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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Colossians 3

Verse 1

‘RISEN WITH CHRIST’

‘If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.’

Colossians 3:1

The resurrection of Christ stands not alone as a great and glorious reality. St. Paul avers that others participated in it. Strictly rendered, his words are, ‘If then ye were raised together with Christ.’

I. A wonderful fact.—There is indeed a very notable oneness between the actual experience of Christ and the spiritual experience of the redeemed.

( a) Dying with Christ, then, means the crucifixion of the old man with Him.

( b) Buried with Christ—the destruction of the whole body of sin.

( c) Raised with Christ—the great quickening which results in freshness of being.

In other words, Christians, in and through Christ, are severed from the old life of fallen nature, and lifted up to the new life of purity and happiness.

II. A practical duty.—St. Paul enjoins those who are baptized into Christ, and buried and raised with Him, ‘to seek those things which are above.’

III. A sublime encouragement.—Christ was ‘received up into heaven.’ All our happiness descends to us from Him. Believing in Him, we ‘rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ What, then, will be our bliss when we see Him in the glory which He had with His Father before the world was? and what our dignity when we are made like Him? We know not now; but the mere thought is ecstasy!

Illustration

‘ “Christ is risen—He is risen indeed.” The Greek Church asserts the fact popularly, not only in the church but in the street. The Czar of all the Russias comes out of his palace, and, seeing the sentinel, kisses him and says, “The Lord is risen,” and the soldier says, “He is risen indeed.” One cabman in the street gets off his stand, and another gets off his sleigh, they embrace, and the one says to the other, “Christ is risen,” and the other answers, “He is risen indeed.” There the man in the street has only one thing to say that Easter morning, that Christ is risen. Now we Westerns are not so minded, but I hope this Easter morning you sing up the old song in your hearts. It is not only assertion, it is something more—it is a hymn of joy; and I hope that every one of you will sing up in your heart this morning the old song of the Church, “Christ is risen—He is risen indeed.” ’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

RESURRECTION POWER

Alive unto God—that is to be our position. Pray that you may indeed ‘know Him, and the power of His Resurrection,’ as He ought to be known by all His saints.

The ‘power of His Resurrection’ suggests wholesome doctrine.

I. If we are ‘risen with Christ’ we have left our grave-clothes behind us, as Jesus left His in the tomb. He did not go about during His risen life with the garments of death clinging to Him. Christ calls upon us to show forth to the world that we have done with the grave, that we are walking ‘in newness of life,’ in the power of His Resurrection.

II. During our Lord’s forty days’ post-resurrection sojourn He appeared ten times only to His followers.—The inference is that the ‘risen life’ of Christ was spent chiefly in communion with God. And the spiritual life of His people will suffer because of the stress of earthly things, unless they get more into contact with heaven and God, unless they, like Him, anticipate the Ascension, and ‘in heart and mind thither ascend.’ In this busy age, especially, we have need to restore our souls by communion with God.

III. This ‘risen life’ ought to be practically manifest in its blessed activities.—‘Seek those things which are above.’ In that one word ‘Seek’ we have expressed the outward life of Christian effort; we have expressed also the true aim of a consecrated life—‘those things which are above.’

—Archdeacon Madden.

Illustration

‘You must have remarked, in studying the Epistles of St. Paul, how he identifies the Christian with his Lord, in His Crucifixion, His Death, and His Resurrection. He identifies the Christian with the Crucifixion of Christ. Referring to his old self-life, he says, “I am crucified with Christ”; he also uses the peculiar phrase “the old man” in reference to his former self, and speaks of it as being crucified. This “old man,” meaning the old corrupt, sinful self, is to be crucified, so that it can no longer dominate the “new man.” The believer must so identify himself with his Lord’s Crucifixion that he is to reckon the corrupt body of sin, the old evil life, as crucified with Christ. He identifies the true man of God with the Death of Christ. “Ye died” ( Colossians 3:3); “Planted together in the likeness of His Death”; “Reckon yourselves dead indeed unto sin” ( Romans 6:5; Romans 6:11). In Colossians 3:5 you have the word “mortify,” showing continuity of teaching on this point. This is the Apostolic doctrine as regards the believer’s attitude to sin: he is dead to it. He identifies the Christian with the Resurrection of Christ: he is risen with Christ. Buried with Christ, and raised with Him too. The life which we now live 2in the power of the Son of God is equivalent to a resurrection from the dead—it is a “risen” life.’

Verse 1

‘RISEN WITH CHRIST’

‘If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.’

Colossians 3:1

The resurrection of Christ stands not alone as a great and glorious reality. St. Paul avers that others participated in it. Strictly rendered, his words are, ‘If then ye were raised together with Christ.’

I. A wonderful fact.—There is indeed a very notable oneness between the actual experience of Christ and the spiritual experience of the redeemed.

( a) Dying with Christ, then, means the crucifixion of the old man with Him.

( b) Buried with Christ—the destruction of the whole body of sin.

