at Matthew 24:14.
Whereof I Paul am made a minister - See the notes at Ephesians 3:1-7. Paul here pursues the same train of thought which he does in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where, having shown the exalted nature of the Redeemer, and the design of the gospel, he adverts to his own labors and sufferings in making it known. The object seems to be to show that he regarded it as the highest honor to be thus intrusted with the message of mercy to mankind, and considered it as a privilege to suffer in that cause.
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you - For you as a part of the Gentile world. It was not for the Colossians alone, but he regarded himself as suffering on account of his labors in preaching to the pagan at large. His trials at Rome had come upon him because he had maintained that the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles was broken down, and that the gospel was to be preached indiscriminately to all mankind; see this illustrated in the introduction, Section 5.
And fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ - That which I lack of coming up to the sufferings which Christ endured in the cause of the church. The apostle seems to mean:
(1)That be suffered in the same cause as that for which Christ suffered;
(2)That he endured the same kind of sufferings, to some extent, in reproaches, persecutions, and opposition from the world;
(3)That he had not yet suffered as much as Christ did in this cause, and, though be had suffered greatly, yet there was much that was lacking to make him equal in this respect to the Saviour; and,
(4)That he felt that it was an object to be earnestly desired to be made in all respects just like Christ, and that in his present circumstances he was fast filling up that which was lacking, so that he would have a more complete resemblance to him.
What he says here is based on the leading desire of his soul - the great principle of his life - to be just like Christ; alike in moral character, in suffering, and in destiny; see the notes at Philippians 3:10. Having this strong wish, he had been led to pursue a course of life which conducted him through trials strongly resembling those which Christ himself endured; and, as fast as possible, he was filling up that in which he now fell short. He does not mean that there was anything lacking or deficient in the sufferings which Christ endured in making an atonement which was to be supplied by his followers, so that their merits might be added to his in order to secure the salvation of men, as the Romanists seem to suppose; but that there was still much lacking on his part before he should be entirely conformed to the Saviour in his sufferings, and that his present condition was such as rapidly to fill that up. This seems to me to be the fair meaning of this expressions though not the one commonly given. The usual interpretation is, “that which remains to me of affliction to be endured in the cause of Christ.” But this seems to me to be cold and tame, and not to suit the genius of Paul.
In my flesh - In bodily sufferings.
For his body’s sake, which is the church - See the notes at Ephesians 1:23.
According to the dispensation of God - The arrangement which God has made. That is, he designed that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and, in accordance with that arrangement, he has called me to be a minister. Notes, Ephesians 3:2.
To fulfil the word of God - Margin, “fully to preach.” The Greek is, “to fill up the word of God;” the meaning is, “fully to teach and promulgate the gospel;” compare the notes at Romans 15:19.
Even the mystery - To make that mystery fully known. See this explained in the notes at Ephesians 3:2-9. The great doctrine that salvation was to be proclaimed to all mankind, Paul says, had been concealed for many generations. Hence, it was called a mystery, or a hidden truth.
But now is made manifest to his saints - It was communicated especially to the apostles who were appointed to proclaim it, and through them to all the saints. Paul says that he regarded himself as specially called to make this truth known, as far as possible, to mankind.
To whom - To the saints.
God would make known - “Willed (Greek) to make known;” that is, he was pleased to make this known. It was concealed in his bosom until he chose to reveal it to his apostles. It was a doctrine which the Jewish people did not understand; Ephesians 3:5-6.
What is the riches of the glory of this mystery - The rich glory of this great, long-concealed truth. On the use of the word “riches,” see the notes at Romans 2:4. It is a favorite word with the apostle Paul to denote that which is valuable, or that which abounds. The meaning here is, that the truth that the gospel was to be preached to all mankind, was a truth abounding in glory.
Among the Gentiles - That is, the glory of this truth is manifested by the effects which it has produced among the Gentiles.
Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory - Or, Christ among you. Margin. The meaning is, that the whole of that truth, so full of glory, and so rich and elevated in its effect, is summed up in this - that Christ is revealed among you as the source of the hope of glory in a better world. This was the great truth which so animated the heart and fired the zeal of the apostle Paul. The wonderful announcement had burst on his mind like a flood of day, that the offer of salvation was not to be confined, as he had once supposed, to the Jewish people, but that all men were now placed on a level; that they had a common Saviour; that the same heaven was now opened for all, and that there were none so degraded and vile that they might not have the offer of life as well as others. This great truth Paul burned to communicate to the whole world; and for holding it, and in making it known, he had involved himself in all the difficulties which he had with his own countrymen; had suffered from want, and peril, and toil; and had finally been made a captive, and was expecting to be put to death. It was just such a truth as was fitted to fire such a mind as that of Paul, and to make it; known as worth all the sacrifices and toils which he endured. Life is well sacrificed in making known such a doctrine to the world.