( c) Raised with Christ—the great quickening which results in freshness of being.

In other words, Christians, in and through Christ, are severed from the old life of fallen nature, and lifted up to the new life of purity and happiness.

II. A practical duty.—St. Paul enjoins those who are baptized into Christ, and buried and raised with Him, ‘to seek those things which are above.’

III. A sublime encouragement.—Christ was ‘received up into heaven.’ All our happiness descends to us from Him. Believing in Him, we ‘rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ What, then, will be our bliss when we see Him in the glory which He had with His Father before the world was? and what our dignity when we are made like Him? We know not now; but the mere thought is ecstasy!

Illustration

‘ “Christ is risen—He is risen indeed.” The Greek Church asserts the fact popularly, not only in the church but in the street. The Czar of all the Russias comes out of his palace, and, seeing the sentinel, kisses him and says, “The Lord is risen,” and the soldier says, “He is risen indeed.” One cabman in the street gets off his stand, and another gets off his sleigh, they embrace, and the one says to the other, “Christ is risen,” and the other answers, “He is risen indeed.” There the man in the street has only one thing to say that Easter morning, that Christ is risen. Now we Westerns are not so minded, but I hope this Easter morning you sing up the old song in your hearts. It is not only assertion, it is something more—it is a hymn of joy; and I hope that every one of you will sing up in your heart this morning the old song of the Church, “Christ is risen—He is risen indeed.” ’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

RESURRECTION POWER

Alive unto God—that is to be our position. Pray that you may indeed ‘know Him, and the power of His Resurrection,’ as He ought to be known by all His saints.

The ‘power of His Resurrection’ suggests wholesome doctrine.

I. If we are ‘risen with Christ’ we have left our grave-clothes behind us, as Jesus left His in the tomb. He did not go about during His risen life with the garments of death clinging to Him. Christ calls upon us to show forth to the world that we have done with the grave, that we are walking ‘in newness of life,’ in the power of His Resurrection.

II. During our Lord’s forty days’ post-resurrection sojourn He appeared ten times only to His followers.—The inference is that the ‘risen life’ of Christ was spent chiefly in communion with God. And the spiritual life of His people will suffer because of the stress of earthly things, unless they get more into contact with heaven and God, unless they, like Him, anticipate the Ascension, and ‘in heart and mind thither ascend.’ In this busy age, especially, we have need to restore our souls by communion with God.

III. This ‘risen life’ ought to be practically manifest in its blessed activities.—‘Seek those things which are above.’ In that one word ‘Seek’ we have expressed the outward life of Christian effort; we have expressed also the true aim of a consecrated life—‘those things which are above.’

—Archdeacon Madden.

Illustration

‘You must have remarked, in studying the Epistles of St. Paul, how he identifies the Christian with his Lord, in His Crucifixion, His Death, and His Resurrection. He identifies the Christian with the Crucifixion of Christ. Referring to his old self-life, he says, “I am crucified with Christ”; he also uses the peculiar phrase “the old man” in reference to his former self, and speaks of it as being crucified. This “old man,” meaning the old corrupt, sinful self, is to be crucified, so that it can no longer dominate the “new man.” The believer must so identify himself with his Lord’s Crucifixion that he is to reckon the corrupt body of sin, the old evil life, as crucified with Christ. He identifies the true man of God with the Death of Christ. “Ye died” ( Colossians 3:3); “Planted together in the likeness of His Death”; “Reckon yourselves dead indeed unto sin” ( Romans 6:5; Romans 6:11). In Colossians 3:5 you have the word “mortify,” showing continuity of teaching on this point. This is the Apostolic doctrine as regards the believer’s attitude to sin: he is dead to it. He identifies the Christian with the Resurrection of Christ: he is risen with Christ. Buried with Christ, and raised with Him too. The life which we now live 2in the power of the Son of God is equivalent to a resurrection from the dead—it is a “risen” life.’

Verse 2

THE DISCIPLINE OF THE AFFECTIONS

‘Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.’

Colossians 3:2

The affections have been defined as the faculty or power which regulates or determines all our likes or dislikes for persons or things, our tastes, our friendships, our loves. This faculty or power ought to be brought under control by every reasonable man and every reasonable woman. You must refuse to grow attached to what is unworthy of your affections, what is unworthy of your consideration.

I. Choose the best things.—You can cultivate good taste, whether it be in the matter of literature or art or conversation, or any other such thing. It is a duty to choose always the best that is within our reach. It seems obvious, it seems easy in theory; in practice it is really very difficult. Self-culture always means a good deal of effort. You will be tempted by laziness, by habit, or by cowardice, but if you do not choose the best, your taste will in time be spoiled, your affections will inevitably go out towards what is vulgar and common, and your character will suffer in proportion.

II. Choose the best friends.—This is an important point. A bad friend very often means one’s ruin. Again you must choose what is noble and what is true. Fix your eyes upon such qualities as honour, courage, duty, unselfishness, purity. Do not allow your preference to rest upon the mean, the cowardly, the selfish, the dishonest, the impure; and then slowly and surely your affections will fix themselves upon the better traits of character. You will become naturally disposed to make good friends instead of bad ones. And still further we must be ourselves pure, ourselves unselfish.

III. The control of the affections.—Our affections must be controlled as regards those that we love most. Remember that there is a selfish, inconsiderate kind of love. There is a love that proceeds from passion and impurity, there is a love not founded upon sympathy and upon self-sacrifice; there is also an uncurbed, unrestrained love, which regards its object as belonging absolutely to itself rather than as a trust from God. People very often, under the cover of love, will allow those they love all kinds of indulgence, all kinds of laxity. They seem to think that love is an excuse for many things that would be otherwise inadmissible.

Rev. Hamilton Rose.

Illustration

‘True love must come from God Himself, Who is love. And yet people are afraid to love Him. They are afraid of losing something they value, they are afraid of not possessing the object of affection so surely if they first surrender it to God; the result is they choose the lower kind of love in preference to the love that comes from above, and it means infinite loss in the end to themselves, perhaps a greater loss still to those they try to love. Whether then in regard to things or persons, our affections need strict discipline; you may easily grow fond of what is ignoble, unworthy of respect.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE HIGHER LIFE

Let us consider how we may go up to the higher life, and reach towards ‘things above.’

I. It must be by attraction.—The repulsion of this earth may drive you to dislike this world; but no repulsiveness here could ever bring you nearer heaven; it would only make you morose. Christ must draw. And therefore He has ‘gone up on high,’ that He may draw you higher. Put yourself within the attraction.

II. Do not attempt to leap to the top by a bound.—Go up by little steps day by day. Let it be something which is always just above you; not too far; not so far as to discourage you; yet not so near as to be done without effort.

( a) Put more intercession and more praise into your prayers.

( b) Make your reading of the Bible a more real study.

( c) Resolve to come more frequently to Holy Communion.

( d) Do your charity with more method.

( e) Let your social intercourse be more profitable.

III. That you may do this, you must lean less upon yourself.—Perhaps the most beautiful picture in the whole Bible of a Christian is in those words of Solomon’s: ‘Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved?’ ‘Who is this coming up’ and up—always ‘coming up’ and up—through a world which is comparatively ‘a wilderness’—‘leaning’ in very weakness on One she loves, and that Loved One Christ? Who is this? Is it you? ‘Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved?’

Illustration

‘Some years ago a passenger in a homeward-bound ship chanced to go on deck one morning while the captain was teaching his young son to climb to the mast-head. The boy had gone bravely up, while his father stood watching and encouraging him. At last he began to descend, and while doing so he looked down. The captain noted the action and also saw that his boy was getting giddy and was thus in the greatest danger of falling. “Look up,” he at once shouted to the boy, “look up.” Raising his face to the skies, the youth obeyed and came down in safety. “He might have fallen and been killed,” said the passenger to the captain afterwards. “No, he was safe enough as long as he looked up,” was the reply. The Christian in this life is only safe from the danger of falling into sinfulness by looking up heavenwards.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

UNPOPULAR BUT NECESSARY

Men’s ears are dull to the warnings of the Gospel against worldliness, because their hearts cling strongly to the things of this world, and are loth to give them up.

I. The special feature of holiness and goodness is an increasing nearness and closeness of communion between God and the soul, an affectionateness which the soul feels in thinking of God and in praying to God. Whatever interferes with that nearness, and tends to make division and distance between God and the soul, is that soul’s worst enemy. Whatever turns the affections away from God unto itself hinders the soul’s salvation. Whether it be the unmeasured indulgence of the bodily passions, or dishonest gain, or the excitement of pleasure, or intellectual pride, or mere inertness and sloth, that occupies the soul and shuts out religion, it is a fetter all the same; it hinders the soul from growing into Christ’s likeness, perverts its nature to evil, and risks, or rather hinders altogether, its salvation. Such a pursuit, or such a taste, or such a habit, whatever of pleasure it may offer, whatever of beauty it may have, is in serious truth the deadliest enemy of the soul.

II. This mode of thinking can never be popular, and this counsel of the Apostle’s can never be a popular one. Careless people silently resist it—set themselves in stubborn refusal to give up the world. The command is not, therefore, popular. Say it to the rich man, whose wealth opens to him all the sources of earthly pleasure, ‘Set your affections on things above.’ ‘Oh,’ he replies, ‘that is an exaggerated statement. It is all very well for people to do that who have nothing to enjoy in the world. They may well look for something better, something beyond—but, as for me, I am well off already; let me enjoy what I have.’ Thus he willingly ties down his own soul to the things of earth.

III. Yet how necessary it is!—How can any one be a lover of the world, and at the same time a lover of religion? If he loves Christ best, on the whole, he will certainly have to let the world go. If the world gets tight hold of him, it will certainly make him let Christ go. And though we must all live in the world, we need none of us be the servants of the world. That is just the distinction it is important we should draw. An Englishman living in any foreign country need not part with his nationality. So a servant of Christ, a subject of Christ’s spiritual kingdom, though living as a stranger and sojourner, far from his heavenly home, need not be subject to the principles of the world. He must ‘use the world, as not abusing it.’ Now, to set the affections on it is to abuse it.

Verse 3

HIDDEN LIFE

‘Your life is hid with Christ in God.’

Colossians 3:3

Spiritual union between the believer and his Lord is a truth abundantly set forth in the Word of God, and eminently suggestive of exalted privileges.

I. The reality of the spiritual life.—The presence of Christ in the heavenly places is invisible to us. We cannot see Him, as with transfigured form He stands within the dazzling light of the throne. But none the less sure is it that if we believe we are saved through Him. His words are true; His promise steadfast. Besides this, two considerations may assure us:—

( a) The consciousness of spiritual change.

( b) The evidence of spiritual character.

II. The preciousness of the spiritual life.—We have access to God, and can press into His audience-chamber with sure acceptance. It is the spring of joy and happiness to our natures. ‘All things are yours,’ ‘All work together for good.’ ‘Whom having not seen we love.’ At whatever value the Christian, as a man, esteems his natural, yet at an infinitely greater value does he prize his spiritual life; and so multitudes have counted ‘all things but loss’ for this.

III. The sure guardianship of the spiritual life.—There is nothing valuable but is exposed more or less to danger. Full well we know the peril of the spiritual life. What evil influences are brought to bear upon us! How temptation weaves the wizardry of its spells! Now if life were dependent on our own custody and feeble strength we should soon be deprived of it. But who can erase the shining characters from the life-roll of heaven traced by the finger of God?

IV. The reserve of the spiritual life.—‘It doth not yet appear what we shall be.’ The ‘glory’ that shall be revealed ‘in’ the believer is not yet manifest. ‘The world knoweth’ us ‘not.’ Hence the indifference, scorn, contempt with which Christian character is often treated. Christ at last shall confess His own before His Father and the holy angels. But now, till the time comes, this life and the glory that pertains to it maintain a reserve. They are hidden in Christ; ‘not of the world.’ Yet be encouraged; the day of redemption draweth near.

V. The deathlessness of the spiritual life.—This perishable body must decay, and dust shall be laid with its kindred dust. But the life secured by Christ shall not be harmed. Christ exclaims, ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ and that which is hidden in Him shall survive and flourish above all the dissolutions of time and the wrecks of the universe.

Illustrations

(1) ‘It is related of a Duke of Brunswick, celebrated for the costly jewels he possessed, that he had an iron chest made and placed in his bedroom. This was so skilfully contrived that when any one opened it who knew not the secret, bells rung, pistols were fired, and other tokens of alarm were given. But skilful thieves once, during the silence of the night, dug through the wall against which it was placed, pierced the chest, and took away many of the gems. And however we might watch and be careful, if there were not One wiser, greater, more vigilant than ourselves, the life-treasure we have might be lost. But God is mighty, faithful, and slumbereth not, and our life in Christ is secure.’

(2) ‘To the honour of Lord Macaulay it is related that on one occasion, while surrounded by courtly friends in a brilliant assemblage, he recognised and shook hands with a retiring man of literary talent whose worth and capability he knew, but whom others passed by.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

LIFE INDEED

The world and its ways are manifest, they are not hidden. The true Christian and his ways are not so easily discovered; for much is, of necessity, hidden.

I. The Christian’s life is ‘a hidden life.’—His real life is not on the earth, nor for the earth. His desires are beyond this world; higher and further-reaching than the utmost condition of earthly kings, and conquerors, and statesmen, and men of wealth.

II. And yet he has a visible and outside life in this world.—He has a body compassed with infirmity, he has his sorrows, his pleasures, his wants, his trials, his ailments, his active duties, his seasons of rest, his conversation with the outside world, his domestic relations, his social position. In all these matters he is as much visible as others are: perhaps even more openly so, because the more honest; for having little to conceal, he cares the less to be watched and observed.

III. The believer has an inward and an outward life, and they do not correspond; and thus there seems to be about him a kind of contradiction in the matters of this life? He may be poor, or weak in the flesh, or in shame and of low estate and consideration among his fellow-men; while his heart is rich in the joy of the Holy Ghost, strong in hope, and full of the prospects of an ever-increasing glory.

—Rev. G. F. De Teissier.

Illustration

‘Travellers among savage nations tell us that, for the most part, the wild and half-naked people are more taken with shining beads and pieces of bright cloth than by the more solid and useful gifts of civilised life. Their friendship is easily purchased and at a cheap rate. What takes the eye is everything; that which requires intelligence, study, and a higher estimate is put aside. The same kind of thing is true of the children of this world. Wise as they are, and civilised, and highly cultivated, and full of wants, and grasping after many things; wonderful as are their works, their reasonings, their schemes, their productions, their imaginings, still they are, like the savages, taken more by the tinsel, the glitter of the things which are immediately before them, or within easy reach, than with the better and purer, and nobler and more glorious promises of the hidden and the future, the unseen!’

Verse 11

ALL AND IN ALL

‘Christ is all, and in all.’

Colossians 3:11

How little can we see of Christ but a bare and faint outline! Why, it will take all eternity to exhaust that subject; it will take all eternity to learn how good, how wise, how great, how holy, how merciful is Christ. The Apostle seems to have got that idea here in the words of our text. He does not speak of His attributes, but he gathers up all into one cluster, and in six monosyllables he tells us ‘Christ is all, and in all.’

There are just two thoughts: first, Christ is all and in all in the Bible; secondly, Christ is all and in all in redemption.

I. Christ is all and in all in the Bible.—Wherever you open it I care not, you will come to Christ in the Bible. You will find as you read that book that everywhere, if we look for Him, everywhere we shall find the Christ.

( a) We go back to the Old Testament, and there in the heart of the Jewish administration we see the Lamb, the offering appointed by God and by Moses through God, smoking upon the altar, the Lamb of sacrifice for sin offered to God, and we say, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world.’ We go on, and turn over any page, and we are sure to encounter Christ. We come on to Isaiah, the evangelical prophet, and we find him declaring, ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.’ I go back to the first book in the Bible, and there I find in Genesis that Jacob with his last breath tells us, ‘Unto him shall the gathering of the people be.’ I come to the last chapter of the Old Testament in Malachi, and find it declared, ‘Unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings.’

( b) I come into the New Testament, and there, of course, I expect to find Him. Christ in the Gospels; every miracle, Christ in the miracle; every parable, Christ in the parable; and afterwards in the Acts of the Apostles, the early story of Christianity—Christ in them all. I go on and find Christ in all the Epistles. I am just going to close the Book, and I find Christ in the Apocalypse, and the last word which He speaks to us after, shall I say, His Ascension, through His inspired and loving Apostle John, is, ‘Behold, I come quickly.’ Christ is everything, then, in the Bible, all and in all.

II. Christ is all and in all in redemption.—We were under condemnation through sin. It was Christ Who came down from heaven to earth and said, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.’ We are slaves through sin. It was Christ Who came and gave deliverance to the captives and opened the prison doors. We were in darkness: it is Christ Who says, ‘I am the Light of the world.’ And when we come to Him He gives us of the Bread of life. But more than this, we want to know as sinners how we can be justified before God. Well, here we have it—through redemption: ‘being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.’ But we want to know more than this. We want to know that we shall never be overtaken by the consequences of this sin. How do I know that I shall never come into condemnation? ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.’ Wherever you look for redemption you will find an answer to your fears, and a clearing of all your sins through Christ, if you just look up to Him Who achieved this great redemption for us.

—Rev. Canon Fleming.

Verse 12

THE CHRISTIAN’S VESTURE

‘Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering.’

Colossians 3:12

But notice, to start with, how St. Paul, even before he says what we should be, reminds us of what we are. ‘Put on,’ he begins; but before he describes the Christian vesture he is insistent on the right view of the Christian’s essential status and position.

I. The Christian’s status and appeal.—‘As the elect of God, holy and beloved,’ chosen, consecrated, the objects of God’s love. It is because you are all this that you are bidden to clothe yourselves with the suitable garb of Christian perfection. What you have to wear is the result of what by grace you are. It is just what St. Paul always does. He constantly appeals to men, not simply as men, but as something more. He beseeches them by the mercies of God; he calls upon them as men on whom God’s choice has rested, on whom God has laid the hands of consecration, as men who have realised and experienced and owned the solemn and blessed reality of the Divine love.

II. This is no unreal or sentimental appeal.—It is not, for example, a bit of mere rhetoric. It is no mere bit of pleasant and ingratiating courtesy. It is sound and solid, and meant to bear the whole weight of a real and urgent appeal. I ask you to do this because I know, and you know too, where you stand; you are men whom God has chosen, whom God, in a very real sense, has claimed and set apart for His own use and His own work, whom God has really loved; that is why you must put on ‘the heart of compassion,’ and ‘kindness, and humility, and meekness, and, above all, love.’ Christian motive alone will stir to Christian action. That is the method of St. Paul. How far is it the method, the appeal, of the present day? Do we, as a matter of fact, appeal to people in that way?

III. The Christian’s vesture.—The text describes it.

( a) The heart of compassion. What does it mean for you and me? It means at least that genuine tender-heartedness is a real part of the Christian character. There is an appalling amount of real misery and suffering in the world. It is not far away from us; it lies at our very doors. It presents, it may be, problems and difficulties which demand most careful consideration if they are ever to be solved. But quite apart from any theory as to their solution, there is the grave question of the state of our own hearts with regard to it. There are men and women—we cannot doubt it—so selfish that, until suffering actually comes to their own doors and darkens their own lives, care little about it. They are the Dives of the present day, quite content that they should have their good things and Lazarus his evil things. Compassion seems to them a sort of softness, a thing for women rather than men. They are not moved, they do not want to be moved, by the sufferings and the hardships of their fellow-creatures. They own no responsibility with regard to it, no call to self-denial.

( b) Kindness and humility. These come next in the beautiful order of the graces which the Christian is to put on. The one, of course, rules our behaviour to others; the second concerns our estimate of ourselves.

( c) Meekness and long-suffering. ‘Learn of Me,’ says our Lord, ‘for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ The temper that makes a man content to be little esteemed, little considered: what rest and peace it brings. How easy it is to talk of it. How hard it is to maintain. Yet it is something even to desire it, even to aim at it.

Bishop H. L. Paget.

Illustration

‘A district visitor called upon a debased woman whom none had been able to tame. She entered the miserable apartment and saw the woman lying in a corner as if a bundle of rags. She spoke, and an old, withered, miserable-looking creature raised herself upon her elbow and with frenzied look demanded what she wanted. She replied, “I love you; I want to be kind to you, because Jesus loves you.” She went forward and kissed her brow, and notwithstanding violent, repelling words, kissed her again. Then came the exclamation, “Go away, go away! you will break my heart. You put me in mind of my mother. Never has any one kissed me as she did; never have I been so treated since I lost her: many kicks and blows have I had, but no kisses like this.” The fountain of feeling was opened, the confidence of the heart was won, and step by step that all but utterly lost soul was led back to Jesus.’

Verse 14

THE OUTER GARMENT

‘And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.’

Colossians 3:14 (R.V.)

The Apostle shows that love is the outer garment which holds the others in their places—that which gives a finish to the whole Christian dress. All Christian graces are held together by this golden clasp of charity. Many a work of art is spoiled by want of finish; and are not many souls, which have been for the most part richly dressed by grace, bereft of attractiveness just because they need the perfecting robe of love? But, it may be asked, wherein lies the excelling beauty of this garment, on which so much depends the beauty of the Christian life? It is chiefly in three particulars.

I. As the robe we put over our clothes is greater and larger than our other clothing, so charity has a much greater extent than any of the before-mentioned virtues.—For mercy succours only the miserable; kindness helps them only who have need of us; sweetness only caresses those with whom we converse; and patience only bears with those who offend us; but love embraces them all together, and is affectionate towards our neighbours generally—both those that are in adversity, and such as are in prosperity; persons in affluence, as well as those who are necessitous; friends and foes; the perfect and the infirm; those who oblige us, and those who offend us; and those likewise who look upon us as indifferent.

II. As that last piece of our clothing is commonly fairest and richest, so likewise is charity, without doubt, more excellent than all the other virtues which make up a Christian’s clothing.

III. As the one marks out and distinguishes men, being usually the character of their rank and of their quality, in the town or in the state, so the other is the Christian’s livery, and a mark of the honour they have to be the children of God and disciples of His Son: as our Saviour said, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.’ Such are some of the reasons why, over and around all other pieces of our soul’s heavenly attire, we should cast the mantle of love.

Rev. W. A. Challacombe.

Verse 15

OUR EUCHARIST

‘Be ye thankful.’

Colossians 3:15

The service of Holy Communion is a Thanksgiving, so named in the Prayer Book, which calls it ‘our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving,’ and from this it takes one of its names, the Holy Eucharist. It has other names and other characters; but now let us think briefly of this, for it answers to one of the brightest and most attractive and at the same time difficult features in the Christian life. ‘Be ye thankful.’

I. Thanksgiving is difficult, and yet it is a very simple and elementary thing; it comes naturally, we see, where there is any real religion at all. When you receive something, you feel, if you have any heart in you, inclined to thank somebody, and it is only the same feeling carried higher which, when good comes to us, prompts us to thank God.

II. Thankfulness is to be expected of all.—It is natural for a nation to be thankful when peace comes after war, when a king is raised up from a great sickness or a great danger, or when he is crowned upon his throne. So it is natural to many of us in the simpler matter of our own lives. In the Old Testament we notice that when the people thank God for the greater blessings they do not forget the simpler ones, and the Psalms praise God for all the good things of earth and sky, they tell out His works with gladness. And so we come to the thankfulness of Christians; and the great key and source and centre of it is that it begins with the greatest of all blessings—that is with Christ, God’s gift to man, with what He did for us, the Light that shone, the death that He died, the mercy that He brought and won, the love that through Him was made known. ‘Thanks be to God,’ exclaims the Apostle, ‘for His unspeakable gift.’ This tunes the Christian heart to thankfulness.

III. The thankful heart finds reasons for thankfulness in all about it—in all smaller blessings, the little happinesses of life, in thinking good thoughts, ‘for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning you.’ Yes, in everything. Not in the happinesses only, but the troubles too, the losses and disappointments and sufferings. These have become reasons for thankfulness; for in view of the Cross and the glory that followed it men learn to be thankful when they suffer, even because they suffer. So the great thankfulness seems to wake echoes of itself in all the little thankfulnesses of every day. It is to this, it seems to me, that this our Eucharist, our service of thanksgiving, answers so well.

IV. The gladness of Christ’s Eucharist, though it has in it the glory of the Resurrection and the power of His endless love, is a joy into which is woven (let the service speak and tell you so) the remembrance of sin forgiven, the commemoration of suffering borne, of the discipline of death accepted, of the utter loss which turned to perfect gain. And so here the sad and sorrowful, the disappointed and lonely, and those who feel that worst trouble of their own besetting sin, may draw up and join in their note, not the less true and pure though it may be in the minor key, in the Church’s Eucharist, offered through her gracious, patient, and redeeming Lord, to the Father Whose Love He reveals.

Bishop E. S. Talbot.

Illustration

‘The value of the smaller blessings rests on the value of the one great blessing in Christ. The deep and pure happiness of love granted to us but a few hours or years have in themselves the scent of death.

The noblest troth

Dies here to dust.

The poet has bidden us take—

This test for love: in every kiss sealed fast

To feel the first kiss, and forbode the last.

But from Christ Jesus there enters into them a savour of life, and they gain sureness and worth as they are known in His light, for they are gleams, and signs, and instruments of that great love from which they come, and into which they will be gathered to be found again.

Verse 15

OUR EUCHARIST

‘Be ye thankful.’

Colossians 3:15

The service of Holy Communion is a Thanksgiving, so named in the Prayer Book, which calls it ‘our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving,’ and from this it takes one of its names, the Holy Eucharist. It has other names and other characters; but now let us think briefly of this, for it answers to one of the brightest and most attractive and at the same time difficult features in the Christian life. ‘Be ye thankful.’

I. Thanksgiving is difficult, and yet it is a very simple and elementary thing; it comes naturally, we see, where there is any real religion at all. When you receive something, you feel, if you have any heart in you, inclined to thank somebody, and it is only the same feeling carried higher which, when good comes to us, prompts us to thank God.

II. Thankfulness is to be expected of all.—It is natural for a nation to be thankful when peace comes after war, when a king is raised up from a great sickness or a great danger, or when he is crowned upon his throne. So it is natural to many of us in the simpler matter of our own lives. In the Old Testament we notice that when the people thank God for the greater blessings they do not forget the simpler ones, and the Psalms praise God for all the good things of earth and sky, they tell out His works with gladness. And so we come to the thankfulness of Christians; and the great key and source and centre of it is that it begins with the greatest of all blessings—that is with Christ, God’s gift to man, with what He did for us, the Light that shone, the death that He died, the mercy that He brought and won, the love that through Him was made known. ‘Thanks be to God,’ exclaims the Apostle, ‘for His unspeakable gift.’ This tunes the Christian heart to thankfulness.

III. The thankful heart finds reasons for thankfulness in all about it—in all smaller blessings, the little happinesses of life, in thinking good thoughts, ‘for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning you.’ Yes, in everything. Not in the happinesses only, but the troubles too, the losses and disappointments and sufferings. These have become reasons for thankfulness; for in view of the Cross and the glory that followed it men learn to be thankful when they suffer, even because they suffer. So the great thankfulness seems to wake echoes of itself in all the little thankfulnesses of every day. It is to this, it seems to me, that this our Eucharist, our service of thanksgiving, answers so well.

IV. The gladness of Christ’s Eucharist, though it has in it the glory of the Resurrection and the power of His endless love, is a joy into which is woven (let the service speak and tell you so) the remembrance of sin forgiven, the commemoration of suffering borne, of the discipline of death accepted, of the utter loss which turned to perfect gain. And so here the sad and sorrowful, the disappointed and lonely, and those who feel that worst trouble of their own besetting sin, may draw up and join in their note, not the less true and pure though it may be in the minor key, in the Church’s Eucharist, offered through her gracious, patient, and redeeming Lord, to the Father Whose Love He reveals.

Bishop E. S. Talbot.

Illustration

‘The value of the smaller blessings rests on the value of the one great blessing in Christ. The deep and pure happiness of love granted to us but a few hours or years have in themselves the scent of death.

The noblest troth

Dies here to dust.

The poet has bidden us take—

This test for love: in every kiss sealed fast

To feel the first kiss, and forbode the last.

But from Christ Jesus there enters into them a savour of life, and they gain sureness and worth as they are known in His light, for they are gleams, and signs, and instruments of that great love from which they come, and into which they will be gathered to be found again.

Verse 16

THE WORD OF CHRIST

‘Let the Word of Christ dwell in you.’

Colossians 3:16

Note those words ‘dwell in you.’ They mean more than that the Bible should have a place in your library or on your table. ‘Dwell in you’ means make its home in your innermost being. And thus will it be treasured in your memory, enlighten your conscience, purify your heart, and nerve your will to do what pleases God.

I. We need the teaching of the Holy Spirit.—Man as he is by nature cannot understand the Word of God ( 1 Corinthians 2:14). It is the treasure-house filled with boundless stores of holy lore, but only the Holy Ghost can give us the key.

II. The Word of God is living.—‘The Word of God is quick …’ ( Hebrews 4:12), where the Revised Version has it, ‘The Word of God is living … and sharper than any two-edged sword,’ the two edges being either for convincing or destroying. The oracles of God are ‘ living oracles’ ( Acts 7:38).

III. Read quietly.—Do not be in a hurry. The best business men are never in haste. And sacred studies cannot be pursued in a constant whirl and bustle. The sweetest spots in nature are hidden from the hasty tourist. You may see a good deal of a country in a few days or weeks: you may visit the mountains and lakes and rivers, the smoky cities and the great buildings; but the calm retreats, the quiet shades—all these are hidden from the hasty traveller.

IV. Look out for a personal message.—When you pray, ask yourself, What have I to say to God? And when you read, ask, What has God to say to me? If that is your attitude, God will surely speak, and speak to you. You will rejoice in those ‘precious promises’ which enrich the Holy Scriptures, and you will find that verily and indeed ‘glorious things are spoken’ of true believers.

V. Read with reverence.—Our fathers used to wrap their faces in their mantles and stand or kneel in reverential silence. There is far too little reverence now.

—Rev. F. Harper.

Illustrations

(1) ‘St. Chrysostom said, “I always do, and always will, exhort you that at home you accustom yourselves to a daily reading of the Scriptures”; and he goes on to say that the busy man, oppressed with worldly cares, has all the more need to study the Scriptures.’

(2) ‘In a Letter to a boy, M’Cheyne says: “You read your Bible regularly, of course; but do try to understand it, and still more, to feel it. Read more parts than one at a time. For example, if you are reading Genesis, read a Psalm also; or if you are reading St. Matthew, read a small bit of an Epistle also. Turn the Bible into prayer.” ’

Verses 22-24

RULES OF SERVICE

‘Servants, obey in all things your masters … not with eye-service … but in singleness of heart … do it heartily, as to the Lord … for ye serve the Lord Christ.’

Colossians 3:22-Jeremiah :

St. Paul has been giving some plain instructions about the family life, showing how husbands and wives, parents and children, should dwell together in mutual love, obedience, forbearance. But he does not lay down rules only for these. He remembers that in most households are to be found those who, though occupying socially a humbler position, are baptized people, members of the Body, and so he goes on to say some clear, strong things about the duties of servants to their masters, and of masters to their servants.

Let us consider, then, what God’s word says about the duties of servants towards their masters. And here we notice three things which mark the work of the true servant.

I. The first is ‘singleness of heart.’—That means, I take it, that all one’s thoughts and energies should be centred on one’s work. Aimless work, half-hearted work, is imperfect and poor always. Only that to which our whole powers have been given is ever of any lasting value.

II. Then the servant’s work should always be honest work.—‘Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers,’ says the Apostle, and that word ‘eyeservice’ is a very suggestive word. When we speak of a house which has been built merely for show, built of bad materials, its thin walls loosely put together, its woodwork wrought out of green timber, we say that the work has been ‘scamped.’ Now, ‘scamping work’ and ‘eyeservice’ mean just the same thing. Nearly all the task set is badly done, as much as possible is left undone, only the little bit which of necessity, or in all probability, must come under the eye of the master or the mistress is well done. The work is done so as to save the doer time and labour at the employer’s expense, and is no better than an acted lie; the unfaithful servant who has wrought it is as much a liar as though in so many words that servant had assured the master that the work was honestly done. The true servant’s spirit is the reverse of all this.

III. But there is a higher and a more ennobling motive far, and that is work for God’s sake.—‘Heartily, as to the Lord.’ The noblest, truest service can only be given where the giver has given his heart to God, and strives to serve and please Him. Such a man knows his place in the great family, and believes that his Heavenly Master has given it to him, and so every bit of work he has to do he does as under the gaze of the All-Seeing Eye.

Rev. S. Pascoe.

Illustrations

(1) ‘There was a poor ignorant servant-maid once whose heart was touched, and who began to live the higher life. And some people, who should have known better, teased her to tell them in what way her new life differed from the old. Some of you, I suppose, know the story and her simple answer: “I sweep under the mats now,” she said. She was no longer giving mere “eyeservice.” She was now working “heartily, as to the Lord,” and not one speck of dust should His eyes see. That is the sort of work He ennobles and blesses, and such a servant is as truly working for Him as is the priest, or the student, or the statesman.’

(2)‘Teach me, my God and King,

In all things Thee to see,

And what I do in anything

To do it as for Thee.’

‘A servant with this clause

Makes drudgery divine:

Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws

Makes that and the action fine.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Colossians 3". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/colossians-3.html. 1876.