Whom we preach, warning every man - This does not mean warning of danger, but “admonishing all of the claims of the gospel to attention.” Our word warn is commonly used in the sense of cautioning against danger. The Greek word here means to put in mind; to admonish; to exhort. The idea of the apostle is, that he made it his great business to bring the offers of the gospel fairly before the mind of every man. As it had the same claims on all; as it might be freely offered to all, and as it furnished the only hope of glory, he made it the object of his life to apprize every man of it, as far as he could.
And teaching every man - Paul made it his business to instruct men, as well as to exhort them. Exhortation and warning are of little use where there is not sound instruction and a careful inculcation of the truth. It is one of the duties of the ministry to instruct men in those truths of which they were before ignorant; see Mat 28:19; 2 Timothy 2:25.
In all wisdom - Compare the Matthew 10:16 note; Colossians 1:9 note. The meaning is, that he and his fellow-laborers endeavored to manifest true wisdom in the method in which they instructed others.
That we may present every man - When we come to appear before God; Notes, 2 Corinthians 11:2. Paul was anxious that no one to whom this gospel was preached should be lost. He believed it to be adapted to save every man; and as he expected to meet all his hearers at the bar of God, his aim was to present them made perfect by means of that gospel which he preached.
Among the truths of practical importance taught by this chapter are the following:
1. We should rejoice in the piety of others; Colossians 1:2-8. It should be to us a subject of unfeigned gratitude to God; when others are faithful to their high calling, and when they so live as to adorn the blessed gospel. In all their faith, and love, and joy, we should find occasion for thankfulness to God. We should not envy it, or be disposed to charge it to wrong motives, or suspect it of insincerity or hypocrisy; but should welcome every account of the zeal and faithfulness of those who bear the Christian name - no matter who the persons are, or with what denomination of Christians they may be connected. Especially is this true in relation to our friends, or to those for whose salvation we have labored. The source of high, est gratitude to a Christian, in relation to his friends, should be, that they act as becomes the friends of God; the purest joy that can swell the bosom of a minister of Christ, is produced by the evidence that they to whom he has ministered are advancing in knowledge and love.
2. We should earnestly pray that they who have been much favored should be prospered more and more; Colossians 1:9-11.
3. It is a good time to pray for Christians when they are already prosperous, and are distinguished for zeal and love; Colossians 1:9-11. We have then encouragement to do it. We feel that our prayers will not be in vain. For a man that is doing well, we feel encouraged to pray that he may do still better. For a Christian who has true spiritual joy, we are encouraged to pray that he may have more joy. For one who is aiming to make advances in the knowledge of God, we are encouraged to pray that he may make still higher advances; and if, therefore; we wish others to pray for us, we should, show them by our efforts that there is some encouragement for them to do it.
4. Let us cherish with suitable gratitude the remembrance of the goodness of God, who has translated us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son; Colossians 1:12-13. By nature we, like others, were under the power of darkness. In that kingdom of sin, and error, and misery, we were born and reared, until God, in great compassion, brought us out from it, and made us heirs of light. Now, if we are true Christians, we belong to a kingdom of holiness, and knowledge, and happiness. No words can express appropriately the goodness of God in thus making us heirs of light; and not an hour of our lives should pass without a thoughtful remembrance of his mercy.
5. In the affections of our hearts let the Saviour in all things have the pre-eminence; Colossians 1:15-18. He is the image of God; and when we think of him, we see what God is - how holy, pure, benevolent. He is the first-born of all things; the Son of God; exalted to the highest seat in the universe. When we look on the sun, moon, and stars, let us remember that he created them all. When we think of the angels, let us remember that they are the workmanship of his hands. When we look on the earth - the floods, the rivers, the hills, let us remember that all these were made by his power. The vast universe is still sustained by him. Its beautiful order and harmony are preserved by him; and all its movements are under his control. So the church is under him. It is subject to his command; receives its laws from his lips, and is bound to do his will. Over all councils and synods; over all rule and authority in the church, Christ is the Head; and whatever may be ordained by man, his will is to be obeyed. So, when we think of the resurrection, Christ is chief. He first rose to return to death no more; he rose as the pledge that his people should also rise. As Christ is thus head over all things, so let him be first in the affections of our hearts; as it is designed that in every thing he shall have the pre-eminence, so let him have the pre-eminence in the affections of our souls. None should be loved by us as Christ is loved; and no friend, however dear, should be allowed to displace him from the supremacy in our affections.
6. In all our wants let us go to Christ; Colossians 1:19, “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” We do not have a need which he cannot supply; there is not a sorrow of our lives in which he cannot comfort us; not a temptation from which he cannot deliver us; not a pain which he cannot relieve, or enable us to hear. Every necessity of body or mind he can supply; and we never can go to him, in any circumstance of life in which we can possibly be placed, where we shall fail of consolation and support because Christ is not able to help us. True piety learns day by day to live more by simple dependence on the Saviour. As we advance in holiness, we become more and more sensible of our weakness and insufficiency, and more and more disposed to live by the faith of the Son of God.”
7. By religion we become united with the angels; Colossians 1:20. Harmony is produced between heaven and earth. Alienated worlds are reconciled again, and from jarring elements there is rearing one great and harmonious empire. The work of the atonement is designed to remove what separated earth from heaven; men from angels; man from God. The redeemed have substantially the same feelings now, which they have who are around the throne of God; and though we are far inferior to them in rank, yet we shall be united with them in affection and purpose, for ever and ever. What a glorious work is that of the gospel! It reconciles and harmonizes distant worlds, and produces concord and love in millions of hearts which but for that would have been alienated forever.
8. By religion we become fitted for heaven; Colossians 1:12, Colossians 1:22. We are made “meet” to enter there; we shall be presented there unblamable and unreprovable. No one will accuse us before the throne of God. Nor Satan, nor our own consciences nor our fellowmen will then urge that we ought not to be admitted to heaven. Redeemed and pardoned, renewed and sanctified, the universe will be satisfied that we ought to be saved, and will rejoice. Satan will no longer charge the friends of Jesus with insincerity and hypocrisy; our own minds will be no longer troubled with doubts and fears; and holy angels will welcome us to their presence. Not a voice will be lifted up in reproach or condemnation, and the Universal Father will stretch out his arms and press to his bosom the returning prodigals. Clothed in the white robes of salvation, we shall be welcome even in heaven, and the universe will rejoice that we are there.
9. It is a privilege to suffer for the welfare of the church; Colossians 1:24. Paul regarded it as such and rejoiced in the trials which came upon him in the cause of religion. The Saviour so, regarded it, and shrank not from the great sorrows involved in the work of saving his people. We may suffer much in promoting the same object. We may be exposed to persecution and death. We may be called to part with all we have - to leave country and friends and home, to go and preach the gospel to benighted people. On a foreign shore, far from all that we hold dear on earth, we may lie down and die, and our grave, unmarked by sculptured marble, may be soon forgotten. But to do good; to defend truth; to promote virtue; to save the souls of the perishing, is worth all which it costs, and he who accomplishes these things by exchanging for them earthly comforts, and even life, has made a wise exchange. The universe gains by it in happiness; and the benevolent heart should rejoice that there is such a gain, though attended with our individual and personal suffering.
10. Ministers ave a noble office Colossians 1:24-29. It is their privilege to make known to men the most glorious truths that can come before the human mind; truths which were hidden from ages and generations, but which are now revealed by the gospel. These great truths are intrusted to the ministry to explain and defend, and are by them to be carried around the world. The ministers of religion strive not for gold and honor and worldly pleasures; they strive in the noble effort to show to every man that he has a Saviour; that there is a heaven to which he may come; and to present everyone perfect before God. With all its sacrifices and self-denials, therefore, it is an inestimable privilege to he a minister of the gospel - for there is no man who diffuses through a community so much solid happiness; there is no one, the result of whose labors reaches so far into future ages. To a benevolent heart there is no higher privilege than to be permitted to go to every man - to the poor, the tempted, the oppressed, the slave, the penitent, and the dying sinner, and to say to him that he has a Saviour, that Christ died for him, and that, if he will have it so, he may have a home in heaven.
No matter whom he meets; no matter how debased and degraded he may be to whom he ministers, no matter though it be the poor slave, or the lonely wanderer on pathless sands, or the orphan, or the outcast, the herald of salvation may tell him that there is a heaven for him - a Saviour who died for him - a God who is ready to pardon and save his soul. In such a work it is a privilege to exhaust our strength; in the performance of the duties of such an office, it is an honor to be permitted to wear out life itself. Doing this, a man when he comes to die will feel that he has not lived in vain; and whatever self-denial he may practice in it; however much comfort, or however many friends he may forsake, all these things will give him no pang of regret when from a bed of death he looks out on the eternal world.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Colossians 1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany