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THE Epistle begins according to ancient custom. The writer introduces himself by name, and then salutes those to whom his letter is addressed, thus-
(Colossians 1:1.) Παῦλος , ἀπόστολος ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ διὰ θελήματος Θεοῦ , καὶ Τιμόθεος ὁ ἀδελφός “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy the brother.” [Ephesians 1:1; Ephesians 4:11.] Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ, as he bore His commission, enjoyed His inspiration, did His work, and in all things sought His acceptance. His call to the apostleship was by a signal and unmistakeable summons of the Divine will. Since he uses similar phraseology in so many of his epistles, there is no foundation for the conjecture of Chrysostom, and some of his Greek imitators, that the apostle in here asserting his relation to Christ so decidedly, disclaims all mission from the inferior spirits that occupied so prominent place in the angelology of the false teachers who attempted to corrupt the Colossian church. The addition of the name of Timothy is found in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, in that to the Philippians, and to Philemon, while it stands along with that of Silvanus in the salutations of both letters addressed to the church in Thessalonica. Though Timothy may have been the writer of this epistle, neither his name nor his pen gave any warrant or authority to the document, for he is only joined with the apostle in brotherly, but unofficial congratulations and prayers over the welfare of the Colossian believers. It is certainly rash on the part of Chrysostom and Theophylact to infer that Timothy was to be honoured as an apostle, because his name stands in this connection. Were such an argument tenable, then Sosthenes and Silvanus might both be elevated to the apostolate. Paul styles him, however, “a minister of God, and our fellow-labourer in the gospel of Christ,” 1 Thessalonians 3:2.
Timothy, who received this Greek name from his father, though his mother was a Jewess, was in all probability a native of Lystra. That he was one of the apostle's own converts is highly probable, as he has so fondly named him “son,” “my own son,” “my beloved son,” “my dearly beloved son,” 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 1:2; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 1:2. The young disciple was “well reported of by the brethren,” had enjoyed an early and sound religious education, the result of maternal and grand-maternal anxiety, and he possessed a “gift,” so that Paul, after circumcising him, in order to allay Jewish prejudice, selected him to be his colleague, fellow-traveller, and work-fellow. At a later period the apostle bore him this high testimony “he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do”-affirms at another time that both of them preached the same gospel of the Son of God; nay, so much of a kindred spirit reigned within them, that he says to the church in Philippi, “I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state,” Philippians 2:19-20. Indications of Timothy's busy and ubiquitous career occur again and again, and he received himself, from his spiritual father, two solemn epistolary communications. In short, so well known was he as “the Brother,” doing the apostle's work, carrying his messages, bringing correspondence to him, endeared to him in so many ways and representing him in his absence, that the church of Colosse could not wonder at his name being associated with that of Paul.
(Colossians 1:2.) Τοῖς ἐν Κολοσσαῖς ἁγίοις καὶ πιστοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ “to the saints in Colosse and believing brethren in Christ.” For the various forms of spelling the name of the city, see Introduction. According to the versions of Chrysostom, OEcumenius, De Wette, and others, the apostle thus addresses his letter: “to those in Colosse who are saints and believing brethren in Christ;” but, according to Meyer, “to the saints in Colosse, to wit, the believing brethren in Christ.” We incline to the latter interpretation, as the epithet ἅγιος came to have something of the force of a proper name, and did not need ἐν Χ . to qualify it. It, indeed, often stands by itself, as in Acts 9:13; Acts 9:32; Acts 9:41; Acts 26:10; in Romans 1:7; Romans 12:13; Romans 15:25-26; Romans 15:31, and in a great variety of instances in the other epistles. True, in Philippians 1:1, the words ἐν Χ . ᾿Ι . are added to it, and that probably because no other epithet is there subjoined. When these early disciples are named or referred to, the term ἅγιος , like the English “saint,” was almost invariably used, not as an adjective, but as a noun. For the meaning of the word, and its application to members of the church, see under Ephesians 1:1. The other terms of the clause are explanatory and supplemental. The adjective πιστοῖς , which occurs by itself in the twin epistle, is here joined to ἀδελφοῖς , and has the sense of believing, as we have shown it to have in the similar salutation, Ephesians 1:1. The concluding words, ἐν Χριστῷ , belonging to the entire clause, describe the origin and circuit of the believing brotherhood. Their union to Him created this tender and reciprocal connection in Him. Out of Him there was neither faith nor fraternity, for He is the object of the one and the centre of the other. Thus πιστοῖς is not superfluous, as Steiger erroneously says, if it mean “believing;” for this faith was the very means of bringing them into a filial relation to God, and therefore into a brotherly relation with one another. (Galatians 3:26.) Children of one Father by belief in Christ, the entire family are rightly named “believing brethren” in Him.
Χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ Θεοῦ Πατρὸς ἡμῶν “grace to you, and peace, from God our Father.” The additional clause of the Received Text, καὶ κυρίου ᾿Ι . Χ ., is not fully sustained by good authority, as it is wanting in B, D, E, J, K, while it is found in A, C, F, G. Many of the old versions also want it-as the Syriac, Ethiopic, and Vulgate. Chrysostom formally says: καίτοι ἐν ταύτῃ τὸ τοῦ Χ . οὐ τίθησιν ὄνομα “yet in this place he does not insert the name of Christ.” Theophylact, on repeating the sentiment, adds- καίτοι εἰωθὸς αὐτῷ ὂν “although it is his usual way to insert it;” but he subjoins a silly reason for the omission, to wit, “Lest the apostle should revolt them at the outset, and turn their minds from his forthcoming argument.” The clause is common in the other opening benedictions. We can account for its insertion in some Codices as being taken from these corresponding passages, but we cannot so well give a reason for its general omission, except on the suspicion that it was no portion of the original salutation. We dare not dictate to the apostle how he shall greet a church, nor insist that he shall send all his greetings in uniform terms. [Ephesians 1:2.]
The apostle now expresses his thanks to God for the Colossian church, for their faith, love, and hope-the fruits of that gospel which Epaphras had so successfully taught them. Then he repeats the substance of that prayer which he had been wont to offer for them, a prayer that designedly culminates in a statement of their obligation to Christ and their connection with Him. But that Blessed Name suggests a magnificent description of the majesty of His person, and the glory of His work as Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, and Governor. The paragraph is without any formal polemical aspect, but under its broad and glowing statement of the truth error was detected and refuted. It was so placed in sunshine, that its hideousness was fully exposed, and it was seen to be “a profane medley.”
(Colossians 1:3.) Εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ Θεῷ καὶ Πατρὶ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ πάντοτε , περὶ ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι “We bless God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always, when praying for you.” There are variations in the text, some of which may be noted. Some read τῷ πατρί on no great authority, and the Received Text inserts καί without conclusive evidence. Other MSS. read as if by correction εὐχαριστῶ in the singular, and περί , found in A, C, D 3 , E 2 , J, K, appears to have higher warrant than ὑπέρ , which is preferred by Lachmann and Griesbach. The distinctive meaning of ὑπέρ and περί in such a connection may be seen under Ephesians 6:19. We cannot agree with Bähr, Steiger, Baumgarten-Crusius, and Conybeare, who imagine that Paul simply means himself in the plural εὐχαριστοῦμεν . That he may occasionally use this style we do not deny. The apostle in the First Epistle to the Corinthians joins Sosthenes with himself in the salutation, but formally excludes him from any share in the communication, for he immediately subjoins the singular εὐχαριστῶ . The same avowed distinction is made with regard to Timothy himself in the Epistle to the Philippians 1:1-3. May we not infer, that if Paul had wished to exclude Timothy here, he would have done so by a similar use of the singular; and as he does afterwards employ the singular in sharp contrast, may not the plural here have been chosen to represent the share which Timothy had in those good reports, and the consequent prayers? There is no sentiment in the verses in which the plural is used, peculiar to inspiration. And we are the more confirmed in this view, because Paul formally disconnects himself from Timothy in Colossians 1:23, and by the emphatic words, ἐγὼ Παῦλος ; and again a similar distinction occurs in Colossians 1:29, and in Colossians 4:3. The phraseology of these three verses implies, that when he says “we,” he means himself and Timothy, but that in cases where he states something special to himself, and not common to him and his colleague, he says “I,” to prevent mistake. If the plural simply represented himself, he did not need to change the idiom. [ Εὐχαριστοῦμεν , Ephesians 1:16.] Under Ephesians 1:3 we have shown that the genitive κυρίου ᾿Ι . is governed as well by θεός as by πατήρ . And if we read τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί , as in the Textus Receptus, the same construction would be vindicated here. But as the reading is either τῷ θεῷ τῷ πατρί , or rather τῷ θεῷ πατρί , it would seem that πατρί alone governs the following genitive. We thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [ Πατρὶ τοῦ κ . Ephesians 1:3.] Beza well says, neque vero aliter a nobis considerari potest Deus in salutem nisi quatenus est Pater Christi. It is God, in the character of the Father of Christ, that we thank, for He is in this relation our Father-God. The grateful heart pours itself forth in praises. Paul and Timothy, on hearing of the spiritual progress of the Colossians, did not congratulate one another, but both gave the glory to God. So much had Timothy of Paul's own spirit, that the apostle had no hesitation in saying, “We thank God.”
It is a matter of dispute whether πάντοτε should be joined to εὐχαριστοῦμεν , or to προσευχόμενοι . Chrysostom, Theophylact, Grotius, Piscator, Beza, Luther, Calvin, Bengel, Suicer, Grotius, Böhmer, and Olshausen, hold the second view, and render with the English version, “praying always for you.” But if we follow the analogy of 1 Corinthians 1:4, 1Th 1:2 , 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Philemon 1:4, Ephesians 1:16, we shall join πάντοτε to the first verb. So think Bähr, Pierce, Meyer, De Wette, and Baumgarten-Crusius. The Syriac version follows the same exegesis-for it reads, “We give thanks for you always, and pray for you;” and Cranmer's Bible of 1539 “We give thanks to God alwayes for you in oure prayers.” Besides, the declaration is, that the intelligence which he had received filled his heart with gratitude, and impelled him to give thanks. The Colossians did not need to be told that he prayed for them, but it was some comfort to be assured by him, that when he did pray for them such was his opinion of them, based on reports which he had received about them, that he gave thanks to God for them. He would have prayed for them, whatever their spiritual state, and the worse it was, the more importunate would have been his supplications, but he would not have given thanks for them unless he had been persuaded of their spiritual purity and progress. Therefore he adduces these reports as the grounds of his thanksgivings; and the spirit of his language is “Whenever we pray about you, we always give thanks for you.” So cheering was the intelligence communicated by Epaphras, that thanksgiving was uniformly mingled with his prayers for them, and the special contents of those prayers are mentioned for the first time in Colossians 1:9. This exegesis is far more natural than that of Olshausen, who says that the thanksgiving is offered at the moment, but the intercession is su pposed to be going on, and to be based on the tidings which he had received. Now, those tidings did not create the prayer, but being so good, they naturally induced the thanksgiving. “We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as often as we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and love to all the saints.”
Περὶ ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι - “praying for you.” The apostle prayed for them-such was his interest in them, and sympathy with them, that he bore their names on his heart at the throne of grace. Nor could such an “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man” be without its rich results. The suppliant in his far-off prison was like the prophet on Carmel, and as he prayed, the “little cloud” might be descried, which, as it gradually filled and darkened the horizon, brought with it the “sound of abundance of rain.”
(Colossians 1:4.) ᾿Ακούσαντες τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ , καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην ἣν ἔχετε εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους . The words ἣν ἔχετε are introduced into the text on the concurrent authority of A, C, D, E 1 , F, G, the Vulgate, and other versions, with many of the Fathers. The apostle now expresses the reason why he gave thanks, the participle having a causal sense, Kühner, § 667; Stuart, § 169. Similar phraseology occurs in Ephesians 1:15. The article is omitted before the proper names Χ . ᾿Ι . Winer, § 19, 2. In Ephesians, the apostle adds κύριος , and prefixes the article to the official epithet; but here the simple name Χ . ᾿Ι . from common usage, occurs without it. Galatians 3:26. A different form of construction, inserting the article before the preposition- πίστει τῇ ἐν Χ . ᾿Ι .-occurs 1 Timothy 3:13, and similarly 2 Timothy 1:13. That faith reposed in Christ Jesus-fixed and immoveable-for it felt satisfied in Him as a Divine Saviour. [Ephesians 1:1.] Paul's heart had been gladdened by the news of their consistency and spiritual advancement, and in the fulness of his joy he offered thanks to God. It is not necessary, with Locke and Pierce, to take πίστις in the sense of fidelity, “sticking to the grace of God.” And their love was universal in its sweep, not toward all men, but toward all the saints. [ ἅγιος , Ephesians 1:1.] In itself, this love is really only a form, or manifestation of love to the Divine object of their faith, for it is affection to Christ's image in the saints. As, though a mirror is broken, each fragment will still throw out the same reflection in miniature, and that perfectly, so the saints, as a body and individually, exhibit the same blessed and divine image of Christ enshrined with them, and are therefore the objects of Christian love. Who is not acquainted with the language of Tertullian?&- -; Sed ejusmodi vel maxime dilectionis operatio notam nobis inurit penes quosdam, vide, inquiunt, ut invicem se diligant.
(Colossians 1:5.) Διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα τὴν ἀποκειμένην ὑμῖν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς “On account of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” It is not easy to fix precisely on the connection between this clause and the preceding statement. It is a lame and superficial exegesis simply to say that the apostle merely alludes to his three favourite graces, faith, love, and hope.
But 1. Grotius, Wolf, Davenant, Estius, Pierce, Olshausen, De Wette, Bähr, Heinrichs, and the Socinian expositors, Crellius and Slichting, connect it with the two preceding clauses, as if it told the reason why faith and love were formed and cherished within them-your faith in Christ, and love to all the saints-graces possessed and nurtured “in consequence of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” With such a view, the connection appears to be elliptical, and not very clearly expressed in the language before us. Nor do we think it a Pauline sentiment. The apostle's references to future glory are not of this nature, and we cannot regard him as placing faith and love on so selfish a basis as the mere hope of a coming recompense; for Christ is worthy of that faith, and saints, from their very character, elicit that love. The evangelical expositors who hold this view have to maintain a stout protest against the idea that they favour the Popish doctrine of merit. Davenant formally proposes the question, “whether it be lawful to do good works with a view to, or for the reward laid up in heaven?”
2. A modified and more tenable view is held by Chrysostom, and some of the Greek Fathers, as well as Estius, Calvin, Macknight, Meyer, and Steiger, who refer διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα solely to ἀγάπην , as if the meaning were, This love is not cherished under the expectation of any immediate return, but in the hope of ultimate remuneration. Still, under this hypothesis, the connection appears strained. If the apostle had said that they loved one another on account of the common hope which they had in heaven, or that the prospect of a joint inheritance deepened their attachments on their journey towards it, then the meaning might have been easily apprehended. But why the hope in itself should be selected as the prop of such love, we know not. Was their love to all the saints so selfish, that it could live only in expectation of a future reward? We do not deny the Christian doctrine of rewards, but we cannot put so selfish a valuation on Christian love as this exegesis implies; for of all the graces, it has the least of self in its nature, and its instinctive gratification is its own disinterested reward.
3. We incline, then, to take the words διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα with the initial verb εὐχαριστοῦμεν . “Having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which ye have to all the saints, as often as we pray for you, we thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, on account of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” That is to say, the report of their faith and love prompted him to give thanks; but as he gave thanks, the final issue and crown of those graces rose into prominence before him, and he adds, “on account of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” Their faith and love, viewed not merely in present exercise, but also in their ultimate consummation and bliss, were the grounds of his thanksgiving. The hope, as Bengel suggests, shows quanta sit causa gratias agendi pro dono fidei et amoris. The fourth verse can scarcely be called a parenthesis. This view is, generally, that of Athanasius, Bullinger, Calixtus, Elsner, Cocceius, Storr, Zanchius, Bengel, Schrader, Peile, and Conybeare. Meyer objects that in the other epistles the foundations of thanksgiving are subjective in their nature. Nor is this phraseology, when properly viewed, any exception. For faith and love are not excluded from the grounds of thanksgiving, and hope laid up is not wholly objective, as it signifies a blessing so sure and attainable that it creates hope. Had the apostle said, “for the happiness laid up,” the objection of Meyer might have applied, but he calls it “hope laid up”-a reality which excites and sustains the emotion of hope in the present state. It is further argued that εὐχαριστεῖν is never used in the New Testament with διά to express the ground of thanksgiving. It is so; but unless the objector can produce a parallel place to this, there is really no difficulty. If a writer means to express a different shade of idea, he will use a different preposition. N either ὑπέρ nor ἐπί conveyed the precise idea of the clause before us. These prepositions would have denoted that the hope was in itself the great ground of gratitude; but the apostle, in using διά , says that the hope, while it is so noble and promising, has a special and ultimate connection with the faith and love, the report of which so cheered his heart. The hope was present to his mind when he said εὐχαριστοῦμεν , but other and subordinate thoughts intervene, and his idea is so far modified, that when he came to write ἐλπίδα , he prefixes διά .
᾿Ελπίς is the object hoped for- τὸ ἐλπιζόμενον . [Ephesians 1:18.] In τὴν ἀποκειμένην is the idea of reservation and security. (Luke 19:20; 2Ti 4:8 ; 1 Peter 1:4.) It is not enjoyed now-but it exists now; it is kept in store, and will certainly be possessed. And it is laid up ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς , “in the heavens”-in that high region of felicity and splendour-at God's right hand, which guards it, and in the presence of Christ, who won it, and will bestow it. And this heavenly glory is an object of hope to them who possess this faith and love for these good reasons:-1. It is future-as it is not yet enjoyed, but it is lying over; “hope that is seen is not hope.” 2. It is future good, for it is in heaven, the scene of all that is fair and satisfying. Coming evil excites terror, but distant good creates hopeful desire and anticipation. For it is the unimagined glory of spiritual perfection, of living in the unshaded radiance of God's face, and in uninterrupted fellowship with Him, and the thronging myriads round about Him-the signet of eternity stamped on every enjoyment. 3. Such future good is attainable. Were it completely beyond reach, it might excite a romantic wish in one heart, and cover another with despair. But the apostle says it is laid up for you. It will therefore be enjoyed, for Christ has given His pledge. This faith, too, will elevate the spirit to heaven, and that love will prepare it for those supreme enjoyments,
“For love is heaven, and heaven is love.”
῝Ην προηκούσατε ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας τοῦ εὐαγγελίου “Of which ye have already heard in the word of the truth of the gospel.” The verb occurs only in this place of the New Testament, but it is found in Herodotus, Xenophon, and Josephus. In the προ compounded with the verb, De Wette and Olshausen think that the meaning is-they had heard of the hope in promise before the enjoyment of it. Such an exegesis is a species of truism, since they must have heard before they could cherish it. Therefore the interpretation of Meyer is equally objectionable-before ye had this hope, it was made known to you, it was communicated to you as a novelty. Nor can we say, generally, that the sense is-ye have heard of it before I now write it. But the meaning seems to be-that the hope laid up in heaven was, and had been, a prominent topic of preaching, and therefore an invariable topic of hearing in the Christian church. That προ has the sense of “already” we have shown fully under Ephesians 1:12. It is as if he meant to say-I need not expatiate on this hope, bright and glorious though it be; you are not unacquainted with it, for in the earliest teachings of the gospel when it came to you, ye heard of it-heard of it-
᾿Εν τῷ λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας . We cannot agree with Chrysostom, Erasmus, Heinrichs, Baumgarten-Crusius, Storr, and others, in giving the genitive an adjectival sense, as if the meaning were “the true and genuine gospel.” The noun ἀληθείας is made prominent by the article prefixed to it, and the idiom denotes that “the truth” was the sum and substance of the λόγος , or oral communication made to them by the first teachers of Christianity. Λόγος refers to the fact that their first teaching was oral, and not epistolary, or by inspired manuscript; and this “word,” or verbal tuition, had the truth for its pith and marrow. But the form of truth which had been presented to their minds was no common aspect of it. It belonged, not to philosophy or human speculation-it was the truth τοῦ εὐαγγελίου , “of the gospel.” This genitive is not in apposition with τῆς ἀληθείας , as Calvin, Beza, Olshausen, De Wette, Böhmer, and Huther suppose, but it has its distinctive meaning-the truth which belongs to the gospel, or is its peculiar and characteristic message. [ ἀληθεία , εὐαγγέλιον , Ephesians 1:13.] “The word of the truth of the gospel” could alone reveal the nature and the certainty of future and celestial blessedness. The idea and expectation of spiritual felicity and glory in heaven are not connected with the sciences of earth, which deal so subtly with the properties and relations of mind and matter. These forms of knowledge and discovery lead but to the lip of the grave, and desert us amidst the dreary wail of dust to dust and ashes to ashes, but the truth contained in the gospel throws its radiance beyond the sepulchre, unvails the portals of eternity, and discloses the reality, magnitude, and character of “the hope laid up in heaven.” And, therefore, every blessing which the gospel makes known has futurity in its eye-an eye that pierces beyond the present horizon; and the Christian life, in the meantime, is one as much of expectation as of positive enjoyment.
(Colossians 1:6.) Τοῦ παρόντος εἰς ὑμᾶς καθὼς καὶ ἐν παντὶ τῷ κόσμῳ “Which has come to you, as it has come in all the world.” The verb is used with πρός in Act 12:20 ; 2 Corinthians 11:9; Galatians 4:18; Galatians 4:20, in which instances the presence of persons is referred to, both in subject and object. Here it is followed by εἰς in the first clause, and ἐν in the second clause. In the one, by εἰς , the idea of travel prior to advent is implied; in the other, by ἐν , the notion of simple presence is affirmed, Kühner, § 622. The gospel had come to them, was brought to them, and was now with them, or in their possession. (2 Peter 1:9.) Or, as Theophylact says, οὐ παρεγένετό , φησιν , πρὸς ὑμᾶς , καὶ ἀπέστη , ἀλλὰ πάρεστι καὶ κρατεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν . This idea suggested the Coptic rendering ( Phai etshop) “which abideth or dwelleth.” And surely such a gift they would keep as their own, prize highly, love dearly, and never suffer it to be contaminated with popular errors, or exchange it for those mystical reveries which were broached among them. For while the errors which the apostle is about to reprobate were limited in their origin and popularity, this gospel was “in all the world.” We see no necessity for choosing a new verb, and supplying the simple ἔστιν , while πάρεστι is suggested at once by the preceding clause. It was in all the world, because it had come to it. It was not indigenous in any country, but was there merely because it had been carried there. This expression is not to be scanned with narrow minuteness. We cannot, with Olshausen and Baumgarten -Crusius, look upon it as a prophetic or ideal statement; nor can we, with Michaelis, limit it to the Roman empire. The phrase is similarly used by Paul in Romans 1:8. That world which lay all round about them-those countries which to them were the world, and were by them so named, had been brought into contact with the gospel. It arose in Judaea, but burst its narrow barriers, and came forth with world-wide adaptation, offers, and enterprise. The labours of the other apostles in so many countries of the east and west warranted the phraseology.
Καὶ ἔστιν καρποφορούμενον καὶ αὐξανόμενον .
Καί is omitted by Lachmann, and Griesbach is virtually of the same opinion. It is wanting in A, B, C, D 1 , E 1 , in several Minuscules, and in the Coptic and Sahidic versions; but it is found in D 3 , E 2 , F, G, J, K, the Vulgate, and Syriac, and in the Greek Fathers. The authority of Codices against it is almost balanced by that of Codices in its favour. The words καὶ αὐξαν . are added to the Stephanic text on the evidence of A, B, C, D 1 , E 1 , F, G, J, and many other concurrent witnesses, such as almost all the Versions. Were the first καί not genuine, there would be a vital change of syntax. But with it there is only a common change. Kühner, § 863; Winer, § 64. The reading we adopt frees the text from m uch entanglement of thought and diction. That gospel in all the world was no idle and barren speculation-a tinted cloud without rain, or a polished cistern without water. Or rather, it was as a tree-yielding his fruit in his season: whose leaf never fadeth. The gospel bore choice and noble clusters of fruit. It is not a ceremonial to be gazed at, or a congeries of opinions to be discussed. It is essentially a practical system, for its ethics are involved in its creed and worship. It makes the heart its home, and diffuses its control and its impulses over thought and action, over motive and life. That fruit is the assemblage of graces which adorn the Christian character.
The reference in καὶ αὐξαν . is variously understood. Grotius, Olshausen, and Steiger refer it to internal growth, or the growing and ripening of the fruits themselves. We prefer the idea of the Greek Fathers, for Theodoret explains it thus- αὔξησιν δὲ τῶν πιστευόντων τὸ πλῆθος , that is, the growth is the external diffusion of the gospel. That fruit-bearing gospel was extending itself. To keep the figure of the apostle, it was like a tree, whose fruit, falling to the earth, germinated, so that there sprang up a youthful and healthy forest on all sides of it, or like the Eastern banyan, whose tall boughs, as they bend themselves in a graceful curve to the ground, enter it, and fastening into it a new root, rise up again in verdure, and on reaching the requisite height, stoop as before and repeat the same process of self-plantation till field upon field is covered with the progeny of its arches and alcoves. Thus did the gospel make progress-the disciples preached it around them, and their converts becoming preachers in turn, widened the circle of its influence and conquests. Acts 12:24; Acts 19:20. Καθὼς καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν “as indeed among you.” What the gospel produced and achieved in the world, it produces and achieves among you. It exhibited the same vitality, fruitfulness, and power of self-diffusion in Colosse, as in the regions round about it. And those elements of the gospel had not been of slow production, or periodical manifestation-it, says Paul, had been so among you-
᾿Αφ᾿ ἧς ἡμέρας ἠκούσατε καὶ ἐπέγνωτε τὴν χάριν τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ “From the day ye heard it, and knew the grace of God in truth.” This peculiar form of elliptical construction by the incorporation of the noun into the relative clause is not uncommon; Winer, § 24; Bernhardy, p. 302. The accusative to the first verb ἠκούσατε is εὐαγγέλιον . It was the gospel which they had heard. This was the external and audible form of that grace which they had been privileged to know. It was by hearing it, or by verbal instruction about it, that they had become acquainted with it. The preposition ἐπί , with γινώσκω , has an intensive sense, as has been proved by us under Ephesians 1:17. By hearing the gospel they had come to know fully the grace of God-for the grace of God is the essence of the gospel, or the glorious fact which it communicates. It is the good news that God has in His sovereign favour pitied and blessed the world, and conferred upon it an unmerited and unexpected salvation-that while He have might punished, He resolved to pardon-that when He might have permitted the law to take its course, He has founded an economy of grace which man had no right to anticipate, and Himself was under no obligation to introduce. In every element of the gospel, in its pardon and purity, in its hope and life, in its means as well as in its offers of deliverance, in its application no less than its provision of saving blessings, in its precepts as much as in its privileges, there is felt and known in its peculiar ascendancy and fulness, “the grace of God.” [ χάρις , Ephesians 2:8.]
The last words, ἐν ἀληθ ., are connected in various ways. 1. Some give the phrase the force of an adjectival epithet, and join it to χάρις “the true grace” of God. Such is the view of Storr, Homberg, Pierce, Barnes, and Baumgarten-Crusius. This interpretation is without point. 2. Grotius and Musculus depart still farther from the true syntax by their paraphrase “the grace of God revealed in the word of truth.” 3. Beza, Crocius, Olshausen, Steiger, Huther, De Wette, Meyer, and Winer, join the phrase to the verb, “and truly or really” knew the grace of God. The knowledge possessed by the Colossians is thus supposed to be distinguished from a false or fictitious knowledge of the Divine grace. 4. We prefer, with Bähr and Calvin, a different shade of the same exegesis, giving to the phrase an objective meaning, as if the apostle meant to say-the grace which they knew had been presented to them “in its truth,” for they had learned it from Epaphras. The preceding forms of exegesis are inferences from this. It was a correct interpretation of the scheme of grace which they had learned, or they possessed a true knowledge of the plan of mercy, because, as the next verse shows, Epaphras had taught them the gospel in its fulness and purity. This is also the idea of OEcumenius, though Theophylact and Chrysostom erroneously include the notion of miracles as confirming the truth. We understand the apostle to write thus-since the day ye heard it, and fully knew the grace of God in truth, as indeed in that true and complete form ye learned it from Epaphras; or, as Calvin explains, testatus est sincere illis fuisse traditum. The words ἐν ἀληθ . describe the teaching of Epaphras, or represent that genuine form, in which, by his preaching, the grace of God had been exhibited at Colosse. It is probable that in this statement there are various points of implied co ntrast with those corrupt representations which are mentioned and refuted in the subsequent chapter. Thus-the grace of God had been taught them without mutilation or admixture, but false philosophy shaded or curtailed its doctrines. The gospel was oecumenical, but the error which menaced them was only provincial in its sphere. The truth exhibited the basis and objects of a blessed hope, but falsehood darkened the horizon, and while the gospel yielded great abundance, such fictitious dogmas were barren and empty-a tree with leaves, but without fruit.
The apostle says “since ye knew the grace of God in truth,” or in its true form, “just as ye learned it from Epaphras”-
(Colossians 1:7.) Καθὼς ἐμάθετε ἀπὸ ᾿Επαφρᾶ . The καί found in the Received Text after καθώς , is justly excluded on the authority of A, B, C, D 1 , F, G, 17, 23, etc. It may have come into the text from its frequent employment in such an idiom by the apostle. It might be replied, however, that as, from an old tradition, Epaphras was supposed to be the only founder of the church, the καί was omitted, as seeming to militate against such a belief. Wiggers, indeed, has formally raised such an argument. But even were καί genuine, might it not mean “really,” or “indeed” “as ye indeed learned of Epaphras”? The teaching of Epaphras is thus sealed and sanctioned by inspired authority. The apostle had no mean jealousy of a colleague who is further characterized as “our beloved fellow-servant”-
Τοῦ ἀγαπητοῦ συνδούλου ἡμῶν . The noun occurs again in Colossians 4:7. Like ὁμόδουλος , the old Attic form, it signifies “fellow-servant.” Conybeare and Macknight are found at opposite extremes about the term; the former rendering it “fellow-bondsman,” with unnecessary emphasis, and the latter uttering the sentimental conjecture that Paul used the word because he did not wish to grieve the Colossian church by telling them that their Epaphras was in prison with him. Timothy, Paul, and Epaphras not only served a common master, but were engaged in the same service; and therefore this community of labour begat a special attachment. The heart of the apostle was knit in cordial affection to all his fellow-labourers. He had none of that ignoble rivalry which just “hints a fault and hesitates dislike.” He felt no envy at their success, but was so identified with their work, that whatever gladdened them gladdened him; he shared in their triumphs and was saddened at their reverses. Still more, it is testified of Epaphras-
῞Ος ἐστι πιστὸς ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διάκονος τοῦ Χριστοῦ “who is for you a faithful minister of Christ.” The noun διάκονος is used in a general sense, as may be seen under Ephesians 3:7. [ πιστὸς διάκονος , Ephesians 6:21.] The reading ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν has been called in question, and ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν is adopted by Lachmann, Bengel, Olshausen, and Steiger. In favour of this last reading are A, B 1 , D, G; and in favour of the former are C, D 3 , E, F, G, K, and others, with almost all the versions and Fathers. Where external testimony is so decided, we cannot accede to Olshausen's pleading of any internal evidence. And the meaning attached to ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν - vice apostoli, in our stead-can scarcely be correct, since Epaphras was not simply an apostolical representative, for in ἡμῶν Timothy is included along with Paul. Nor is it necessary to give ὑπέρ the sense of “in room of,” in Luke 9:50, for there the phrase means “on our side.” The phrase then ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν means “on your behalf.” 2 Corinthians 4:5. The faithful labours of Epaphras were directed to the spiritual benefit of the Colossian church. For them he served, and served faithfully, in the gospel of Christ. A brief but noble eulogy. As he had devoted to them every energy, kept among them, and prayed with and for them, as he had presented to them a complete and symmetrical view of the gospel, and as their correct knowledge of Divine grace was based upon his teaching, and their spiritual eminence and fertility were the result of his patient and painstaking efforts, therefore were they to love him in his absence, and surely they would allow no false teacher to supplant him in their affection. Probably the encomium was a virtual warning, for, as Theodoret says, πολλοῖς δὲ αὐτὸν ἐκόμισεν ἐγκωμίοις Ñ --…ἵνα αὐτοῖς πλείονος αἰδοῦς ἀξιώτερος γένηται . It is a faint view of Chrysostom to imagine that the faithful service here referred to, is but the truthful report of the spiritual condition of the Colossians, which Epaphras had brought to Rome. Such a slight message could scarce be called a service, and it is therefore to fidelity of ministerial labour at Colosse that the apostle refers. It is wholly a caricature of the words to suppose, with Calixtus, Michaelis, and Böhmer, that as Epaphras was the apostle's fellow-prisoner, he alludes to personal services done by the Colossian pastor to himself, as if he had said “who is, in your room, a faithful servant of Christ to me.”
(Colossians 1:8.) ῾Ο καὶ δηλώσας ἡμῖν τὴν ὑμῶν ἀγάπην ἐν πνεύματι “Who has besides made known to us your love in the Spirit.” It narrows the meaning too much to restrict this love to the apostle himself and Timothy “your love to us.” Yet this is the view of the great majority of expositors, from Chrysostom in early times, and Erasmus and Grotius in later days, down to Bähr, Böhmer, Steiger, Huther, and Baumgarten-Crusius. But the language of the apostle does not warrant such a sense except by inference. Nor may the phrase be applied solely to brother-love, but, with Meyer, Theodoret, Heinrichs, and De Wette, we take it in a general sense as denoting the Christian grace of love. And the reason why this grace is selected and eulogized is evident from the concluding words-it was love “in the Spirit”-
᾿Εν πνεύματι . To give this phrase, as in the opinion of Rosenmüller, a-Lapide, Trollope, and others, the mere sense of true Christian love, is a weak dilution. Nor can we with Wolf and others regard it as in tacit contrast to ἐν σαρκί , a love based on domestic or national ties; or as if the meaning were-a love to the absent apostle which must be spiritual, as they had never seen his face in the flesh. The words, as in Pauline usage, refer to the Holy Spirit, and point out the source and sphere of this gracious affection. Thus, Romans 14:17, χαρὰ ἐν πνεύματι . Galatians 5:22; Romans 15:13. ᾿Εν will not stand for διά , as Grotius renders it. Not as if Epaphras had spoken only of their love, and had made no mention of their other spiritual attainments. But love is regarded as the crown and consequence of all the other graces, and the mention of it presupposed their lively and effective exercise. For this love is no affection based on common relations-such as human friendship or social instincts. It is the offspring of spiritual influence in a heart so full of antagonism by nature to what is good and pure. The Spirit of Him who is Love takes possession of the believing bosom, and exerts upon it His own assimilating power. And as love is at the same time the combined product or resulting fervour of the other graces, as it gives man his closest resemblance to God, as it is the life and glory of heaven; and as it is the great object of the gospel to create and perfect it in the church, it may be safely taken as the index of spiritual advancement. The more it is seen in its vivid sympathies with all that is fair and God-like, the more its genial harmonies pervade the churches, the more its chivalrous impulses are felt, the more token is there that the Spirit of God has been in powerful and characteristic operation, and therefore as the true summation or totality of its various spiritual gifts , a Christian community may be congratulated on its love. When Epaphras declared their “love in the Spirit,” he spoke of the result, and from such a result it was at once inferred what a Divine change had been wrought, and how the elements of that change had been surely and successively developed and matured. “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
The reader will easily mark the course of thought. In Colossians 1:3, the apostle intimates that as he prayed, he gave thanks for them. Then naturally he tells the reason, but the telling of the reason in full prevents him from recording at once what formed the theme of his prayer. Now, however, in Colossians 1:9, he reverts to the contents of his supplications, and he says that he asked from God, for the Colossians, blessings fitted for mind, heart, and conduct,-a higher degree of knowledge, holiness, usefulness, persistence, and strength-all of them at once gifts of present possession, and elements of preparation too for future blessedness-all of them provided by the Father, and enjoyed by those who have been translated into the kingdom of His Son.
(Colossians 1:9.) Διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς , ἀφ᾿ ἧς ἡμέρας ἠκούσαμεν , οὐ παυόμεθα ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι , καὶ αἰτούμενοι “On this account, we too, since the day we heard of it, cease not praying and asking.” Διὰ τοῦτο -on this account, because ye know the grace of God in truth-because such are your condition and prospects-because of the faith which sustains you, the love which glows within you, the blessed hope laid up for you, and the verdant fertility which characterizes you, and sets its seal on the genuineness of your Christianity. Καὶ ἡμεῖς “we too,” we on our part. There is no reason, with De Wette, for subjoining the καί to διὰ τοῦτο and rendering “on this account, indeed.” The phrase ἀφ᾿ ἧς ἡμέρας not only refers to Colossians 1:8, but carries us back to Colossians 1:4. The receipt of the intelligence produced immediate result, and led to prayer. The report did not lie in dormancy, or slowly wake up the reciprocal love of Paul and Timothy. The effect was instant-and it was not spent with a single impulse. From the day we heard it down to the period of our writing this letter “we cease not.” This continuous prayer is explained by the beautiful remark of Augustine on Psalms 37:0 - ipsum desiderium tuum oratio tua est, si continuum est desiderium-continua est oratio.
The verb παυόμεθα is here followed by a participle, προσευχόμενοι καὶ αἰτούμενοι , and not by the infinitive. There is indeed a difference of meaning in the two usages, as the participle expresses an action which already exists. Winer, § 45, 4; Bernhardy, p. 477. [Ephesians 1:16.] The distinction between the two participles has been variously understood. But the best mode of characterizing the difference is to regard the one as general, and the other as special; the first is prayer in its ordinary aspect, and the second is direct request. But it is an error on the part of Baumgarten-Crusius to say that ἵνα depends upon the last participle-for προσεύχομαι is followed by the conjunction in Matthew 24:20; Mark 13:18; 1 Corinthians 14:13. The phrase ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν belongs also to both participles. What the special object of supplication was is now made known. Praying-
῞Ινα πληρωθῆτε τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ “that ye may be filled with the knowledge of His will.” [As to this use of ἵνα , see Ephesians 1:17.] The verb πληροῦν , like the correspondent term in Hebrew, governs two accusatives in the active conjugation, and may therefore govern one of them in the passive. The genitive is the case oftenest employed in the New Testament to denote the complement-that with which the action of the verb is realized. In this use of the accusative there is no need, with Beza and Erasmus, to supply κατά . Winer, § 32, 5. We cannot agree with Olshausen, that γνῶσις and ἐπίγνωσις have no distinction in the diction of the Apostle Paul. We have shown the true difference under Ephesians 1:17. The vague definition of Steiger cannot be sustained; it is wrapt in uncertainty, and is at best but a metaphysical subtlety. The idea of Bähr, that ἐπίγνωσις is subjective, and γνῶσις is also objective, is only a partial view. ᾿Επίγν . is full knowledge exhaustive of its object, and is especially meant for those who have already some little γνῶσις . The Colossians had γνῶσις , but the apostle wished them to be filled with additional and supplemental knowledge, not new knowledge, or a different form or section of Christian science, but a fuller development of the partial theological information which they already possessed. Had he gently wished them somewhat more of knowledge, he might have used γνῶσις , but as he prayed that they might be filled with more of that insight which they already enjoyed, such an accumulation was naturally expressed by ἐπίγνωσις .
That augmentation of knowledge had for its theme the Divine will. We apprehend that the principal fault of commentators has been to restrict too much the meaning of the phrase, “His will.” Chrysostom, and the Greek Fathers OEcumenius and Theophylact, followed by Huther, refer it to the plan of redemption-especially salvation by Christ, not by angels- τουτέστι τὸ τὸν υἱὸν δοθῆναι ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν . Others refer it to the secret purpose of God-such as Suicer and Bähr, and that because it is elsewhere accompanied by μυστήριον . A third and numerous party understand the legislative will of God-the ethical feature of the Divine counsel, such as Theodoret, De Wette, and Meyer. We are inclined to take the phrase without any restriction-the Divine will as well in creed as in moral obligation; the one basis alike of what we ought to believe and of what we ought to do; the only rule of faith and manners. 1 Corinthians 1:4-5; 1Co 1:7 ; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 12:8; Ephesians 1:17. The apostle implored for them a complete knowledge of the Divine Will in all its revealed aspects and elements-
᾿Εν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ , καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ “in all wisdom and spiritual insight.” Some join the clause to the following verse, but without any necessity. The preposition does not signify “along with,” nor does it, as Boehmer thinks, define the result. Nor does it mean, as Bähr takes it, “by means of;” nor does it, as Huther supposes, point out the quality of the knowledge. It seems to refer us to the mode of its acquisition “in all wisdom and understanding.” The prayer was not one for plenary inspiration-nor that God would by some dazzling self-discovery imbue them with a knowledge of His will, but that He would give them this higher spiritual science in the way of giving them all spiritual wisdom and understanding. These two nouns are not easily comprehended in their specific shades of difference. As a specimen of the scholastic forms of definition, we present that of Peter Lombard- Sapientia est habitus infusus ad solius aeternae veritatis contemplationem et delectationem. Intelligentia ad Creatoris et creaturarum invisibilium speculationem. But,-
1. Not a few, such as Michaelis, Storr, Flatt, and Heinrichs, regard them as synonymous; a mode of interpretation too easy to be correct-too slovenly to be in accordance with accurate philology.
2. Many give σοφία the sense of theoretic wisdom, and σύνεσις , the meaning of practical discernment-such as Bähr, Heinsius, and Calvin.
3. Bengel, Meyer, and Baumgarten - Crusius, think the nouns related in the sense of general and special, while De Wette thinks the first term to be practical and general, and the second theoretical and special. We are inclined to take σοφία in a general sense, and to regard σύνεσις πνευματική as its characteristic form or peculiarity. For if God fill men with the knowledge of His will, it is usually by clearing their spiritual apprehension, and enlarging the sphere of their spiritual vision. The mind is trained and tutored to the study of Divine things; and as the horizon of its view is gradually expanded in such an exercise, it gathers in “wisdom”-and what is this wisdom but “spiritual insight”? Let there be intense practical application of the mental powers; prolonged reflection; devout and pensive contemplation; the inspection and comparison of premises; the solution of doubts; the ascent, step by step, slowly and surely, to first principles; the glimpse of ulterior relations based upon present realities, and conclusions drawn from recognized truths; and surely the mind so interested and occupied must feel all such acquisitions to be wisdom-wisdom, and not mere theory to be tested-wisdom, and not simple hypothesis that may be dismissed. And those fruits of diligent investigation are not like the coloured glimpses of a distant reverie which may be dimmed or exchanged, or may wholly fade away, as the whim of such imaginational pastime may lazily will it; but they bear at once upon the nearest of interests, and evince their immediate connection with the most momentous of relations. Of all forms of intellectual operation and enlightenment, this is the most practical-it is “wisdom.” God fills the mind, not by the passive inpouring of transcendental truths, but by directing and upholding its energies, and so enabling it to work out the result which it makes its own, and recognize s as “all wisdom.”
And this wisdom is really σύνεσις πνευματική -spiritual insight. As we have shown at length under Ephesians 1:3, the prevailing meaning of πνευματικός in the New Testament, is “of, or belonging to the Holy Spirit.” Spiritual is not opposed to carnal, and means not-in connection with the human spirit, but the phrase signifies discernment conferred and quickened by the Holy Ghost. This enjoyment of the Spirit of Light is the special privilege of believers. He dispels the mists which obscure the inner vision, fills the soul with an ardent relish for Divine truth and a fuller perception of it, enables it to see through a perfect medium, and thus confers upon it that power and perspicacity termed by the apostle “spiritual understanding.” And where this purity and penetration of discernment are possessed, and the fruits of such wisdom are gleaned and garnered up, the mind, in the use of such a faculty, and the enjoyment of such acquisitions, cannot but be conscious that it has risen to an ampler knowledge of the Divine will. The apostle prefixes πάσῃ “all.” This wisdom and spiritual understanding are not limited or shrivelled, but may be enjoyed to their utmost bounds.
(Colossians 1:10.) Περιπατῆσαι ὑμᾶς ἀξίως τοῦ Κυρίου “So that ye walk worthy of the Lord.” ῾Υμᾶς appears to be a spurious but natural supplement, and is omitted by A, B, C, D 1 , F, G, though the authorities for it are of no mean value. The Syriac has a peculiar rendering. It reads in the last clause of the preceding verse-that ye walk “according to what is just,” אי דנדק , and then adds-that ye may please God in all good works. The apostle, after the verb of prayer, first uses ἵνα with the subjunctive, as indicating the prime petition; then follows περιπατῆσαι as denoting a contemporaneous result, and this infinitive is succeeded by a series of dependent and explanatory participles. The figure implied in the verb is a common one, and is of Hebrew origin. It describes the general tenor of one's life, his peculiar gait and progress in his spiritual journey, what are his companions, and what are his haunts; whether he hold on his way with steady step, or is seduced into occasional aberrations. By Κύριος is meant Christ, and not God, as Anselm and Erasmus imagine; and the meaning and reasons of the name are fully detailed under Ephesians 1:2. The adverb ἀξίως signifies “becomingly.” [Ephesians 4:1.] Romans 16:2; Philippians 1:27; 1 Thessalonians 2:12. To walk worthy of the Lord, is to feel the solemn bond of redeeming blood, to enshrine the image of Him who shed it, to breathe His spirit and act in harmony with His example, to exhibit His temperament in its elements of purity, piety, and love, to be in the world as He was in the world, to be good and to do good, and to show by the whole demeanour that His law is the rule which governs, and His glory the aim which elevates and directs. No meritum condigni can be inferred from the passage, as Cameron shows against Bellarmine.
Εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρέσκειαν - “In order to all-pleasing.” The noun ἀρέσκεια has, in classic Greek, a bad sense, and means obsequiousness, but it has a purified meaning in Philo and in the New Testament. The Lord is to be pleased and highly pleased in everything, for again the apostle prefixes πᾶσαν . This well-pleasing is not to be sectional, but uniform and unbounded; and it is not difficult to please Him. Men are not left in uncertainty to study the best method of ensuring His complacency, nor are there any moods or forms of caprice with Him. His highest pleasure is to see His own likeness in those who own His Lordship: in all their thoughts, purposes, and actions, there should be a pervading and paramount desire to walk so worthily of Him, as to secure His approval. Nor does this statement involve any subtle casuistry. Whatever is good in design, generous in sentiment, or noble in result, meets at once with His approbation. Whatever proximate motive leads the heart, this shonld be its pole star, the bright, prominent, and ultimate guide and director.
᾿Εν παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ καρποφοροῦντες . The participles are in the nominative, and not accusative, as in Ephesians 3:18. Kühner, § 863; Winer, § 63, I.2 a; Vigerus, De Idiotismis, p. 340. “Fruit-bearing in every good work.” This clause is joined by Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Steiger, to εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρέσκειαν . But such a view is too narrow. It is an element of the worthy walk-and the first of four elements, each specified by a participle, καρποφοροῦντες - αὐξανόμενοι - δυναμούμενοι - εὐχαριστοῦντες ; two of the participles preceded by a qualifying noun with ἐν ; and two of them followed by εἰς , denoting purpose or result. The first two participles occur together in Colossians 1:6. Spiritual fruitfulness is the first characteristic. And those fruits are good works. 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; Hebrews 13:21; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 1:11. [ ἔργα ἀγαθά , Ephesians 2:10.] Barrenness is deadness. The tree with sapless trunk and leafless branches is a melancholy object. The figure before us is that of a tree covered with dense foliage, and laden with goodly produce-its boughs bent with heavy clusters, its crops perennial-buds always bursting into blossoms, and blossoms forming into fruit. But the apostle says “every good work.” For a third time he employs παντί . It is the want of this universality that is the chief mark of imperfection. This unique tree is omniferous. Other trees produce each only after its kind, unless altered by the artificial process of grafting. But this tree presents every variety of spiritual fruit without confusion or rivalry, as if it contained the stateliness of the palm, the fatness of the olive, and the exuberant fecundity of the vine. The graces of Christianity are, each in its place, adorning and adorned-none absent and none sickly, but the entire assemblage in perfect order and symmetry. Superab undance of one kind of fruit is no compensation for the absence of another. “Every good work” is inculcated and anticipated. It may be noble philanthropy, or more lowly beneficence-it may be the self-denial of a martyr, or the gift of a cup of water to the humble wayfarer-it may be a deed of magnanimity which startles the nations, or it may be the washing of a beggar's feet-teaching its first letters to a ragged orphan, or repeating the story of the cross in the hovel of poverty and distress. There is no exception “every good work” which Christ did, and in which any of His disciples may imitate Him-every good work which the age needs, or circumstances warrant, or would benefit the church or the world. Such fruitfulness is not exhaustive. The tree grows healthfully while its fertility is so great. Its life is not spent, and its wealth is not impoverished in a single autumn, but other twigs are preparing for their burden, and other shoots are evincing the vitality of the parent stock-for the apostle adds-
Καὶ αὐξανόμενοι εἰς τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ Θεοῦ “And growing up to the knowledge of God.” Other forms of reading are- ἐν τῇ ἐπιγνώσει and τῇ ἐπιγνώσει . The last seems to be the best supported by MSS.; the Versions seem to countenance the second; but the first is the most difficult form, and therefore has been preferred by Tischendorf. Meyer says that εἰς is necessary, because each of the two succeeding participles is followed by this preposition, and analogy demands it here. But what if we should reply-that to secure uniformity some have been tempted to write εἰς where another preposition originally stood? A, B, C, D 1 , E, F, G, and some Minuscules, with the Syriac and Coptic versions, support the simple dative τῇ ἐπιγνώσει . If the accusative, with εἰς , be retained, various forms of exegesis may be proposed. Meyer renders εἰς hinsichtlich, in regard to. Theophylact paraphrases κατὰ τὸ μέτρον “according to the measure” of the knowledge of God, an interpretation virtually adopted by Heinrichs and Böhmer. If the dative with ἐν be received, then the meaning may be, as Theodoret, the Peschito and Vulgate, Beza, Luther, and Junker, intimate-growing in the knowledge of God, that is, acquiring more and more of the knowledge of God. But with Olshausen, De Wette, and Huther, we regard the simple dative as instrumental-growing “by means of the knowledge of God,”-the knowledge of His essence, character, will, and dispensations. [See under Ephesians 1:17.] This knowledge of God, the purest and loftiest of human acquisitions, is the only pabulum of spiritual growth. A God in shadow creates superstition, and the view of Him in only one phasis of His character, will, according to its colour, lead either to fanaticism or to mysticism. The more we know of His tender ness and majesty, the more conversant we are with His Divine procedure, either as we find Him in creation, or meet Him in providence; and especially the deeper the experience we have of the might of His arm and sympathy of His bosom in redemption, the more will the spirit confide in Him, and the more will it love the object of its living trust-in short, the more spiritual growth will it enjoy. This fruit-bearing and increase are the first features of the worthy and pleasing walk.
(Colossians 1:11.) The first clause, though its purpose is designated by the following εἰς , has a close connection with the preceding. It describes that peculiar spiritual condition in which believers bring forth fruit, and grow, and thus walk worthy of Christ. The power is not indigenous; the fertility is not the outburst of innate and essential vitality. It comes from imparted strength-the might of God lodged within us. As His own nature is for ever outworking in ceaseless acts of beneficence, so His strength, lodged in a believer, loses not its original and distinctive energy.
᾿Εν πάσῃ δυνάμει δυναμούμενοι . This verb occurs only here in the New Testament, though it is found in the Septuagint as the representative of two Hebrew verbs, Psalms 68:29; Ecclesiastes 10:10. Neither does it occur in the classical, though it is used by the ecclesiastical writers. The common form in the New Testament is ἐνδυναμόω . The use of the correlate noun and participle intensifies the meaning. The apostle refers to the impartation of the Divine strength to believers. Fallen humanity is feeble, but rises under this gift into prowess and majesty. The semblance of moral omnipotence is communicated to it, and it easily surmounts frailty, pain, sorrow, and death, for the apostle a fourth time employs πάσῃ . Philippians 4:13. And the measure of this gift is-
Κατὰ τὸ κράτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ “according to the might of His glory,” that is, the might which is characteristic of His glory. Retaining with Meyer and others the full force of the syntax, we cannot, with Luther, Junker, Beza, Storr, Flatt, Bähr, and Davenant, resolve the idiom thus-His glorious or highest might; nor can we with Böhmer make the clause mean-that might which is His glory; nor can we with Grotius and Valpy identify τῆς δόξης with the τῆς ἰσχύος of Ephesians 1:19; nor, finally, can we with Thomas Aquinas and Peter Lombard understand by His glory “His Son Christ Jesus.” The glory of God possesses a peculiar might, and that might is not love simply, as Huther imagines. [Ephesians 1:19.] If we survey the glory of God in creation, the immensity of its architectural power overwhelms us; or in providence, its exhaustless and versatile energy perplexes us; or in redemption, its moral achievements delight and amaze us. If the spiritual strength given to believers be after the measure of the might of this glory, with what courage and ability shall they be armed? Will they not, with so much of God in them, realize the God-like in spiritual heroism, so as to resist evil, overcome temptation, banish fear, surmount difficulties, embrace opportunities of well-doing, obtain victory over death, and prove that they are able to rise above everything before which unaided humanity sinks and succumbs. “Strengthened”-
Εἰς πᾶσαν ὑπομονὴν καὶ μακροθυμίαν “in order to all patience and long-suffering.” These two nouns have been variously distinguished. The early definition of Chrysostom is fanciful- μακροθυμεῖ γάρ τις πρὸς ἐκείνους οὓς δυνατὸν καὶ ἀμύνασθαι , ὑπομένει δὲ οὓς οὐ δύναται ἀμύνασθαι “Long-suffering is exercised toward those whom we can punish, patience toward those whom we are unable to punish,” wherefore he adds, “patience is never ascribed to God, but long-suffering often.” Others refer the first noun to feeling under what God sends; and the second, to feeling under what man inflicts. A third class understand by the one term the state of temper under difficulties; and, by the other, mental calmness under suffering. But, not to notice other varieties of opinion, we incline to give the words a more extended signification than to resignation, or quietness under injury. Both of them and their correspondent verbs are used not simply in reference to the pressure of present evil, but also to the prospect of coming deliverance, and as adjuncts or qualities of faith, or the life of faith. The following examples may suffice: “Bring forth fruit,” ἐν ὑπομονῇ , Luke 8:15; “Possess ye your souls,” ἐν ὑπομ ., Luke 21:19; “Well-doing,” καθ᾿ ὑπομ ., Romans 2:7; “Let us run the race,” δἰ ὑπομ ., Hebrews 12:1; or again, Hebrews 10:36, “Ye have need of patience.” The word in such places denotes that tenacity of spirit which still holds on, and perseveres, and waits God's time for reward or dismissal. There is similar usage also of the second noun. Its verb is used to denote the same exercise of mind, Matthew 18:26; Matthew 18:29, Hebrews 6:15, James 5:7-8; and the substantive in Hebrews 6:12, 2 Timothy 4:2. There is no reference in this epistle either to persecution or to coming calamity. But believers in the present state are not perfect, they have not arrived at the ultimate goal. Impatience would lead to defection, and fretfulness to apostasy. There is rest set before them, but they have not reached it; hopes held out, but their fruition has not come. It is more trying to virtue to bear than to act: or, as a-Lapide says, fortia agere Romanum est, aiebat Scaevola, sed fortia pati Christianum est. Now, Christians are apt to faint under such discouragements, to lose heart and despond. Therefore do they need “patience and long-mindedness;” and because these graces dwell not in their unassisted nature, the apostle prays that the strength of God be for this purpose imparted to them. Even in their beneficent fruitfulness there may be a long and trying process ere the result be witnessed. In the midst of apparent anomaly and contradiction, with so much to distress and disappoint, so much to try and provoke, so much to tempt a prayer for the immediate substitution of sight for faith, there is surely great necessity for perseverance and unruffled equanimity; and because temper fails under such irritation, as it did with Moses and Elisha, and there are dark and inconsistent questionings and surmises, as if He were “slack concerning His promise,” a higher power is vouchsafed, even the strength of Him whose patience and long-suffering transcend all measurement and description. And thus “all patience and long-suffering” are possessed, and for a fifth time, in the fulness of his heart, the apostle writes πᾶσαν . As the Colossian church was pestered with insidious errorists, whose speculations might occasionally perplex and confound them, immobility was the more requisite for them; and such, therefore, is the apostle's supplication in common with the sentiment of the prophet “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.& r dquo;
Μετὰ χαρᾶς “with joy.” A large number of expositors join these words to the following participle- εὐχαριστοῦντες . Of this opinion are Chrysostom, OEcumenius, and Theophylact, Estius, Böhmer, Huther, and Meyer, the Syriac version, and the editors Lachmann and Tischendorf. But we do not see any propriety in such a connection, for the participle carries the idea of joy along with it. The preposition, moreover, indicates a connection with the preceding nouns, or shows the concomitant of this imparted power; and therefore, with Luther, Grotius, Zanchius, Hyperius, Gomarus, De Wette, Bähr, Baumgarten-Crusius, Junker, Steiger, and Olshausen, we keep the words as they stand in the Received Text. This joy characterizes, or rather accompanies, as the preposition implies, the graces of patience and long-suffering. That peculiar position which necessitates the exercise of patience and long-suffering should not induce despondency, or cast a gloom over the heart as if it were inevitable fate, to be sullenly submitted to, but rather should there be joy that this Divine power is communicated, and that the mind is upborne in triumph, and enabled to hope and wait in quiet expectation. And there are abundant reasons of joy.
(Colossians 1:12.) Εὐχαριστοῦντες τῷ πατρί . There are some variations of reading which need not be noted or analyzed. Codices D 1 and G read καλέσαντι instead of ἱκανώσαντι , perhaps from 1 Thessalonians 2:12; while B reads καλέσαντι καὶ ἱκανώσαντι , a form erroneously adopted by Lachmann.
But with what portion of the previous context should this verse be connected? Chrysostom, Theodoret, Calvin, Calovius, Böhmer, and Baumgarten-Crusius, refer the connection to οὐ παυόμεθα , as if εὐχαρ . referred to Paul and Timothy, the writers of this epistle and the offerers of this prayer. “Since the day we heard it we cease not to pray for you . . . giving thanks to the Father.” But such a connection is wholly capricious and unwarranted, and would make the two preceding verses a species of parenthesis. The natural order is to regard εὐχαριστοῦντες as co-ordinate with the preceding participles καρποφοροῦντες , αὐξανόμενοι , δυναμούμενοι , and as all four dependent on the infinitive περιπατῆσαι -that ye may walk, fruit-bearing, growing, strengthened, and giving thanks. And there is a beautiful sequence of thought. The apostle prayed that they might walk in immediate spiritual fertility and growth; amidst difficulties, strengthened into patience with joy; and such joy is no romantic enthusiasm, for it is based upon experience, inasmuch as even during this imperfect and unsatisfactory state, they were warranted to thank Him who was qualifying them all the while for the heavenly inheritance. From the visible and outward manifestation of fruit as a present and characteristic duty, the apostle ascends to internal and sustaining sentiment, and rises yet higher to that gratitude, which, based upon a growing maturity for heavenly blessedness, expresses its ardour in thanksgiving to the Father. The future is thus linked with the present, and sheds its lustre over it; and though the believer be now in a condition whose intermediate nature necessitates the possession of patience and long-suffering, his mind feels at the same time within it the elements of accelerating preparation for a nobler and purer state of existence.
In the participle ἱκανώσαντι , connected with ἵκω “I reach, or arrive at,” is the idea of fitness “who hath fitted us,” 2 Corinthians 3:6. The pronoun ἡμᾶς includes the writer of the epistle and his readers, and the aorist may denote repeated action, continued during a past period. The object to which this fitness relates is described-
Εἰς τὴν μερίδα τοῦ κλήρου τῶν ἁγίων ἐν τῷ φωτί “For the share of the inheritance of the saints in light.” The noun μερίς denotes a portion or share which one is to enjoy, and that share is in the κλῆρος , or inheritance, so designated from an allusion to the division and allotment of the land of Canaan. [Ephesians 1:11.] Both words represent a Hebrew phrase- חבֶל à, ֶ חלֶק à, ֵ Deuteronomy 32:9. That inheritance has a peculiar proprietary, or population-it belongs to the saints. The saints are neither Jews nor believers of an early date, but the company of those who are Christ's. [Ephesians 2:19; Ephesians 3:18.]
The meaning and connection of the remaining phrase have been variously understood. We merely notice, without dwelling on it, the opinion of some of the Fathers, that by φῶς is meant baptism; that of Aretius, that Christ Himself is indicated by the term; that of Grotius, that the syntax may be thus filled- ἁγίων τῶν ἐν φωτί ; that of Bengel, that ἐν τῷ φωτί should be joined to μερίδα -participation in the kingdom of light, in hoc regno partem beatam.
1. Meyer and others, after Chrysostom, OEcumenius, and Theophylact, with Vatablus and Schrader, take ἐν as instrumental, and join it to ἱκανώσαντι , and then the meaning will be-who fits us by means of the light-the illumination of the gospel, τῇ γνώσει .
2. Others, as Macknight, give the same meaning to the term φῶς , but with a different connection, the inheritance of the saints which consists of light, to wit, their present evangelical state as in contrast with the darkness of their previous condition.
To both these forms of exegesis we have objections. 1. The position of ἐν τῷ φωτί at the end of the verse seems to connect it with the κλῆρος , as descriptive of it. 2. The language of the next verse speaks of a kingdom of darkness, out of which the Colossians had been translated. Now, the appropriate contrast is, out of a kingdom of darkness into one of light-light not being the instrument of translation, but the special property of the second realm. 3. Κλῆρος is often followed by ἐν to signify what it consists in. Thus, in the Septuagint- Wis 5:5 , ὁ κλῆρος ἐν ἁγίοις ; also Job 30:19, ἡ μερὶς ἐν γῇ ; and in the New Testament, Acts 8:21; Acts 26:18; Revelation 20:6. This “light,” however, though enjoyed here, is not meant to describe their present, but their future state. For the inheritance, though given on earth, is finally enjoyed in heaven, and therefore in Ephesians 1:14 the Holy Ghost is called the “earnest of our inheritance;” and in the same chapter, the apostle prays that the Ephesians may comprehend the riches of the glory of God's inheritance among His saints. Again he specifies, in the same epistle, Ephesians 5:5, certain classes of men who have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. In Acts 20:32; Act 26:18 , 1 Peter 1:4, the inheritance is future glory. We apprehend, then, that the apostle means to say, that God has fitted them for the future inheritance of the saints, which consists in light. It is too restricted a view of Böhmer and Huther, to find in φῶς simply the glory of heaven-and of Beza and Storr, to confine it to the happiness of heaven. The expressive epithet suggests both the one and the other, suggests that knowledge is the concomitant of happiness, and purity the basis of glory.
For heaven is a region of light. The radiance of Him who is Light streams through it and envelopes all the children of the light who live and walk in its lustre. A happy and unfailing intuition, sustained by its vicinity to the Uncreated Mind, is the source of unchequered and perfect knowledge. Intellectual refinement is robed “in the beauty of holiness.” The brilliancy of the Divine image is reflected from every stainless heart, and the material glory of the residence is only surpassed by its spiritual splendour. That “light” is liable to no revolution and suffers no eclipse; it glows with unchanging permanence, and meeting with no obstruction creates no shadow. For they are “saints” who dwell in this kingdom-adorned with purity and perfection. Now such being the nature of the inheritance, it is not difficult to discover what are the elements of meetness for it. Man is incapable of enjoying it by nature; for darkness covers his mind, and impurity has seized upon his heart, and he must needs be changed. John 3:3. He has no loyalty to its God, no love to its Saviour, no relish for its pursuits, and no sympathy with its inhabitants. His nature must be brought into harmony with the scene, and into congeniality with the occupations of such a world of light. So that every element of mental obscurity, all that tends to the dark and dismal in temperament, and all that vails the nobility of an heir of God, is dissolved, and fades away in the superior glory. The “saints” possess it-therefore their sanctification is complete. No taint of sin remains, no trace of previous corruption can be discerned. The language of prayer is superseded by that of praise, and the tongue shall be a stranger for ever to moaning and confession. None but the saints, as being “light in the Lord,” can dwell in that light. An unregenerate spirit would feel itself so solitary and so unhappy, especially as it saw its hideousness mirrored in that sea of glass which sleeps before the throne, that it would rather plunge for relief into the gloom of hell, and there for a moment feel itself at ease among others so like it in punishment and crime. Again, the one inheritance is shared by many participants, and they who are to enjoy it are made meet for social intercourse. Selfishness vanishes before universal love, the intense yearnings of a spiritual brotherhood are developed and perfected, for the entire assemblage is so united as if only one heart thrilled in their bosom, while one song bursts from their lips.
In fine, all this moral fitness is a paternal process, the work of the Father, qualifying His children for their patrimony. They do not infuse this maturity into themselves-this transformation is not a natural process, nor do they ripen of necessity into purity and love. The Father meetens them: and from Him are the blood that pardons, the Spirit that purifies, the truth which nourishes, the hope which sustains, the charter which secures-the whole preparation which meetens for the heavenly inheritance. He, therefore, is to be thanked, by all whose experience assures them of this auspicious training. If they are sensible of growth in truth, holiness, and affection-if they feel that they are travelling from stage to stage of spiritual assimilation-if their sanctified instincts and susceptibilities are finding congruous satisfaction and luxury in spiritual exercises, then, in spite of every drawback which is inseparable from their present condition in its trials and wants-they are only giving utterance to irrepressible emotion when they are giving thanks “unto the Father.” Nay, more, the very fact that a renewal is requisite, and that the present state, by its ills and emptiness, renders imperative the exercise of patience and long-suffering, gives a purer relish to celestial enjoyments. So sudden and vast is the change from expectation to enjoyment, and from pain to rapture, that the translated saint will feel a zest on entering heaven which cannot be tasted by those who have never had experience of any other state or sphere of existence. Nor do we deny that in the present state the inheritance of light is partially enjoyed, for heaven begins on earth, or as Chrysostom says, the apostle speaks “of things present and things to come.” The translation out of darkness is e ffected here, and the dawning of the perfect day is already enjoyed, though cloud and gloom are often intermingled with it, and vail its beams. And when the inheritance is reached, the spirit of this thanksgiving shall still rule the heart. Conscious of its meetness, it shall pour itself out in hearty and prolonged halleluiahs. The world of perfection is a world of universal happiness and song, for no tongue is ever mute, no harp ever unstrung, and the harmony is never disturbed by the mournful echo of a plaintive strain.
The apostle glides insensibly out of the language of prayer into that of direct theological statement. Still, the statement is virtually a portion of the prayer, as it describes Him who in His redeeming love and power imparts the knowledge of Himself and His revealed will, who confers His own might upon His people, and prepares them for glory-the very God who has delivered us out of the kingdom of darkness.
(Colossians 1:13.) ῝Ος ἐῤῥύσατο ἡμᾶς εκ τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ σκότους “Who rescued us out of the kingdom of darkness.” This verse does not describe the entire process of preparation, as Meyer seems to think; it rather gives us a vivid glance of the two termini-the one of departure, and the other of arrival. The unregenerate state is described as the kingdom of darkness. It is one of spiritual gloom in its government, essence, pursuits, and subjects. In its administration it is named “the power of Satan,” in itself it is darkness-its actions are “works of darkness,” and its population are “children of disobedience and wrath.” Luke 22:53; Acts 26:18. It is needless, with Augustine, Zanchius, Bloomfield, and others, to regard ἐξουσία as personified, and as meaning Satan. [ Σκότος , Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 5:8.] This principality is named “darkness” on account of its prevailing ethical element. Above it the heaven is shrouded in dismal eclipse, around it lies dense and impervious gloom, and before it stretches out the shadow of death. What men should believe and what they should do, what they should rest on and what they should hope for, what the mind should fasten on as truth and what the heart should gather in upon itself as a portion, what the spirit should present as acceptable worship and what the conscience should venerate as a rule of duty-all had been a matter of deep per plexity or hopeless uncertainty to the Colossians prior to their spiritual translation. There were occasionally in the heathen world shrewd guesses at truth - incidental approximations, when some brighter intellect unfolded its cogitations and longings. But the masses were involved in obscurity, and scarcely observed the fitful glimmer of the meteor which had shot over them. Ignorance, vice, and misery, the triple shades of this darkness, held possession of them. This “kingdom of darkness” stands in contrast to the sainted heritage in light. The deponent verb, from an obsolete form, signifies, first, to draw to oneself, then to rescue, to pluck out of danger. The act of deliverance is still ascribed to the Father, for He alone can achieve the spiritual transportation described in the following clause.
Καὶ μετέστησεν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ “And translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” The verb is often employed by the classical writers to signify the deportation of a body of men, or the removal of them to form a colony. The term is therefore an expressive one. The Colossians had been lifted out of the realm of darkness, their original seat and habitation, and they had been carried into the kingdom of His Son, and colonized in it. They were not as emigrants in search of a home, nor as a company of dissatisfied exiles, but they were marched out of the one territory and settled in the other expressly by Divine guidance. βασιλεία stands in contrast with ἐξουσία , but there appears to be no ground for Wetstein's affirmation, that in such a contrast the latter word means a tyranny, for in Revelation 12:10 the one term is referred to God, and the other to Christ. “The kingdom of His Son” is plainly that kingdom which has Christ for its Head and Founder-which is partially developed on earth, and shall be finally perfected in heaven. [Ephesians 5:5.] The word “kingdom” is used in harmony with the action indicated by the verb. As a church, men meet together in its sacred assemblies; as a kingdom, they are located as citizens in it. It belongs of right to “His Son.” He founded it, organized it, and rules over it-prescribes its laws, regulates its usages, protects its subjects, and crowns them with blessings. It is therefore a kingdom of light, whose prismatic rays are truth, purity, and happiness. We cannot say, with Olshausen, that the kingdom is regarded in its subjective aspect, for the language is that of objective transference-change of condition, implying, however, change of character. This kingdom is one in which the Colossians were, at the period of Paul's writing to them. It is not the future heaven, ideally, as Meyer takes it, and in which they were placed only spe et jure, as Gesner, Keil, Koppe, and others have it. It is a present state-but one which is intimately connected with futurity. The one kingdom of God has an earthly and a celestial phasis. It resembles a city divided by a river, but still under the same municipal administration, and having one common franchise. The head of this kingdom is named-
Τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ “The Son of His love.” This is a solitary appellation. The apostle is about to descant upon the glory of the Saviour, and therefore he here introduces Him as the Son. [Ephesians 1:3.] The phrase itself does not really differ from υἱὸς ἀγαπητός , Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18; Matthew 17:5; or from the similar idiom in Ephesians 1:6, υἱὸς ἠγαπημένος . It signifies the Son who possesses His love-or who excites it in the Divine heart. The meaning is the same in either case, for He who possesses the love is the cause of it towards Himself. Sustaining such a relation to the Father, He is the object of boundless and unchanging affection. This love corresponds to the nature at once of Him who manifests it and Him who enjoys it. The love of God to one who is His own Image will be in harmony with the Divine nature of both-infinite as its object, and eternal and majestic as the bosom in which it dwells. This love of the Father to the Son prompted Him to give that Son as Saviour, and then to exalt Him to Universal Empire. John 3:35. Two metaphysical and antagonistic deductions from this clause may be noted. The first extreme is that of Theodore of Mopsuestia, who affirms that we are here taught that Christ is Son, not by nature, but by adoption. But the apostle is not speaking of the essential relation of the Son to the Father, but of the emotion which such a relationship has created. He does not say how He became the Son; he only says, that as the Son, He is the object of intense affection on the part of the Father. The other extreme is that of Augustine, who argues that love indicates the essence or substance of Deity, out of which the Son sprang. But Love is an attribute, and not an essence; it belongs to character, and not to substance; it prompts, and does not produce. It is the radiance of the sun, but not the orb itself-the current of the stream, but not the water which forms it. Olshausen's modification of the same hypothesis is liable to similar objections. Nor do we find sufficient ground for the inference deduced by Huther and De Wette, that the phrase “kingdom of His Son” implies that the blessing of sonship, or adoption, is conferred on all its members, or that they become sons; for believers are, in the context, and in harmony with its imagery, regarded as subjects, and not as children. Nor is God named our Father in Colossians 1:12. Lastly, our rescue and subsequent settlement are ascribed to God the Father, for His sovereign grace and power alone are equal to the enterprise-and thanks again are due to Him.
(Colossians 1:14.) ᾿Εν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν , τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν “In whom we have redemption-the forgiveness of sins.” The words διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ of the Received Text rest on no good authority, for the entire preponderance of authorities, manuscripts, versions, and quotations, is against them. The phrase is an imitation of Ephesians 1:7. Lachmann reads ἔσχομεν in the aorist, without sufficient grounds. The apostle could not speak of the Son without a reference to His redeeming work. The work of the Father has its own aspect, and so has the work of the Son. Our direct change of condition is ascribed to the Father, as the almighty and powerful dispenser of blessing; but we are said to be united to the Son, and so to be in Him as to obtain redemption in the union-for by the price He paid forgiveness of sins is secured and conferred. This verse, then, does not merely describe a blessing-the enjoyment of which is indispensable to our preparation for heaven, and our removal from the realm of darkness, but it also and especially characterizes a continuous gift enjoyed by those who are settled in the kingdom of the Son. The subjects of His kingdom are in vital union with Him-in Him they are having redemption. Their translation out of the tyranny of darkness-their place in the new kingdom, and their growing maturity for heavenly bliss, are implied in this redemption, though its special element is the forgiveness of sins. Their first condition was one of guilt as well as gloom, and forgiveness was enjoyed in their emigration from it. Nor are they perfect under the benign reign of the Son, and as a state of imperfection is so far one of sin, it is in daily need of repeated pardon. The results of Christ's work are fully enjoyed only in heaven-the process of redemption is there completed, and thus we are said still to be having it as long as we are on earth. The entire vers e has been fully illustrated under Ephesians 1:7. The difference of diction is unessential, ἁμαρτιῶν being employed in Colossians, and παραπτωμάτων in the Epistle to the Ephesians. One question not alluded to there may be here noticed, and that is, why forgiveness occupies in both places so prominent a place? It stands as an explanation of redemption, not as if it included the whole of it, but because-
1. It is a first and prominent blessing. So soon as faith springs up in the heart the pardon of sin is enjoyed-the results of expiation are conferred. This doctrine was placed in the front of apostolic preaching: Acts 5:31; Acts 13:38; Acts 26:18; and among the Divine declarations and promises of the Old Testament, it occurs with cheering emphasis and repetition: Exodus 34:7; Isaiah 40:2; Isaiah 55:7; Jeremiah 33:8; Micah 7:18; Psalms 85:2; Psalms 103:3; and again and again it is announced as the result of accepted sacrifice in the Levitical law. And no wonder. So deep is man's guilt, and so tremendous is the penalty; so agonized is his conscience, and so terrible are his forebodings; so utterly helpless and hopeless is his awful state without Divine interposition, that a free and perfect absolution from the sentence stands out not only as a blessing of indescribable grandeur and necessity, but as the first and welcome offer and characteristic of the gospel of Christ. And it is no sectional or partial blessing. It makes no distinction among sins, no discrimination among transgressors. Its circuit is complete, for every sin is included, and it is offered with unbounded freedom and invitation. No previous qualification is requisite, and no subsequent merit is anticipated. And as it is the act of the sovereign judge, who shall arraign its equity, or by what other authority can it be revoked or cancelled? Romans 8:33-34.
2. Forgiveness is more closely connected with redemption than any other blessing, as it is the only blessing enjoyed immediately from Christ, and as the direct result of His expiation. It springs at once from the λύτρον which forms the centre and basis of the ἀπολύτρωσις . Other blessings obtained for Christ's sake are given through some appointed and dependent medium. Thus, peace is the effect of pardon; and holiness is the product of the Spirit and the word, as agent and instrument. But forgiveness passes through no intervention-it comes at once from the cross to the believing soul.
3. It is essentially bound up with subsequent gifts. Forgiveness precedes purity-there is change of state before there is change of heart. The Holy Ghost did not come down till Christ was glorified-till His expiatory oblation had been accepted. Being justified, believers are sanctified. The imputation of righteousness is a necessary pre-requisite to the infusion of holiness. The Spirit will not take up His abode in an unpardoned soul, and the sinner's relation to the law must be changed ere his nature be renovated. At the same time, pardon and holiness are inseparably associated, and the remission of trespasses is the precursor of peace and joy, hope and life. So that, such being its nature, origin, and results, the apostle naturally places “forgiveness of sins” in apposition with redemption in Christ Jesus.
Having now spoken of Christ and the blessings secured by union to Him, the apostle, for obvious reasons, lingers on that Name round which crystallized all the doctrines he taught-all the truths of that theology which it was the one business of his life to proclaim.
The next verse begins a lofty and comprehensive paragraph, in which the dignity and rank of Christ are described in linked clauses of marvellous terseness and harmony. The apostle introduces the name of the Son on purpose, and then details in sweeping completeness the glory of His person and work. There is no doubt that the verses were composed in reference to modes of error prevalent at Colosse, and the forms of expression have their special origin, shape, and edge in this polemical reference. While the writer states absolute truth in rich and glowing accumulation of sentences, still, the thought and diction are so moulded as to bear against false dogmas which were in circulation. It is strange that in any system of theology the person of Christ should be depreciated, and His mediatorial work vailed and slighted. The spectacle, however, is not an uncommon one. Yet the apostles can scarcely find language of sufficient energy and lustre to tell in it the honour and majesty of the Redeemer. The sentences in which Paul describes the rank and prerogative of Christ are like a bursting torrent, dashing away every barrier in its impetuous race. How he exults in the precious theme, and how his soul swells into impassioned panegyric!
We do not know in what precise way the dignity of Jesus was vilified by the Colossian errorists. It would seem, indeed, that the germs of Gnosticism and Ebionitism were to be found in Colosse-denial of Christ's actual humanity, and of His supreme divinity. The apostle, therefore, holds Him out as the one Supreme Creator, not only of the world, but of the universe, and declares that reconciliation is secured in the body of His flesh through death. Confused notions of the spirit-world appear also to have prevailed. Jesus was discrowned. The Lord of the angels was placed among the angels, as if he had been a selected delegate out of many illustrious compeers. That He was superhuman may not have been denied-but that He was truly human was more than questioned. That there had been a being of superior order upon earth was allowed, but whether as a veritable man he had blood to shed, and a soul and body to be severed in death and re-united in resurrection, appears to have been doubted or denied. Ascetic austerities, and mystical speculations, took the place of reliance on an objective atonement. The gospel was shorn of its simplicity, and mutilated in its adaptations, in order to be fitted in to the dogmas and announced in the specious nomenclature of a vain theosophy. That Jesus, as a celestial being, stood in a certain relation to God, and bore some similitude to Him, might be granted-but the likeness was thought to be faint and distant. The apostle affirms of Him in choice and expressive terms, on the other hand, “Who is the image of the invisible God”-
(Colossians 1:15.) ῞Ος ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου . 2 Corinthians 4:4. The clause dazzles by its brightness, and awes by its mystery. We feel the warning “Draw not nigh hither, for the place is holy ground.” One trembles to subject such a declaration to the scrutiny of human reason, and feels as if he were rudely profaning it by the appliances of earthly erudition. The invisible God-how dark and dreadful the impenetrable vail! Christ His image-how perfect in its resemblance, and overpowering in its brilliance! We must worship whilst we construe; and our exegesis must be penetrated by a profound devotion.
The relative ὅς carries us back at once to υἱός , in Colossians 1:13, and in its connection with the intermediate verse it may bear a causal signification, “inasmuch as He is,” etc. Bernhardy, p. 292. The noun εἰκών does not require the article, being clearly defined by the following genitive. Winer, § 19, 2, ( b). That this term was a current one in the Jewish theosophy, is plain from many citations. Hesychius defines εἰκών by χαρακτήρ and τύπος . Chrysostom speaks of it as τὸ κατὰ πᾶν ἴσον καὶ ὅμοιον , “a faithful likeness in every thing;” and Theophylact describes it as ἀπαραλλάκτος , “without change.”
The epithet ἀόρατος , as applied to God, refers not, perhaps, to the fact that He is and has been unseen, but to His invisibility, or to the fact that He cannot and will not be seen. John 1:18; Rom 1:20 ; 1 Timothy 1:17. Perhaps the Great God remains concealed for ever in the unfathomable depths of His own essence which, to every created vision, is so dazzling as to be “dark with excess of light.” There needs, therefore, a medium of representation, which must be His exact similitude. But where shall this be found? Can any creature bear upon him the full impress of Divinity, and shine out in God's stead to the universe without contraction of person or diminution of splendour? Could the Infinite dwarf itself into the finite, or the Eternal shrink into a limited cycle? May we not, therefore, anticipate a medium in harmony with the original? The lunar reflection is but a feeble resemblance of the solar glory. So that the image of God must be Divine as well as visible-must be ὁμοούσιος -of the same essence with the original. A visible God can alone be the image of God, possessing all the elements and attributes of His nature. The Divine can be fully pictured only in the Divine. The universe mirrors the glory of God, but does not circumscribe it. His “invisible things” assume a palpable form and aspect in the objects and laws of creation. Man is made in the image of God-in his headship over the earth around him, he is “the image and glory of God”-but he was only a faint and fractional miniature, even in his first and best estate, and now it is sadly dimmed and effaced. But Christ is the image of God-not σκία -a shadowy or evanescent sketch which cannot be caught or copied, but εἰκών , a real and perfect likeness-no feature absent, none misplaced, and none impaired in fulness or dimmed in lustre. The very counterpart of God He is.
Now, this Image of God is not Christ in His Divine nature, or as the eternal Logos, as Olshausen, Huther, Bähr, Usteri, and Adam Clarke, and many of the Fathers, suppose, for the apostle is speaking of the Son, and of that Son as the author of redemption and forgiveness of sin. It is therefore Jesus in His mediatorial person that the apostle characterizes as being the image of God. For it is a strange notion of Chrysostom, and some of his followers, such as Clarius, that as invisibility is a property of God, it must also be a property of His image, if that image be an undeviating similitude. Our Lord Himself said, even when He dwelt upon earth robed in no mantle of light, and with no nimbus surrounding His brow, “He who hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Visibility is implied in the very notion of an image. The spirit of the statement is, that our only vision or knowledge of the Father is in His Son. “No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him.” The Socinian hypothesis, advocated even by Grotius and Heinrichs, that only because He revealed so fully the will of God is He called the image of God, is far short of the full meaning, though as the “image” shines upon us we look and learn. To Him, as “Angel of the Presence,” we are indebted for those glimpses of the “eternal power and Godhead” which creation discloses-those glimpses of sovereignty throned upon boundless power, fathomless wisdom, and unwearying goodness, which are presented by the universe above us and around us. The elements of the Divine nature and character which are mirrored out to us in providence are derived from the same source. Christ, as Creator and Preserver, is the palpable image of God. In this aspect, it is not visibility of person that can be maintained, but the embodiment of attribute in visible result, as in Romans 1:20, where it is said, “the invisible things” of the Creator are “clearly seen.”
But especially in Himself and as Redeemer is He the representative of God. His prophetic epithet was “Immanuel, God with us.” In His incarnate state He brought God so near us as to place Him under the cognizance of our very senses-men saw, and heard, and handled Him-a speaking, acting, weeping, and suffering God; He was, as Basil terms it, εἰκὼν ζῶσα , a living image. He held out an image of God in the love He displayed, which was too tender and fervent, too noble and self-denying, to have had its home in any created bosom-in the power He put forth, which was too vast to be lodged in other than a Divine arm, and also in His wisdom and holiness, and in those blessed results which sprang from His presence. When he moved on the surface of the billows, did not the disciples see a realization of the unapproachable prerogative of Him “who treadeth upon the waves of the sea”? When the crested waves were hushed into quiet, as He looked out upon the storm and spoke to it, His fellow-voyagers felt that they had heard the voice of Divinity. When the dead were evoked by His touch and word from their slumbers, the spectators beheld the energy and prerogative of Him who says of Himself, “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal.” When the hungry were satisfied with an immediate banquet in the desert, the abundance proved the presence of the Lord of the Seasons, who, in the process of vegetation, multiplies the seed cast into the furrow “in some thirty, in some sixty, and in some an hundred fold.” In those daily miracles of healing was there not manifest the soft and effective hand of Him who is “abundant in goodness”? and in those words of wondrous penetration which touched the heart of the auditor was there not an irresistible demonstration of the Divine omniscience? Still, too, at the right hand of the Majesty on high, is He the visible administrator and object of worship. Thus, “the Son of His love” is a visible image of the invisible Father, not the “copy of an image”-distinct from Him, and yet so like Him, making God in all His glorious fulness apparent to us-showing us in Himself and His works the bright contour and likeness of the invisible Jehovah. This glory is not merely official, but it is also essential, not won, but possessed from eternity. O the grandeur of that redemption of which He is the author, and the magnificence of that kingdom of which He is head! Not only is He the image of God-but the apostle adds-
Πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως - “The first-born of every creature.” [ πάσης , Ephesians 2:21.] The meaning of this remarkable phrase is not easily discovered to our entire satisfaction. Only, it is clear, from the previous clause, and from the succeeding verse, that the apostle cannot mean to class Jesus Himself among created things. It is an awkward expedient on the part of Isidore, Erasmus, Fleming, and Michaelis, to propose to change the accentuation πρωτοτόκος , and by making it a paroxyton, to give it the sense of first-producer. But the term, with such a meaning, has only a feminine application, and it cannot bear such a sense in the eighteenth verse.
1. Many of the Fathers, and not a few of the moderns, understand the epithet as denotive of the generation of the Logos, or Divine Son. Thus, in OEcumenius occurs the phrase γεννηθεὶς συναΐδιος , “begotten co - eternally,” and Chrysostom says of Him- θεὸς γὰρ καὶ θεοῦ υἱός . Athanasius describes Him- ἄτρεπτος ἐξ ἀτρέπτου , “the unchangeable from the unchangeable,” a statement preceded by another to this effect- ὁ δὲ υἱὸς νόμος ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἀΐδιος ἐγενήθη . Theophylact puts the question “first-born of every creature, how?” and διὰ γεννήσεως is his reply. Tertullian, too, uses similar phraseology- primogenitus ut ante omnia genitus; and again, primogenitus conditionis, i.e. conditorum a Deo. Ambrose writes- primogenitus, quia nemo ante ipsum, unigenitus quia nemo post ipsum. We cannot readily accept the interpretation, though defended by Calovius, Aretius, Bähr, Böhmer, von Gerlach, and Bloomfield, etc. As Bengel admits, it makes the genitive πάσης κτίσεως depend on πρῶτος in composition. The syntax is not impossible, as with the simple adjective, John 1:15; John 1:30, but the following similar phrase- πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν , shows that such an exegesis cannot here be adopted, for it is plain that it cannot mean “begotten before all the dead.” The comparison there is not one of time even, as Meyer erroneously takes it-but one of rank. The sense assigned by this class of critics is, that Christ was the begotten of the Father, and became His Son prior to the work of creation. But we doubt if this be the form of truth intended by the apostle, for we should have expected the noun υἱός , or some other term denoting relationship, to have occurred in the clause. Christ is called πρωτότοκος in reference to His mother, but never in connection with His Divine Father, in any place where any semblance of the doctrine of eternal filiation is referred to, and in such a word derived from τίκτω , the reference is to maternal, not to paternal origin.
2. The antagonist exegesis is that of the Arians and Socinians, which presumes that Christ is, in this phrase, classed as a portion of creation. Even Athanasius, in his second discourse against the Arians, admits that Christ has got the name διὰ τὴν πολλῶν ἀδελφοποίησιν . A common argument in favour of this exegesis is, that where this epithet is used, it is implied that he who bears it is not only compared with others, but is one of them. Thus, in the phrase “first-born among many brethren,” the inference is, that the first-born is one of the family, though his rank be pre-eminent; and in the phrase “first-born from the dead,” Jesus is plainly regarded as having been one of the dead Himself, though He now be exalted above them. So that the deduction is, if He is called the “first-born of every creature,” then He is, in the comparison, and from a necessary ὁμογένεια , regarded as one of the creatures. Why then, it is confidently asked, shrink from such a conclusion?
We might give the reply of Basil to Eunomius, who had adopted such an exegesis “if He be called the first-born of the dead, because He is the cause of their resurrection, then, by parity of argument, he is the First-born of the whole creation, because He is the cause of its existence.” Theodoret puts the question-if He is only-begotten, how can He be first-begotten: and if first-begotten, how can He be only-begotten? And he guards against the Arian inference by adding- πρωτότοκος οὐχ ὡς ἀδελφὴν ἔχων τὴν κτίσιν , that is, He cannot have a brotherly relation to the creation, and be at the same time its maker. The ancient critics also observe that the epithet employed by the apostle is not πρωτόκτιστος , first-created. Besides, in the cases in which the term πρωτότοκος marks him who bears it, as one of a class referred to, such a class is usually expressed in the plural number, as in the 10th verse, and Romans 8:29, Revelation 1:5, but the apostle does not here say τῶν κτισμάτων .
Yet, even assuming for a moment the Socinian hypothesis, we would not be nonplussed. We reckon it very wrong on the part of Usteri to translate the Pauline term by Erst-geschaffene, “first-created,” and it is easy to see what must be the theological conclusions drawn from such a rendering. Anselm explains that the words apply to Jesus only as man, for as God He is unigenitus non primogenitus. Now, we have shown that the preceding clause, “image of the invisible God,” implies Christ's divinity, and we might say with Anselm that this refers to His humanity. That body was created by the Holy Ghost-it was a creature, and still is so, as we believe. Though on the throne, it is not deified-is not so covered nor interpenetrated with divinity as to cease to be a humanity. Nay, the last and loftiest prerogative is to be exercised by the “MAN whom He hath ordained,” so that even with this construction we are under no necessity to adopt the Arian or Socinian hypothesis. If in the former clause there is express proof of Christ's divinity, in the latter there is no less assertion of His real humanity, a humanity which stands out in special preeminence over the entire creation, as its Lord and proprietor.
3. Our own view is a modified form of that which takes πρωτότοκος in its figurative meaning of chief or Lord “begotten before all creation.” This view is held by Melancthon, Cameron, Piscator, Hammond, Röell, Suicer, Cocceius, Storr, Flatt, De Wette, Pye Smith, Robinson, and Whitby. Theodore of Mopsuestia held the same opinion- οὐκ ἐπὶ χρόνου λέγεται μόνον· ἀλλὰ γὰρ καὶ ἐπὶ προτιμήσεως -but he understood by κτίσις the new creation. The famous Photius, of the ninth century, in the 192nd question of his Amphilochia, has given a similar view, referring, however, the phrase to His human nature, and His resurrection from the dead. Some critics conjoin both the first and second views. We apprehend that the apostle selects the unusual word for a special reason. It seems to have been a prime term in the nomenclature of the Colossian errorists, and the apostle takes the epithet and gives it to Him to whom alone it rightfully belongs. Traces of the same idiom are found in the Jewish Kabbala-in which Jehovah Himself is called the “first-born of the world,” that is, in all probability, the Divine representative of essential and immanent perfection to the world. Thus the first heavenly man was called Adam Kadmon-the first-begotten of God-He who is Messiah and the Metatron of the burning bush. Not that Paul merely borrowed his language, but the terms which the errorists were perverting he refers to Jesus in their full truth and legitimate application. In a similar theological dialect, Philo names the λόγος by the epithet πρωτόγονος . The diction of the Old Testament in reference to the Hebrew בְּכֹר , H1147 is in harmony, and is based upon the familiar rights and prerogatives of human primogeniture. The Hebrew adjective is applied to what is primary, prominent, and the most illustrious of its classis, Job 18:13; “first-born of death”-alarming and fatal malady, Isaiah 14:30; “first-born of the poor”-a pauper of paupers. Still more, we find the term in the Messianic oracle of the 89th Psalm “I will make him my first-born”-will invest him with royal dignity, and clothe him with pre-eminent splendour, so as that he shall tower in majesty above all his kingly compeers. Israel elevated above the other nations, brought into a covenant relation, and reflecting so much of the Divine glory, is Jehovah's first-born, Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9. The church of Christ, blessed and beloved, and placed nearer the throne than angels, is the “church of the first-born,” Hebrews 12:23. And when believers are regarded as sons-as a vast and happy brotherhood-He who loved them, and died for them, who has won for Himself special renown in their adoption, and has imprinted His image on all the children, stands out as chief in the family, and is “the first-born among many brethren,” Romans 8:29. Again, in Hebrews 1:6, Jesus receives the same appellation, inasmuch as the spirits of the heavenly world are solemnly summoned to do Him homage as His Father's representative. Moreover, when He is styled, as in the 18th verse, and in Revelation 1:5, “the first-born of the dead,” the reference is not to mere time or priority, but to prerogative, for He is not simply the first who rose, “no more to return to corruption,” but His immortal primogeniture secures the resurrection of His people, and is at once the pledge and the pattern of it. The genitive then may be taken as that of reference. Bernhardy, p. 139. The meaning therefore is, “first-born in reference to the whole creation.” The phrase so understood is only another aspect of the former clause. The first-born was his father's representative, and acted in his father's name. Christ stands out as the First-born, all transactions are with Him, and they are equivalent to transactions with the Sovereign Father. The Father is invisible, but the universe is not left without a palpable God. Its existence and arrangements are His, and the supervision of it belongs to Him. He is the God who busies Himself in its affairs, and with whom it has to do. He is its First-born, its chief and governor. As the first-born of the house is he to whom its management is entrusted, so the First-born of the whole creation is He who is its governor and Lord, and whose prerogative it is to exhibit to the universe the image and attributes of the unseen Jehovah. He is manifested Deity, appearing, speaking, working, ruling, as in patriarchal times when He descended in a temporary humanity, and held familiar discourse with the world's “grey fathers,” and as under the Mosaic economy, of whose theocracy He was the head, of whose temple He was the God, and of whose oracles He was the inspirer. Now He is exalted to unbounded sovereignty, as “Lord of all,” rolling onwards the mighty and mysterious wheels of a universal providence, without halting or confusion; seated as His Father's deputy on a throne of unbounded dominion, which to this world is its tribunal of judgment-wearing the name at which every knee bows, “of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth”-the acting President of the universe, and therefore “the First-born of every creature.” His Father's love to Him has given Him this pre-eminence, this “double portion,” “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” It is plainly implied at the same time that He existed before all creatures, for He has never stood in any other or secondary relation to the universe - to the many mansions of His Father's house.
(Colossians 1:16.) ῞Οτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα , τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς . The conjunction ὅτι assigns the reason of the preceding statement. He is first-born of the whole creation, for by Him “all things” were created-and He is the image of God, for as Creator He shines out in the “brightness of His Father's glory,” so that we apprehend it to be a narrow and confined view to restrict the reference of ὅτι to the last clause of the previous verse. The phrase τὰ πάντα means “the all”-the universe, the whole that exists. Winer, § 18, 8. The aorist characterizes creation as a past and perfect work. Creation is here in the fullest and most unqualified sense ascribed to Christ, and the doctrine is in perfect harmony with the theology of the beloved disciple, John 1:3. The work of the six days displayed vast creative energy, but it was to a great extent the inbringing of furniture and population to a planet already made and in diurnal revolution, for it comprehended the formation of a balanced atmosphere, the enclosure of the ocean within proper limits, the clothing of the soil with verdure, shrubs, trees, and cereal grasses-the exhibition of sun, moon, and stars, as lights in the firmament-the introduction of bird, beast, reptile, and fish, into their appropriate haunts and elements-and the organization and endowment of man, with Eden for his heritage, and the world for his home. But this demiurgical process implied the previous exercise of Divine omnipotence, for “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” It is not, therefore, the wise and tasteful arrangement of preexistent materials or the reduction of chaos to order, beauty, and life, which is here ascribed to Jesus, but the summoning of universal nature into original existence. What had no being before was brought into being by Him. The universe was not till He commanded it to be. “He spake and it was done.” Every form of matter and life owes its origin to the Son of God, no matter in what sphere it may be found, or with what qualities it may be invested. “In heaven or on earth.” Christ's creative work was no local or limited operation; it was not bounded by this little orb; its sweep surrounds the universe which is named in Jewish diction and according to a natural division “heaven and earth.” Every form and kind of matter, simple or complex-the atom and the star, the sun and the clod-every grade of life from the worm to the angel-every order of intellect and being around and above us, the splendours of heaven and the nearer phenomena of earth, are the product of the First-born.
Τὰ ὁρατὰ καὶ τὰ ἀόρατα “The visible and the invisible.” This distinction seems to have been common in the Eastern philosophy: the latter epithet being referred to the abode of angels and blessed spirits. The meaning is greatly lowered by some of the Greek Fathers, who thought the term was applicable to the souls of men, and by not a few of the moderns, who include under it the souls of the dead. The meaning is, what exists within the reach of vision, and what exists beyond it. The object of which the eye can take cognizance, and the glory which “eye hath not seen,” are equally the “handiwork” of Jesus. The assertion is true, not only in reference to the limited conceptions of the universe current in the apostle's days, but true in the widest sense. The visible portion of the creation consisting of some myriads of stars, is but a mere section or stratum of the great fabric. In proportion as power is given to the telescopic glass, are new bodies brought into view. Nothing like a limit to creation can be descried. The farther we penetrate into space, the luminaries are neither dimmer nor scarcer, but worlds of singular beauty and variety burst upon us, and the distant star-dust is found to consist of orbs so dense and crowded as to appear one blended mass of sparkling radiance. Rays of light from the remotest nebulae must have been two millions of years on their inconceivably swift journey to our world. The nearest fixed star is twenty-one billions of miles from us, so that between it and us there is room in one straight line for 12,000 solar systems, each as large as our own. From the seraph that burns nearest the throne, through the innumerable suns and planets which are so thickly strewn in the firmament, and outwards to the unseen orbs which sentinel the verge of space-all is the result of Christ's omnipotence and love.
It is probable, however, that the apostle thought of heaven proper when he spoke of things invisible, for he adds, as if in special reference to its population “whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers”-
Εἴτε θρόνοι εἴτε κυριότητες εἴτε ἀρχαὶ εἴτε ἐξουσίαι . These epithets refer to celestial dignities. In Ephesians 1:21, he says- ὑπεράνω πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας καὶ δυνάμεως καὶ κυριότητος . The arrangement is different-the two last terms of the one are the two first in the other, and κυριότης , which is second here, is last in Ephesians. Θρόνοι occurs here, but δυνάμεως is excluded. The “thrones” appear to be the highest,-chairs of state in humble and distant imitation of the Divine imperial throne. We need not repeat our remarks made on this subject under Ephesians 1:21. If we may credit Irenaeus, the Gnostics held that another power than Divine created the celestial hierarchy. Simon Magus said- Ennoian generare angelos et potestates, a quibus et mundum hunc factum. The object of the apostle is to show that Jesus is the creator, not simply of lower modes of being, but of the higher Essences of the Universe. Yes, those Beings, so illustrious as to be seated on “thrones;” so noble as to be styled “dominions;” so elevated as to be greeted with the title of “principalities;” and so mighty as to merit the appellation of “powers:” these, so like God as to be called “gods” themselves, bow to the Son of God as the one author of their existence, position, and prerogative. As no atom is too minute, so no creature is too gigantic for His plastic hand. What a reproof to that “worshipping of angels” afterwards reprobated by the apostle-beings who are only creatures, and who themselves are summoned to do suit and service to the First-born. The sentence is at this point concluded, but the apostle reiterates-
Τὰ πάντα δἰ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται “All things by Him and for Him were created.” Already the apostle had said- ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα . The change of preposition and tense can scarcely be regarded as accidental, or as introduced for the mere sake of varied diction. Chrysostom, indeed, and many after him, regard ἐν and διά as synonymous. Indeed, this Father says, τὸ ἐν αὐτῷ , δἰ αὐτοῦ ἐστι ; and Usteri repeats the blunder; while De Wette finds compacted into ἐν the double sense of δἰ αὐτοῦ and εἰς αὐτόν . The old school of Jewish interpretation, represented by Philo and some of the Kabbalists, held a theory which was adopted by several of the Fathers, as Origen, Athanasius, and Hilary; by the mediaeval divines; and virtually by Neander, Bähr, Böhmer, Kleuker, Olshausen, and Kähler. Their notion is, that in the Logos, and by Him, was the world created-the idea was in Him, and its working out was by Him. He is both causa exemplaris and causa effectiva. “In Him,” says Olshausen, “are all things created, i.e. the Son of God is the intelligible world, the κόσμος νοητός , i.e. things themselves according to the idea of them, He carries their essentiality in Himself; in the creation they come forth from Him to an independent existence, in the completion of all things they return to Him.” We cannot, with Cocceius and others, take ἐν as bringing out the idea that the universe was created by the Father, in the Son. No mention is made of the Father in the context. We rather hold, with Meyer, “that the act of creation rests in Christ originally, and its completion is grounded in Him.” He is not simply instrumental cause, but He is also primary cause. The impulse to create came upon Him from no co-ordinate power of which He was either the conscious or the passive organ. All things were created in Him-the source of motive, desire, and energy was in Him. He was not, as a builder, working out the plans of an architect-but the design is His own conception, and the execution is His own unaided enterprise. He did not need to go beyond Himself, either to find space on which to lay the foundation of the fabric, or to receive assistance in its erection. On the other hand, the extrinsic aspect is represented by διά -the universe is the result of the exercise of His omnipotence, or as the Syriac renders, “by His hand.” It still stands out as having been brought into existence by Him. The aorist carries us back to the act of creation, which had all its elements in Him, and the perfect tense exhibits the universe as still remaining the monument and proof of His creative might. The first clause depicts creation in its origin, and the second refers to it as an existing effect. In the former, it is an act embodying plan and power, which are alike “in Him”-in the latter, it is a phenomenon caused and still continued “by Him.” Winer, § 50, 6.
Καὶ εἰς αὐτόν . Not in ipso, as the Vulgate renders, but “and for Him.” This clause marks out His final purpose in creation. It means not “for Him” as the middle point of creation, as Bähr and Huther imagine; nor simply “for His plan,” as Baumgarten-Crusius holds; nor merely “for His glory,” as Böhmer explains it; nor with a main view to His Incarnation, as Melancthon regards it; nor yet with an express reference to His Universal Headship, as Grotius and Storr have maintained. The phrase “for Him” seems to mean for Him in every aspect of His Being, and every purpose of His Heart. He is, as Clement of Alexandria says, τέλος as well as ἀρχή . Not only is the universe His sole and unhelped work, but it is a work done by Himself, and especially for Himself,-for every end contemplated in His infinite wisdom and love. A man of taste and skill may construct a magnificent palace, but it is for His sovereign as a royal habitation. On the contrary, Christ is uncontrolled, meeting with no interference, for His is no subordinate agency defined and guided by a superior power for which it labours and to which it is responsible. No licence of this nature could be permitted to any creature, for it would be ruinous to the universe and fatal to himself. Such a path of uncurbed operation would astonish all heaven, and soon surprise all hell. He only “of whom, to whom, and for whom are all things,” can have this freedom of action in Himself and for Himself.
Had the Divine Being remained alone, His glory would have been unseen and His praises unsung. But He longed to impart of His own happiness to creatures fitted to possess it-to fill so many vessels out of that “fountain of life” which wells out from His bosom. Therefore Christ fitted up these “all things” “for Himself,” in order that He might exhibit His glory while He diffused happiness through creatures of innumerable worlds, and enabled them to behold His mirrored brightness and reflect it; that He might occupy a throne of supreme and unapproachable sovereignty; and show to the universe His indescribable grace, which, in stooping to save one of its worlds, has thrown a new lustre over the Divine holiness, and proved the unshaken harmony and stability of the Divine administration. For this Creator is He “in whom we have redemption,” and this noblest of His works was in certain prospect when for Himself all things were created-a platform of no stinted proportions prepared for Him and by Him. Creation in itself presents an imperfect aspect of God, opens up a glimpse of only one side of His nature-His brightest and holiest phase lying under an eclipse; but redemption exhibits Him in His fulness of essence and symmetry of character. And did not Christ contemplate such a manifestation when He brought into existence so vast an empire to enjoy and adore the august and ennobling spectacle? Thus His all-sided relation to the universe is depicted-it is “in Him,” “by Him,” and “for Him.” Let no one say, He is an inferior agent-the universe was created “in Him;” let no one surmise, He is but a latent source-it is “by Him;” let no one look on Him as another's deputy-it is “for Him.” In every sense He is the sovereign creator-His is the conception, and Himself the agent and end.
(Colossians 1:17.) Καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων “And He is before all.” The pronoun in the nominative has an emphatic sense “and this one”-the creator of all, is before all. Two meanings have been assigned to the preposition πρό .
1. Many take it in the sense of order, or eminence-such as Noesselt, Heinrichs, Baumgarten-Crusius, Schleiermacher, and, of necessity, the Socinian expositors. There is no need of this secondary meaning, and the phrase as it occurs in James 5:12, 1 Peter 4:8, does not warrant such an exegesis, for it occurs in those places as a kind of adverbial emphasis.
2. It naturally means “before all” in point of time-as Böhmer, Meyer, De Wette, and Huther take it. John 1:30. When connected with persons, πρό bears such a primary meaning always in the New Testament, John 5:7; Romans 16:7; Galatians 1:17. Priority of existence belongs to the great FIRST Cause. He who made all necessarily existed before all. Prior to His creative work, He had filled the unmeasured periods of an unbeginning eternity. Matter is not eternal-is not the dark and necessary circumference of His bright Essence. He pre-existed it, and called it into being. Everything is posterior to Him, and nothing coeval with Him. And the present tense is employed “He is,” not “He was.” John 8:58. His is unchanging being. At every point of His existence it may be said of Him, He is. He is all that He was, and all that He will be-and comprises in Him the birth and end of time. Were His existence measured by human epochs, you might say of Him at some bygone period, “He was”-but the apostle, glancing at His immutability of nature, simply says, “He is.” OEcumenius rightly remarks, that the apostle writes not ἐγένετο πρὸ πάντων , ἀλλ᾿ ἔστι πρὸ πάντων .
Καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκε “And all things in Him are upheld.” Not only is He the creator, but He is also preserver. Hebrews 1:3. The verb sometimes signifies to arrange, to constitute, to create, but it also denotes to maintain in existence what has been created. 2 Peter 3:5. Such is the view of the Fathers; as OEcumenius paraphrases- δἰ αὐτοῦ τὴν γένεσιν καὶ τὴν διαμονὴν ἔχει . Προμηθεῖται ὧν ἐποίησε . The perfect tense seems to point us to this signification. What has been created has still been preserved. The two meanings of the verb meet and merge in its perfect tense. The τὰ πάντα , in this verse, are those of the preceding clauses, and not simply the church, as some in timidity and error restrict it. All things were brought together, and are still held together in Him. The energy which created is alone competent to sustain, every successive moment of providence being, as it were, a successive act of creation. In Him this sustentation of all things reposes. He is the condition of their primary and prolonged being. What a vast view of Christ's dignity! His arm upholds the universe, and if it were withdrawn, all things would fade into their original non-existence. His great empire depends upon Him in all its provinces-life, mind, sensation and matter; atoms beneath us to which geology has not descended, and stars beyond us to which astronomy has never penetrated. He feeds the sun with fuel, and vails the moon in beauty. He guides the planets on their journey, and keeps them from collision and disorder. Those secret forms of existence which the unaided eye cannot detect are receiving from Him “their meat in due season.” The rain out of His reservoirs nourishes “grass for the cattle, and herb for the service of man.” The vitiated atmosphere discharged from animal lungs becomes in His laboratory the source of special nutrition to vegetable life, and the foul breathings of forges and manufactories supply with strength and colour the tall and gorgeous plants of the torrid zone. Thus that universal balance is preserved, the derangement of which would throw around the globe the pall of death. Order is never violated, the tree yields fruit “after his kind,” and according to the original edict. Evening and morning alternate in sure and swift succession. The mighty and minute are alike to Him whose supervision embraces the extinction of a world and the fall of a sparrow. The “creeping things innumerable in the great and wide sea” look up to Him, and He opens His hand and “they are filled with good;” as well the leviathan who is “made to play therein,” as the insect that builds its coral cell-first its dwelling and then its tomb. Every pulsation of our heart depends on His sovereign beneficence who feeds us and clothes us. The intellect of the cherub reflects His light, and the fire of the seraph is but the glow of His love. All things which He has evoked into being have their continued subsistence in Him.
Are we not entranced with the dignity of our Redeemer, and are we not amazed at His condescension and love? That the creator and upholder of the universe should come down to such a world as this, and clothe Himself in the inferior nature of its race, and in that nature die to forgive and save it, is the most amazing of revelations. Dare we lift our hearts to contemplate and credit it? And yet it is truth, most glorious truth; truth sealed with the blood of Calvary. What sublimity is shed around the gospel! The God of the first chapter of Genesis is the babe of the first chapter of Matthew. He whom Isaiah depicts as “the Lord God, the creator of the ends of the earth,” “who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span,” is the Christ crucified of evangelical story and apostolic preaching. He who, in the pages of Jeremiah, is “the true God, the living God, and an everlasting King,” is in the pages of John the Word made flesh-the weeping Jesus-the master girded with a towel and washing His disciples' feet-the sufferer crowned with thorns and nailed in nakedness to the cross. He who is depicted in Ezekiel as seated on the sapphire throne, with the rainbow for its canopy, and the cherubim for its bearers and guardians, is none other than He whose garments were divided by His executioners, yea, whose corpse was pierced by the barbarous arm of a Roman soldier, and probed to the very heart to prove the reality of His death. He who warned the ancient people that they “saw no manner of similitude in the day when He spake to them in Horeb,” says at length to a group standing around Him, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself, handle me and see.” He by whom all things were made had not “where to lay His head.” What faith in power and extent should not be reposed in such a Saviour-God! Surely He who made and who sustains the universe is able to keep that we “have committed to Him,” and will not, from inability or oversight, suffer a confiding spirit to sink into perdition.
We have not chosen to interrupt the course of exegesis by taking notice of the non-natural interpretation which has been sometimes put upon these verses. The deniers of the Redeemer's deity, and of necessity such as Crellius, Slichting, and the editors of the “Improved Version,” hold that the creation referred to is not the physical, but a moral creation,-an exegesis acquiesced in, in some of its parts, by Grotius, Wetstein, Ernesti, Noesselt, Heinrichs, Schrader, Baumgarten-Crusius, and Schleiermacher. But, as Whitby remarks, it is a “flat and mean” exposition; or, as Daillé calls it, “ chicaneuse glosse. ” For-
1. It is contradicted by the paragraph which afterwards, and that formally, introduces the new or spiritual creation, and connects it as a sequel with that other creation which in these verses the apostle ascribes to Christ. This mode of connection is a plain proof that two distinct acts, or provinces of operation and government, are referred to Christ.
2. The obvious meaning of the terms employed is against the Socinian hypothesis. Had the words occurred in any common paragraph, their meaning would never have been doubted. Had the Father been spoken of, the reference to creation, in its proper sense, would never have been impugned. Why then, when the reference is to the Son, should not the first and most natural interpretation be put upon the language? Pierce remarks, that the exegesis which adopts the notion of a spiritual creation would never have been espoused “but for the sake of an hypothesis.” The language in its words and spirit-its minuteness and universality-leads us to the first or physical creation. It is a miserable shift of the editors of the Improved Version to argue “the apostle does not say by Him were created heaven and earth, but things in heaven and things on earth.” The inspired language is, the universe “the all” was created by Him without exception; “things in heaven,” comprising heaven and its population; and “things on earth,” meaning earth and all that it contains. One is apt to wonder at the hardihood of such an exegesis, and to pause and ask with Whitby, “Do the angels need this moral creation, or are they a part of this spiritual creation?” And how jejune to say, that by “things in heaven” are meant the Jews, and by “things on earth,” the Gentiles! Besides, if we adopt the hypothesis, that a moral renovation is described by these words, the paragraph would lead us to suppose that it had been already effected, and that it still subsisted, whereas in reality it had only commenced.
3. Such phraseology cannot signify a moral creation. The verb κτίζω has sometimes a secondary sense, and refers to the new creation. In such cases not only is the meaning obvious from the context, as in Eph 2:10 , 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10, but also the subjects of the renovation are living men already in physical existence; and there can be therefore no mistake in calling the mighty moral change that passes over them a creation. In the paragraph before us, on the other hand, no such previous condition exists; all things are said to be created, that is, brought into existence, by Christ Jesus. The passages of similar meaning in the Old Testament, as Psalms 51:10, Isaiah 45:8, Jeremiah 31:22, etc., present no difficulty, for they carry with them the principle of their own solution. Such phraseology as that before us occurs not in any of these places; and in one of them where there is similar diction, ambiguity is guarded against by the addition of the epithet “new,” “I create new heavens and a new earth.”
Lastly, as Whitby, Dr. Pye Smith, and Burton have shown, the early Greek Fathers unanimously understood the passage of a “proper and physical creation.” The Socinian interpretation, in short, is as repugnant to sound exegesis as the transparent trick of Marcion was to ordinary honesty, when, according to Tertullian, he omitted in his edition the verses altogether. The perversion of them is not better than the exclusion of them; nay, the latter has the merit of a direct avowal of inability or reluctance to explain them. They, however, survive as a bright and glorious testimony to Him who is the “true God and eternal life.”
A similar assault upon the natural meaning of the paragraph, and which created no small stir, was made by Schleiermacher in the third number of the Studien und Kritiken, 1832. His exegesis in its general principles and minute details is opposed alike to sound philology and to the context. His affirmation that κτίζειν is never used in Hellenistic Greek of creation proper, is contradicted by Wis 1:14 , etc.; Revelation 4:11; Revelation 10:6. His attempt to connect πρωτότοκος as an adjective with the preceding εἰκών is another failure clearly proved by the verbal arrangement. How frigid to confine the phrase, “visible and invisible,” to the last half of the previous clause “things on earth”! Somewhat more spiritual and ingenious than the Socinian hypothesis, this exegesis of Schleiermacher leads to the same unsatisfactory result. It was answered by Osiander in the same journal, 1833; and by Holzhausen in the Tübing. Zeitschrift, 1833; by Bähr in an appendix to his Commentary; and by Bleek in his Exposition of Hebrews, 1.3.
(Colossians 1:18.) Καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ σώματος τῆς ἐκκλησίας . “And He is the head of the body-the Church.’ The latter genitive is in apposition. The apostle now commences the second portion of the paragraph, and portrays Christ's relation to the Church. As Theodoret says, He passes ἀπὸ τῆς θεολογίας εἰς τὴν οἰκονομίαν . Still He stands out supreme-the one guardian and benefactor-the one Saviour and president- καὶ αὐτός -He and none other. The meaning of the phrase, “head of the body-the church,” has been given under Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 4:15-16. The probability is that Christ's headship was impugned by the false teachers, in consequence of their theory of emanations and other fantastic reveries about the spirit-world. The church is not, as Noesselt says, the whole family in heaven and in earth,-nor yet the human race, one of whom Christ became;-but the company of the redeemed, the body of the faithful in Christ Jesus. The previous verses show His qualification for such a headship,-His possession of a Divine nature-His supremacy over the universe, and His creation and support of all things. Any creature would be deified were he so highly exalted; for he would, from his position, become the god of the Christian people, as their blesser, protector, and object of worship. But the church and the universe are under one administration, that of Him who is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” The king of the universe is able to be Head of the church, and He has won the Headship in His blood. It is no eminence to which he is not entitled, no function which he cannot worthily discharge. For the apostle subjoins the following statement as proof-
῞Ος ἐστιν ἀρχή “Who is the beginning.” This term has been variously understood. Storr and Flatt reduce its significance by making it mean governor of the world; Calvin comes near the true view in his paraphrase- initium secundae et novae creationis; Baumgarten, nearer still, when he defines it by Urheber, originator. Meyer, De Wette, Huther, Bähr, Steiger, and others, join it to the following words, as if the full clause were- ἀρχὴ . . . τῶν νεκρῶν . Meyer and De Wette take it simply in a temporal sense ( πρὸ πάντων ἀναστάς , as Theophylact has it), and as if it were equivalent to ἀπαρχή , which some MSS. even have, while the other expositors give the sense of principium. Such a construction is certainly very strange, especially when we consider that ἐκ precedes τῶν νεκρῶν . We incline to keep the word by itself, and to regard it as being much the same as in the phrase, Revelation 3:14 - ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ -the cause or source of the creation of God. Wisdom of Solomon, 12:16, 14:27. The noun, standing by itself, would seem to point out Christ in His solitary grandeur as the prime source of all the blessings and honours detailed in the subsequent verses. The relative has plainly a causal sense, so that the connection is “He is Head of the body,-the church,-inasmuch as He is the one source of its existence and blessings;” and He is so, as being “the first-begotten from the dead,” and, as Colossians 1:20 shows, the Reconciler of men to God by the blood of His cross. This exegesis gives a special dignity to the epithet-Christ, the first source of existence and blessing. But for His gracious intervention, no church had ever existed, and no salvation been ever enjoyed. Having ransomed the church by His blood, may He not rule it by His power, and be “the Head”?
And no matter what blessing is enjoyed, what its kind or amount, He is its author. There may be subordinate supplies-wells of water; but His rain from heaven fills them. Conviction of sin and repentance unto life are produced by a glimpse of Christ. “They shall look on me whom they have pierced, and mourn.” The pardon of guilt comes directly from Him; and His death provides for the sanctification of the heart; His Spirit the agent, and His word the instrument. Every grace may be traced to Him, and it bears the heart away to Him as the source of saving influence. He has originated salvation, and He gives it. He is in the most unlimited sense- ἀρχή “the beginning.” And we are the more confirmed in this view of keeping ἀρχή separated from the following clause and giving it an absolute meaning, from the fact that, in the Philonic vocabulary, it is the name of Logos, and was probably introduced by the apostle with a special reference to current and insidious errors. The description proceeds-
Πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν “First-begotten from the dead.” In Revelation 1:5 we find but the simple genitive. It is out of the question, on the part of Bullinger, Keuchenius, Aretius, Erasmus, and Schleiermacher, to connect ἀρχή with πρωτότοκος -an abstract with a concrete. We must take this word as in the former clause - “first - begotten of every creature,” and regard it as referring, not to the priority of time, but to dignity and station. He was not the first that rose in absolute priority, nor simply the first who rose, no more to die. But He was among the dead; and as He rose from the midst of them, He became their chief, or Lord “the first-fruits of them that sleep.” From Him the dead will get deliverance, for He rose in their name, and came- ἐκ -out from among them as their representative. In this character He destroyed “him that had the power of death.” Not only when He was “cut off, but not for Himself,” did He “finish transgression and make an end of sin,” but He “abolished death.” Nay, He has the keys of death and Hades. His people rise in virtue of His power. The instances of resurrection prior to His own were only proofs that the dead might be raised, but His resurrection was a pledge that they should be raised. The Lord Himself shall descend; the trump shall sound, and myriads of sleepers shall start into life; no soul shall lose, and none mistake its partner; neither earth nor sea shall retain one occupant. But He is not only the pledge, He is also the pattern. His people shall be raised in immortal youth and beauty; their vile bodies fashioned like unto His glorious body, and therefore no longer animal frames, but so etherealized and attempered as to be able to dwell in a world which “flesh and blood cannot inherit”-to see God and yet live, to bear upon them without exhaustion the exceeding weight of glory, and to serve, love, and enjoy the unvailed Divinity without end.
῞Ινα γένηται ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων “In order that in all things He should have the pre-eminence.” The conjunction appears to be telic, and not merely ecbatic, as Bähr supposes. It indicates, not the result, but the final purpose of the entire economy. And we cannot, with Meyer and others, connect this clause solely with the one that goes before it, as if His pre-eminence rested merely upon the fact that He was the first-born from the dead. The clause has its root in the entire paragraph, as we shall immediately endeavour to show. The emphatic verb πρωτεύω does not occur anywhere else in the New Testament, but we find it in the Septuagint, 2Ma 6:18 ; Esther 5:11; Xenophon, Cyrop. 8, 2, 28; Joseph. Antiq. 9, 8, 3; Plutarch, De Educat. lib. c. 13, where this very phrase occurs; Plato, Leges, 692, p. 54, vol. vii. Opera, ed. Bekker, 1826. Two distinct meanings have been assigned to ἐν πᾶσιν . 1. It may be taken as masculine, “among all persons,” as is the opinion of Anselm, Beza, Cocceius, Heinrichs, Piscator, and Usteri. If the clause referred simply to the νεκροί , of which Jesus is the first-born, then we should have expected the article- ἐν τοῖς πᾶσιν . That ἐν following πρωτεύω may refer to persons, Kypke has shown in his note on this verse, though παρά is the preposition as frequently employed, and more usually the simple genitive. 2. The phrase ἐν πᾶσιν is more naturally taken by the majority in a neuter sense, “in every thing,” or “in all respects.” This is the ordinary meaning of the phrase in the New Testament. 2 Corinthians 11:6; Eph 1:23 ; 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 2:7; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 4:11. The usus loquendi is therefore in favour of this interpretation, “first in all points;” or as Theophylact says, in all things- τοῖς περὶ αὐτὸν θεωρουμένοις “in all things which have reference to Himself;” as Chrysostom has it, πανταχοῦ πρῶτος . The verb γένηται is not to be confounded with the verb of simple existence. The meaning is not that He might be, but that “He might become.” Acts 10:4; Romans 3:19; Hebrews 5:12. The verb in such cases denotes the manifestation of result-that He may show Himself to be in all things FIRST. We do not say, with Meyer and Huther, that this pre-eminence is looked upon as wholly future, and as only to be realized at the resurrection. If we held the close and sole connection of πρωτεύων with πρωτότοκος , we should be obliged to keep this view partially, but not to its full extent; for, in respect to the dead, as now dead, Jesus stands out as the First who has so risen from a similar state. The meaning, then, is, that in consequence of His being what the apostle has just described Him to be, He has in all things the primacy; that He stands out as FIRST to the universe, for He is its visible God, its Creator and Preserver; and He is the Head of the Church, the fount of spiritual blessing, the “Resurrection and the Life.”
As the image- εἰκών -of the invisible God He has the pre-eminence. For He is without date of origin or epoch of conclusion. No eclipse shall sully the splendours of His nature. What He has been, He is, and He shall be. Nor is His essence bounded by any circumference, but it is everywhere, undiluted by boundless extension. His mind comprises all probabilities, and has decided all certainties. His power knows no limit of operation, and is unexhausted by effort. His truth is pure as the solar beam, and the fulness of infinite love dwells in His heart. But such Divine glory is common to the Godhead, and He shares it equally with Father and Spirit. Even here, however, He is First; for He has visibility, which the Father and Spirit have not; and He is the God of the universe whom it sees, recognizes, and adores. Nay, more, He has cast a new lustre over His original glory by His incarnation and death. He has won for Himself an imperishable renown. This dignity so earned by Him is specially called His own, in contradistinction from His prior and essential glory, and it is His peculiar and valued possession. Robed in His native majesty, which has been augmented by the mediatorial crown, is He not the most glorious being in the universe? Matthew 25:31; John 17:24.
And He has pre-eminence as Creator, for creation is His special work. It existed in idea in the mind of God, but it was brought into existence by the power of Christ. These worlds on worlds, which in their number and vastness confound us, have Him as artificer, for He “telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them by their names.” Creation owns Him as Lord. The natural impulse is to reason from effect upwards to cause “from nature up to nature's God:” but the God whom such instinctive logic discovers, and whose might and wisdom, science and philosophy illustrate with rich, varied, profound, and increasing, nay, interminable examples, is none other than this “First-born of every creature.” On His arm hangs the universe, and He receives its homage. Above all, there is matchless grandeur in the constitution of His person as the Head of the Church. The Father is pure Divinity, and so is the Spirit: the wisest, greatest, and best; infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in essence, attributes, and character. But the Son has another nature, one in person with His Deity. The divine is not dwarfed into the human, nor has the human been absorbed into the divine, but both co-exist without mixture or confusion. The incarnation of Jesus illuminates the Old Testament as a promise, and fills the New Testament as a fact. Possessed of this composite nature, Christ is distinguished from every being: none like Him in unapproachable mystery-as the God-man who has gained His capital supremacy by His agony and cross. Was ever suffering like His in origin, intensity, nature, or design?
Again, as the source of blessing, has He not primal rank? These spiritual gifts possess a special value, as springing from His blood, and as being applied by His Spirit. He is seated in eminence as the dispenser of common gifts to His universe, but He is throned in pre-eminence as the provider and bestower of spiritual blessings to His Church. Are not His instructions without a rival in adaptation, amount, and power? What parallel can be found to His example, so perfect and so fascinating, that of a man that men may see, and admire, and imitate; while it contains in itself, at the same time, the secret might of Divinity to mould into its blessed resemblance the heart of all His followers who are “changed into the same image from glory to glory”? In short, there is such wondrous singularity in the glory of Christ's person and work, so much that gives Him a radiance all His own, and an elevation high and apart, that it may be truly said, that in all things He has the pre-eminence. None like Christ is the decision of faith: none but Christ is the motto of love. The apostle assigns another or additional reason-
(Colossians 1:19.) ῞Οτι ἐν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν . A different spelling of the word is exhibited in some of the MSS. such as A, D, E,- ηὐδόκησεν , but without authority. Schmid supposes that πλήρωμα is the nominative; and he understands it thus-the entire Godhead was pleased to dwell in Christ. We believe, with the majority of expositors, that ὁ θεός is to be supplied as the nominative, and not τῷ θεῷ , in the dative. Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22. The full syntax is found in 1 Corinthians 1:21; Galatians 1:15. But we cannot hold, with some, that the pronoun αὐτῷ refers to God, for we take it as still pointing to Him who has been the prime subject of discourse. To make ὁ Χριστός the nominative, as Conybeare does, implies the sense that Christ is not only the means, but the end in this reconciliation, for the reading would plainly be in the next verse “and by Himself to reconcile all things unto Himself,” a mode of speech not in accordance with Pauline usage. Christ reconciles, not to Himself, but to God. We incline also to connect the clause immediately with the preceding one, and not generally with the previous paragraph. “That in all things He might have the pre-eminence;” for, in order to this, “it pleased God-it was His good purpose-that in Him should all fulness dwell.” The pre-eminence, therefore, could not but be His. The verb does not mean that it was God's desire that all fulness should dwell in Christ, but that it was His resolve, as being His pleasure.
Πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα κατοικῆσαι . On the meaning of πλήρωμα we have spoken at length under Ephesians 1:23. In the verb the idea of past and continued residence is presented. We see no reason to deviate here from the meaning assigned to the noun in the place referred to, so that we must hold, against Bähr and Steiger, that the word has a passive, and not an active signification, denoting, not that which fills up, but the state of fulness, or the contents of it. But to what does this fulness refer?
1. It is a most extraordinary exegesis of Theodoret and Severianus, followed by Baumgarten-Crusius, Heinrichs, Wahl, and Schleiermacher, that πλήρωμα signifies the multitude which compose the church. This view has been exposed by us under Ephesians 1:23. Here it would yield no tolerable meaning, and would not be in harmony at all with the context. Pierce follows the rendering of Castalio “it seemed good to God the Father to inhabit all fulness by Christ.”
2. Some limit the meaning of the clause by basing their interpretation of it on a following verse in Colossians 2:9, “all the fulness of the Godhead.” But there is no reason to subjoin the genitive τῆς θεότητος in this place, the meaning here being more general and sweeping in its nature.
3. This fulness is referred by OEcumenius, Huther, and others, to the Divine essence. Servetus based, according to Beza, a species of Pantheism on this declaration. But such an idea cannot be entertained, because the Divine essence dwelt in Christ unchangeably, and not by the Father's consent or purpose. It is His in His own right, and not by paternal pleasure. Whatever dwells in Christ by the Father's pleasure is official, and not essential; relational, and not absolute in its nature.
4. The proper exegesis, then, is, that all fulness of grace, or saving blessings, dwells in Christ-a species of fulness, the contents of which are described in the following verse. John 1:14-16. We do not exclude the work of creation as a result of this fulness laid up in the Image and First-born, but the apostle seems to connect it more with the process and results of redemption. Whatever is needed to save a fallen world, and restore harmony to the universe, is treasured up in Him-is in Him. It was indispensable that the law should be magnified while its violators were forgiven, lest the circuit of the Divine jurisdiction should be narrowed, or its influence counteracted; and there is a fulness of merit in the sufferings of Jesus which has shed an imperishable lustre on the nature and government of God. That copious variety of gifts connected with the Christian economy has its source in Jesus. Knowledge and faith, pardon and life, purity and hope, comfort and strength, impulse and check, all that quickens and all that sustains, each in its place and connection, is but an emanation of this unexhausted plenty. And there is “all” fulness; abundance of blessing, and of every species of blessing, in proper time and order. As the bounties of providence are scattered around us with rich munificence, and consist not of one kind of gift which might become fatal in its monotony, but of an immense variety, which is essential, singly and in combination, to the sustenance of life; so the blessings which spring out of this fulness are not only vast in number and special in adaptation, by themselves, but in their mutual relations and dependence they supply every necessity, and fill the entire nature with increasing satisfaction and delight. The impartation of knowledge, though it grew to the “riches of the full assurance of understanding,” could not of itself minister to every want; nor yet could the pardon of sin severed from the benefits which flow from it. Therefore there is secured for us peace as well as enlightenment; renovation along with forgiveness: condition and character are equally changed; the tear of penitence glistens in the radiance of spiritual joy, and the germs of perfection ingrafted now are destined for ever to mature and expand. Provision, moreover, would be inadequate without application. Man is not merely informed that God is merciful, and that he may come to Him and live; or that Christ has died, and that he may believe and be saved; or that heaven is open, and that he may enter and be happy. Not only is provision ample, but in this fulness appliance is secured. Not only has salvation been purchased, but it is placed within an available reach, for while the cross is erected, the eye is opened, and the vision carried towards its bleeding victim; not only has atoning blood been shed, but it is sprinkled upon the heart; not only is there the promise of a heavenly inheritance, but the soul is purified, yea, and “kept by the power of God through faith.” In short, every grace, as it is needed, and when it is needed, in every variety of phasis and operation; every grace, either to nurse the babe or sustain the perfect man, to excite the new life or to foster it, to give pardon and the sense of it, faith and the full assurance of it, purity and the felt possession of it; every blessing, in short, for health or sickness, for duty or trial, for life or death, for body or soul, for earth or heaven, for time or eternity, is wrapt up in that fulness which dwells in Christ.
It may be that πλήρωμα was a term employed by the heretics who disturbed the Colossian church, but we cannot lay such stress upon this circumstance as is done by Bähr and Steiger, nor safely deduce from it an inevitable exegesis. There is no doubt that πλήρωμα was a distinctive epithet in the vocabulary of the heretics of a later age, such as Valentinus, and in the teaching ascribed to Cerinthus. It is found also among the peculiar terms of the Kabbalists. But it would be rash to affirm that the apostle used the word because these heretics abused it, for in his days the germ of that theosophy and mysticism had only found existence, and neither the system nor the nomenclature was fully developed.
(Colossians 1:20.) Καὶ δἰ αὐτοῦ ἀποκαταλλάξαι τὰ πάντα εἰς αὐτόν “And by Him to reconcile all things to Himself.” This sentence still hangs upon the verb εὐδόκησε . Εἰρηνοποιήσας agrees with θεός , the understood nominative to εὐδόκησε . God having made peace by the blood of His cross (Christ's), was pleased to reconcile by Him (Christ) all things to Himself. If the participle εἰρηνο . referred to Jesus, we should have expected it to be in the accusative before the infinitive. The instances adduced by Steiger, who holds this view, to prove the occurrence here of a species of anacoluthon, are not in point. On the meaning of ἀποκαταλ . we have spoken under Ephesians 2:16, and need not repeat our remarks. The phrase τὰ πάντα , in this verse, must be identical in meaning with τὰ πάντα in the 16th verse-created by Jesus and for Him; and τὰ πάντα in the 17th verse-preserved by Him. The meaning is further developed and specified in the last clause- εἴτε τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς , γῆς , εἴτε τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς -all things, “whether they be things on earth, or things in heaven.” The apostle seems thus to refer to the universe-specially the intelligent universe. The reconciliation is effected through Christ, an idea repeated by the apostle in the 22nd and 23rd verses.
1. It is surely a low and pointless interpretation of the words to refer them, with Junker, Heinrichs, Schleusner, and others, to Jew and Gentile, for the passage is widely different from the paragraph in the 2nd chapter of Ephesians; or with Beza, Crocius, and Wolf, to understand “things in heaven” of the happy souls of the departed; or with Schleiermacher, to suppose the apostle to refer to earthly and ecclesiastical relationships. The previous context plainly condemns such a narrow and groundless interpretation.
2. On the other hand, it is going beyond the record to base upon the words the dogma of universal restoration. Evil spirits, and finally impenitent men, are left in unrelieved gloom. Those who reject this reconciliation, and depart from the world in unbelief, fall into the hands of a God “who is clear when He judges.”
On this passage, Davenant says truly- torquet interpretes et vicissim ab illis torquetur. De Wette, indeed, referring to Job 4:18; Job 15:15, imagines that angels need some process of peacemaking, or rather of perfecting - a notion akin to Calvin's, that they were in want of confirmation.
But supposing that by “things in heaven” we understand angels and all other holy intelligences, in what sense can it be said that they need or receive reconciliation? Some elude the difficulty, and argue that the reconciliation is not between God and perfect spirits, but between them and redeemed humanity. Thus Theodoret- συνῆψε τοῖς ἐπιγείοις τὰ ἐπουράνια : and such is the view of Chrysostom, Augustine, and Pelagius, of Cameron, Dickson, and perhaps the majority. This is a truth, but perhaps not the whole truth intended. The language implies more than this exegesis contains, for all things in heaven are not merely reconciled to all things on earth, but both are at the same time reconciled to God. And we cannot espouse the opinion of Huther, Bähr, and Olshausen, who make the reference in εἰς αὐτόν to Christ, regarding Him as both means and end. The idea is not in unison with Pauline phraseology, for God is usually regarded as the ultimate end. But the idea in this case would be, that all beings are brought by the death of Christ to obey Him, and to find in Him their common centre. The dative, indeed, is commonly employed, as in Ephesians 2:16, Romans 5:10; but the employment here of the accusative with εἰς may indicate something unusual in the verb-may denote to reconcile for, or in reference to Himself, that is, God, He being regarded generally as the end of this reconciliation. Reconciliation to God is thus predicated of the “things in heaven,” though they had never revolted. Nor can we simply declare, with Melancthon, Cameron, and Bähr, that the sentiment of this verse is identical with that found in Ephesians 1:10, and that ἀποκαταλλάξαι is of the same meaning as ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι . Indeed, as Meyer well suggests, the bringing together under one head is the result of the reconciliation which is here described. The verb ἀποκατ . is defined by Suidas as meaning φιλοποιῆσαι - to make friends; and Fritzsche renders it prorsus reconciliare. The ἀπό , in composition, does not signify “again,” as Passow erroneously gives it. [Ephesians 2:16.] This reconciliation we understand in its result- εἰς -and as denoting unalterable union,-that he might reconcile all things and unite them so reconciled to Himself. Such a pregnant meaning of verbs is no uncommon occurrence. 2 Timothy 4:18 - σώσει εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν , will save and translate us to His kingdom. Mark 8:19 - ὅτε τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους ἔκλασα εἰς τοὺς πεντακισχιλίους , when I broke and distributed the five loaves to the five thousand. Acts 23:24, etc.; Winer, § 66, 2, d; Xenophon, Anab. 11, 3, 11; Polyb. 8, 11; Odyss. 2.14. There needed no atonement for innocent creatures, but they must have felt the disruption of sin, and seen the terrible anger of God against it. May they not have trembled at the bare idea of apostasy, and may not the very suspicion of it have made them stand before God with more of awe than love? When the angels beheld their fellows sin so grievously, when they mourned over the tarnished brightness of their lost and exiled natures, might not the memory of the melancholy spectacle fill them with terror, and as they felt themselves placed in a jeopardous crisis, might they not shrink as they gazed upon the unsullied justice and inexorable vengeance of Jehovah-king? Might not holiness unrelieved by an act of grace, be ever impressing the conviction that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”? For sin was possible to them, and what had happened might again take place, while the penalty of sin was as swift in its descent as it was unspeakable in its burden, and irremediable in its effects. The flashing majesty of the throne might still the pulse of the universe, or cause it to throb in subdued and solemn alarm. The radiance of grace had not been seen to play upon the sceptre of righteousness. Acquiescence in the Divine rectitude might not conquer trepidation, and the love which encircled them might not cast out all fear of lapse and punishment. But when they found out the ineffable stores of the Divine benignity towards man-in the mission and death of Jesus, in the untold abundance and fulness of blessings conferred upon him, in a vast salvation secured at a vast expense, and in a happy alliance concluded between them and the ransomed church-did they not share in the same reconciliation and feel themselves drawn nearer a God of grace, whom they can now love with a higher thrill and praise with a more rapturous hallelujah? In being re-united with man they feel themselves brought closer to God, and though they sing of a salvation which they did not require, still they experience the Saviour's tenderness, and are charmed with the reign of His crowned humanity. The gloom that sin had thrown over them is dispelled; and creation as one united whole rejoices in the presence of God. The one Reconciler is the head of these vast dominions, and in Him meet and merge the discordant elements which sin had introduced. The breach is healed. Gabriel embraces Adam, and both enjoy a vicinity to God, which but for the reconciliation of the cross would never have been vouchsafed to either. The humanity of Jesus bringing all creatures around it, unites them to God in a bond which never before existed-a bond which has its origin in the mystery of redemption. Thus all things in heaven and earth feel the effect of man's renovation; unnumbered worlds, so thickly strewn as to appear but dim and nebulous masses, are pervaded by its harmonizing influence; a new attraction binds them to the throne. Blessings which naked Deity might not be able to bestow are poured out upon them by the incarnate Lord “who filleth all in all;” and the exhibition of love in the agonies of Christ may have secured what unalloyed equity could not, may have placed the universe for ever beyond the reach of apostasy and revolt. Then at length starts into view the blessed kingdom “the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
Nor need we wonder at the infinite results of the death of Christ, when we reflect that, as the apostle has described Him, He is Creator, Preserver, and End of all things. Creation, to its farthest verge, could not but be affected by the grace and the death of Him who gave to it its original being and still supplies the means of its continued existence. When He laid aside the splendours of the Godhead, and walked a man upon the footstool, and died on a world and for a world which He had made, to satisfy Divine justice, and glorify the principles of the Divine administration, it might be anticipated that the effect of that stupendous enterprise should be felt everywhere, diffusing the attractive power of a new spiritual gravitation among all things, “whether they be things on earth or things in heaven.”
Εἰρηνοποιήσας διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ “Having made peace by the blood of His cross.” We understand the participle to be in agreement with θεός , as the nominative to εὐδόκησε , and not with Χριστός , as the Greek Fathers, and even Storr and Steiger, construe the clause. The aorist participle here is of the same tense with the aorist infinitive in the preceding clause, and it points out the method by which reconciliation has been secured. The blood of His, that is, Christ's cross, was the source of peace-the reference being to the atoning sacrifice presented on Calvary. Blood shed on earth creates feuds to be extinguished only by other blood; it calls up the avenging kinsman to wait, watch, pursue, and retaliate; but the blood of Christ's violent and vicarious death brings peace, restores alliance between heaven and earth. While we look on the paternal aspect of God's character, we must not overlook His position as moral governor-bound to inflict the penalty annexed to the violation of His statutes. [Ephesians 2:16.] He must visit the sinner with His judicial displeasure; or as the scholastic theology of Bede phrased it, “in every one of us He hated what we had done, He loved what He Himself had done.” The justice of God, as Nitzsch says, is a necessary and inseparable idea of His love. The antithesis of mercy and justice is no longer unresolved, nor do they neutralize one another. Sin at the same time creates enmity in the human heart towards God, an enmity removed also by faith in the great propitiation. Thus the cross is the symbol of peace. He who died on it possessed God's nature, the offended party, and man's nature, the offending party; and thus being qualified to mediate between them, His blood was poured out as a peace-offering. The law is satisfied, and guilty sinners are freed from the curse: an amnesty is proclaimed; God reconciles the world unto Himself, and justified man has peace with God.
The apostle repeats δἰ αὐτοῦ to give prominence to the efficacious agency of His Son. “By Him,” that is, by His blood, and by all the work which His mediatorial person is so well fitted to carry on and consummate. The last clause explains the preceding πάντα . As if there might be doubt in some minds; or as if some ascribed a limited influence to a Jewish death upon Jewish soil, the apostle exclaims “all” “whether they be things in earth,” which is first and specially interested; or whether they be “things in heaven.” Chrysostom, to support his view, erroneously and ungrammatically connects this clause with the one immediately before it, as if the peace made by the blood of the cross was simply and solely peace between things in heaven and things on earth. In fine, the entire process, as the connection of this verse with the preceding one shows, springs from the Divine pleasure-it so “pleased” Him.
Now, if there was a tendency among the false teachers in Colosse to depreciate Jesus, lower the value and restrict the extent of His saving work; if they derogated either from His personal dignity or official prerogative, the apostle applies a mighty and sufficient counteractive. That Saviour whom the apostles preached was no creature, but Himself the Creator; was invested with no provincial government, but ruled and preserved the wide realms of space; was no subordinate spirit in the celestial crowd, but one who is the end as well as author of all things; is supreme Lord of His Church, as is most due; and as He possesses all fulness within Himself, and has by the shedding of His blood restored harmony to the universe, therefore, now, in every point He has an unchallenged pre-eminence. On the dark background of an old theosophic heresy there shines out this starry halo of mediatorial merit and renown.
(Colossians 1:21.) Καὶ ὑμᾶς , ποτὲ ὄντας ἀπηλλοτριωμένους καὶ ἐχθροὺς τῇ διανοίᾳ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς πονηροῖς , νυνὶ δὲ ἀποκατήλλαξεν “And yet now He has reconciled you who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works.” The apostle turns directly to the Colossians, and applies to their experience the results of these more general statements. And he does not disguise the truth when he describes their past condition- ποτέ . Καὶ ὑμᾶς , “you even.” Hartung, p. 125. The participle ὄντας occurs before ἀπηλλ . Jelf, § 375, 4. [ ᾿Απηλλοτ . Ephesians 2:12; Ephesians 4:18.] It here denotes that spiritual alienation from God which characterized the heathen world. Though the term God is not expressed, the idea is plainly implied. They had strayed so far from God, that they had lost all view of His unity and spirituality, His holiness and His love, and felt no longer the hallowing influence of His existence, majesty, and government. This severance from God was the early fruit of sin, for when the Divine Being descended to paradise, as was His wont, the guilty Adam acknowledged the impulse of this alienation when he attempted to “hide himself from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” So severed, they needed re-union. Nay, not only were they aliens, but enemies- ἐχθρούς . We see no reason to adopt Meyer's view, and take the adjective in a passive sense-objects of the Divine enmity, a meaning which it does not bear in Romans 5:10. We prefer the usual and active sense, as seen in the common phrase ὁ ἐχθρός ; and it is superfluous on the part of Calovius to unite both acceptations. That enmity had its seat τῇ διανοίᾳ , which Meyer is obliged to render, with Luther, “on account of your mind”-hated on account of your corrupt mind. This enmity toward God was in the min d. [ διάνοια , Ephesians 2:3.] The noun represents the seat of thought, or rather of disposition. Luke 1:51; 1 Chronicles 29:18.
The connection of this with the next clause has been variously understood. Michaelis gratuitously renders “enmity in consequence of pre-eminence in evil works.” Erasmus is as wide of the mark in his explanation- inimici, cui? menti, etenim qui carni servit, repugnat rationi. Bähr, relying on the usage of διανοεῖν being followed by ἐν , connects the two clauses very closely- operibus malis intenta, peccatorum studiosa. We incline to take the clauses as separate statements in order, the first as describing the seat of enmity, and the second as marking the sphere of its development. It is lodged in the mind, but it embodies itself in deeds; and those deeds are “wicked,” are in harmony with the source of activity. The apostle charges them not merely with spiritual and latent hostility to God, but with the manifestation of that hostility in open acts of unnatural rebellion. It is not a neutral alienation, but one characterized by positive enmity. The charge may be easily substantiated. No thoughts are more unwelcome to men, none less frequently in their mind, than God. Men may like an ideal God of their own creation, such an one as themselves have invested with a fictitious divinity, but the God of the gospel stirs up opposition; His holiness alarms them; and their heart is filled with prejudice against His scheme of salvation, because it so humbles the creature by pressing on him as a ruined and helpless sinner a gratuitous pardon which he could never win; and because, in urging him to the possession of holiness, it necessitates a total revolution in all his habits and desires. It is a melancholy indictment: antagonism to infinite purity and love: sins committed in violation of a law “holy, and just, and good.” It was true of the heathen world, and it is true generally of fallen humanity, that there is alienation, that such alienation creates enmity, and that this enmi ty proves its virulence and disloyalty in repeated transgressions. Some of the Fathers, such as Tertullian, Ambrose, and Jerome, following an unwarranted reading found in D 1 , E 1 , τῆς διανοίας αὐτοῦ , render-enemies to His, that is, God's mind.
Νυνὶ δὲ ἀποκατήλλαξεν . This reading of the verb has the high authority of A, C, D 111 , E, J, K, almost all the Versions, and many of the Fathers. Codex B has ἀποκατηλλάγητε , a form which Lachmann follows; while D 1 , F, G, and some of the Latin Fathers, have the participle ἀποκαταλλαγέντες . The peculiarity of construction has apparently given rise to these various lections, but the Textus Receptus is best supported. The order adopted by Lachmann gives us this connection “It pleased God that in Him should all fulness dwell, and that He should reconcile all things to Himself; and even you, once aliens and enemies (but ye are now reconciled), even you it pleased Him to present, holy and perfect, before Him.” The same parenthetical connection might be maintained by keeping the verb in the active. Or the first clause may form a pendant to the preceding verse “It pleased Him to reconcile all things to Himself, and you too, though ye were enemies in your mind by wicked works.” But these forms of construction are intricate and needless. We prefer beginning a new sentence with καὶ ὑμᾶς ποτέ , and then παραστῆσαι , in the following verse, becomes the infinitive of design. Nor do we perceive any grounds for changing the nominative, God being still the subject, as is the view of Zanchius, Bengel, Bähr, Boehmer, Huther, Meyer, against that of the Greek Fathers, with Beza, Calvin, Crocius, Estius, Heinrichs, and De Wette, which refers the nominative to Christ. The work of reconciliation is God's. Man does not win his way back to the Divine favour by either costly offering or profound penitence. God reunites him to Himself; has not only provided for such an alliance, but actually forms and cements it.
The apostle has dwelt at length on the dignity and majesty of Jesus, but without hesitation he speaks here of His incarnate state, for in Him there was a union of extremes, of God and man-of earth and heaven. Indeed, the incarnation, rightly understood, enhances the Redeemer's greatness. The spiritually sublime is truly seen in His condescension and death. So, he adds-
(Colossians 1:22.) ᾿Εν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ διὰ τοῦ θανάτου “In the body of His (Christ's) flesh through death.” Sir 23:16 . The clause has a remarkable distinctness. Reconciliation is effected in His body; that body is a genuine physical frame, for it is the body of His flesh; and there was an actual decease, as by His death peace was secured. They were reconciled in His body and by His death, a difference of relation being indicated by the prepositions ἐν and διά ; the latter pointing out the instrumental cause, and the former describing the inner sphere of uniting operation which preceded that death. Without that fleshly body there could have been no death, and the assumption of humanity brought Jesus into a fraternal relationship with all His people. The apostle thus cautions against a spurious spiritualism, which seems to have endangered the Colossian church-as if without an atonement man could be redeemed. Marcion, in his quotation of the verse, omitted the words τῆς σαρκός .
We need not say, with Bengel, Schrader, and Olshausen, that the apostle writes “the body of His flesh,” lest any one should imagine that He might mean His body, the church; nor need we suppose, with Beza, Huther, Böhmer, and Steiger, that there is an express polemical reference to Doketism, or the denial of a real humanity to our Lord, though the germs of such a heresy might be in existence. Jerome, in one of his letters to Pammachius, says of the apostle and the language of this verse - apostolus volens corpus Christi carneum et non spirituale, aëreum, tenue, demonstrare. There is no such emphasis in the phrase as Estius and Grotius find when they speak of such vast results flowing from so feeble an instrument, nor is there that contrast between the earthly and glorified body of Christ as is suggested by Flatt, Röell, and von Gerlach. The purpose of reconciliation is next described.
Παραστῆσαι ὑμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους καὶ ἀνεγκλήτους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ . “To present you holy and blameless, and unreproveable before Him.” This is the infinitive of design. Winer, § 44, 1; Matthiae, ii. p. 1234. [Ephesians 1:3.] The three adjectives express generally the same idea, but in different and consecutive aspects. [ ῾Αγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ , Ephesians 1:4.] There is no ground for the hypothesis of Bähr and Bengel, that the three epithets may be thus characterized-the first as having reference to God, the second to ourselves, and the third to our fellow-men. The first term refers to inner consecration, and the purity which it creates and fosters; the second shows the development of this purity in the life; and the third expresses the result, that heart and life are therefore alike unchallengeable, and that neither against the one nor the other can any charge be preferred. It cannot be alleged against the life that its holiness is but hypocrisy, since that has its root in the sanctified spirit; neither can the sanctity of the heart be arraigned as inoperative and dead, for it exhibits itself in actions of heavenly worth and resemblance. God presents them before Himself, not before Christ, as Meyer supposes, ἑαυτοῦ not being required. This we take to be the connection, though some connect the words κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ with the three epithets, as if it described their genuineness or reality. Such is the connection in Ephesians 1:4, but here the phrase seems most naturally connected with the verb-to present before Him. The allusion is to the ultimate consummation: to no period on earth, but to final acceptance before the throne-when the saint shall have come to maturity, and his spiritual development shall have been crowned and perfected. [Ephesians 5:27.] The question has been raised, whether the apostle refers, in this last clause, to the righteousness of justification, or the holiness of sanctification; to justitia imputata, as Huther supposes; or to justitia inhaerens, as Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Calvin maintain; or to both, as is held by Theodoret, Zanchius, Crocius, Calovius, De Wette, and Meyer. [Ephesians 1:4.] Besides that the terms employed by the apostle are inapplicable to justifying righteousness, it may be remarked that the reconciliation which the apostle represents as having already taken place is but another form of expressing the blessing of justification-pardon, and acceptance with God. This privilege was past, but the ultimate result which flows from it was still to come. Therefore, as this change of state is only a prelude to a change of character-as this justification is a step towards such an end, it follows that the holiness realized in that end is that of sanctification, the maturity of which is acknowledged in the presentation of the saint to God. 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
(Colossians 1:23.) Εἴ γε ἐπιμένετε τῇ πίστει τεθεμελιωμένοι καὶ ἑδραῖοι , καὶ μὴ μετακινούμενοι ἀπὸ τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ εὐαγγελίου οὗ ἠκούσατε “If ye continue in the faith, grounded and fast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye have heard.” The clause depends, not, as Bengel intimates, on ἀποκατήλλαξεν , but on the nearer verb παραστῆσαι . The attainment of spiritual perfection, and the honour of presentation to God, are dependent on the fact specified in this verse. Εἴγε does not imply doubt [Ephesians 3:2 ], and so far differs from εἴπερ , but there is no reason to render it, with Pierce, “because.” “If, as is the case, ye continue in the faith;” for τῇ πίστει is connected with ἐπιμένετε , as in Romans 6:1; Romans 11:23, 1 Timothy 4:16; whereas τεθεμελ . would require ἐπί , as in Matthew 7:25, or ἐν , as in Ephesians 3:18. Continuance in the faith is essential to salvation: loss of faith would be forfeiture of life. The blessings of Christianity are given without interruption only to continuous belief. And that perpetuity of faith was not to be a vibratory and superficial state. They were to remain in the faith, or saving belief of the truth, ἑδραῖοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι “grounded and settled.” [Ephesians 3:18.] 1Pe 5:10 ; 1 Corinthians 7:37; 1 Corinthians 15:58. The first epithet alludes to the cause, and the second to its effect, for what is founded becomes fixed: while the third clause depicts a general result- καὶ μὴ μετακινούμενοι , “and therefore not shaken away,” as the use of μή seems to indicate. The a dverb μή has such a connection of dependence, Kühner, § 708; Hartung, ii. pp. 113, 114; Winer, § 55, 1, a. If they were founded, they were fixed, and if both they could not be moved- ἀπὸ τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ εὐαγγελίου οὗ ἠκούσατε . [Ephesians 1:18.] See also verse fifth of this chapter. The hope is that blessed life revealed by the gospel as its distinctive prospect. That gospel is further characterized as “having been preached to every creature which is under heaven”-
Τοῦ κηρυχθέντος ἐν πάσῃ κτίσει τῇ ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν . The article τῇ before πάσῃ is probably to be expunged, on the authority of A, B, C, D 1 , F, G. The general meaning of this hyperbole will be found under Colossians 1:6. Thomas Aquinas was so hard pressed as to propose a future rendering- praedicabitur. Perhaps, as Meyer proposes, these words are a species of confirmation. Apostasy was all the more blameable, for they had heard the gospel-a gospel of no narrow diffusion and value-a gospel, also, which numbered among its adherents and preachers, the great name of Paul. There is thus a warning in these words of coming danger and seductive influence. It is an extraordinary reason which Anselm, after Gregory, proposes-that every creature must mean man, because man has something in common with every creature; existence with stones, living growth with trees, sense and motion with the lower animals, and reason and intellect with the angels.
Thus a life of faith is one of hope, and leads to glory. This belief has a conservative power; for it keeps in a justified state, and it secures augmenting holiness. While, therefore, the perseverance of the saints is a prominent doctrine of Scripture, and a perennial source of consolation, it is inconsistent with exhortations to permanence of faith, and not warnings of the sad results of deviation and apostasy. He who stops short in the race, and does not reach the goal, cannot obtain the prize. He who abandons the refuge into which he fled for a season, is swept away when the hurricane breaks upon him. The loss of faith is the knell of hope. “There is a way to hell even from the gate of heaven.” As Tertullian says: “While the straws of light faith fly away, the mass of corn is laid up the purer in the garden of God.” For man is not acted on mechanically by the grace of God, but his whole spiritual nature is excited to earnest prayer and anxious effort. Its continuance in the faith is not the unconscious impress of an irresistible law, but the result of a diligent use of every means by which belief may be fostered and deepened. The fact that God keeps believers makes them, therefore, distrustful of themselves and dependent upon Him. And the confidence of success inspirits them. “Many a man, from having been persuaded that he is destined to attain some great object, instead of being lulled into carelessness by this belief, has been excited to the most laborious and unwearied efforts, such as perhaps, otherwise, he would not have thought of making for the attainment of his object.” Thus, as rational beings are wrought upon by motives, so warnings and appeals are addressed to them, and these appliances form a special feature of God's plan of preserving them. The apostle thus shows them how much is suspended on their perseverance.
Οὗ ἐγενόμην ἐγὼ Παῦλος διάκονος “Of which I Paul was constituted a minister.” [Ephesians 3:7.] The apostle reverts to his solemn inauguration, his past course of active service, and the authority under which he had acted. This brief and distinct intimation forms a special introduction to the second section of the epistle, and the warning against seduction by false teachers.
(Colossians 1:24.) Νῦν χαίρω ἐν τοῖς παθήμασιν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you.” The MSS. D 1 , E 1 , F, G, with the Vulgate, and many of the Latin Fathers, prefix ὅς . The reading probably arose from a homoioteleuton or repetition of the last syllable of the previous word- διάκον ος ὅς . Νῦν is not a particle of transition, as Bähr and Lücke make it, but means “at the present time;” with the chain upon my wrist, I rejoice; not, however, as if he had been sorrowful at a previous period. The apostle felt that his sufferings had their source in his diaconate, and therefore he gloried in them. The simple dative, or a participial nominative, is more frequently used to express the cause of joy; the preposition ἐπί sometimes employed, and occasionally ἐν , as in Philippians 1:18, Luke 10:20, and in the clause before us. To rejoice in them is not very different from to rejoice over, or upon, or for them, only, that in the latter case, the afflictions are regarded as external causes of joy, whereas, in the former case, the writer represents himself as immersed in them, and rejoicing in them. The Stephanic Text adds μου after παθήμασιν , but on no great authority. The words ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν , which we connect with ἐν παθ . and not with χαίρω , have been variously interpreted. They cannot mean “in your stead,” though Steiger adopts such a view; and yet in some sense Paul might be regarded as the representative of the churches in heathendom. Nor can the words mean, on the other hand, merely “for your good,” as Meyer, De Wette, and Huther suppose; or as OEcumenius gives it, ἵνα ὑμᾶς ὠφελῆσαι δυνηθῶ , for this was an ultimate effect, and not the immediate cause of the apostle's sufferings. We prefer, with Heinri chs and Stolz, the ordinary sense of “on your account,” as we may suppose the apostle to refer especially to the Gentile portion of the church. His preaching to the Gentiles was the real and proximate cause of his incarceration. He had, in Jerusalem, declared his mission to the Gentiles, but the mob broke upon him in fury. He was confined for safety, and having on his trial appealed to Caesar, he was carried to Rome, and pending the investigation kept a prisoner there. Paul does sometimes refer to the good results of his sufferings, as in Philippians 1:12, but he here alludes to the cause of them.
Καὶ ἀνταναπληρῶ τὰ ὑστερήματα τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Χριστοῦ “And fill up what is wanting of the afflictions of Christ.” Καί is simply connective, not ἀλλά , as Bengel imagines; nor καὶ γάρ , as Bähr explains it. It does not render a reason, as Calvin supposes, but simply begins an explanatory statement. This is peculiar language, and its peculiarity has given rise to many forms of exegesis. Chrysostom says: “It appears a great thing which he utters, but not one of arrogance”- ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἀπονοίας . The noun ὑστέρημα denotes what is yet lacking, 1 Corinthians 16:17, 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Philippians 2:30; and is rendered by Theodoret λειπόμενον ; and θλῖψις is pressure from evil, violent suffering. The general sense of the verb is to fill up; and the question is, in what sense did the apostle fill up what was wanting of the sufferings of Christ?
1. Many of the mediaeval Catholic interpreters understood the clause as referring to the atonement, and that its defects may be supplied by the sufferings of the saints. This was a proof-text for the doctrine of indulgences which Bellarmine, Cajetan, Salmeron, Suarez, the Rhemish annotators, and others, laid hold of, as if the merits of Paul's sufferings supplemented those of Christ, and were to be dispensed so as to procure the remission of penalty. This inference, which a-Lapide characterizes as non male, is in direct antagonism to the whole tenor of Scripture, which represents the sacrifice of Jesus as perfect in obedience and suffering, so perfect as to need neither supplement nor repetition.
2. Not a few get rid of the difficulty by giving the genitive Χριστοῦ an unwonted and unwarrantable meaning, and rendering the phrase “sufferings on account of Christ.” The idea may be in itself a correct one, but it is not the shade of idea which the genitive expresses. This exegesis is supported by Tertullian, Schoettgen, Elsner, Storr, Pierce, Rosenmüller, Flatt, Böhmer, Burton, and Trollope, but it cannot be grammatically defended.
3. Calovius, Carpzovius, and Seb. Schmid, understand the phrase as signifying “sufferings meted out to His people by Christ;” a meaning not very different from that adopted by Lücke- afflictiones, quae Paulo apostolo, Christo auctore et auspice Christo, perferendae erant. This mode of explanation does not fix upon the pointed meaning of the genitive, which, when following θλῖψις , denotes the suffering person; Eph 3:13 ; 2 Corinthians 1:4; James 1:27.
4. Yet more remote is the view of Photius, adopted by Junker and Heinrichs, that the clause denotes such sufferings as Christ would have endured, had He remained longer on the earth. The words of Photius are- ἀλλ᾿ ὅσα . . . ἔπαθεν ἂν καὶ ὑπέστη , καθ᾿ ὃν τρόπον καὶ πρὶν κηρύσσων καὶ εὐαγγελιζόμενος τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν .
5. Some able and accomplished scholars take this view-that the sufferings of Paul are styled by him the afflictions of Christ, because they were similar in nature. Such is the view of Theodoret, Meyer, Schleiermacher, Huther, and Winer. Fergusson says “the great wave of affliction did first beat on Him, and being thereby broken, some small sparks of it only do light upon us.” The idea is a striking one, yet it is not universally true. The distinctive element in Christ's sufferings had and could have no parallel in those of the apostle-to wit, vicarious agony: Divine infliction and desertion-endurance of penalty to free others from bearing it. There were general points of similarity, indeed, between the sufferings of Christ and those of the apostle, so that he might, though at an awful distance, compare his afflictions to those of his Divine Master. Both suffered at the hand of man, and both suffered in innocence. Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 4:13. But though such a thought may occur in other parts of Scripture, it does not occur in connection with such phraseology as is found in the clause before us. An apostle may say that he endures afflictions like those of Christ; but here Paul says that he supplements the afflictions of Christ. There is an idea in the phrase above and beyond that of mere similarity. Similarity is not of itself supplement, nor does it of necessity imply it.
And thus, in the last place, we are brought to the common interpretation-that these sufferings are named the afflictions of Christ because He really endured them; they were His, for He really felt them. The genitive is naturally that of possession. Such is the view of Chrysostom and Theophylact, Augustine and Anselm, of Calvin and Beza, Luther and Melancthon, Zanchius and Grotius, Vitringa and Michaelis, of Bähr and Steiger, of the Catholics Estius and a-Lapide, Davenant, Whitby, Conybeare, Doddridge, De Wette and Olshausen. Thus, Augustine on Psalms 61:0 exclaims of Christ- qui passus est in capite nostro et patitur in membris suis, id est nobis ipsis. And Leo, quoted by Böhmer, says- passio Christi perducitur ad finem mundi, in omnibus qui pro justitia adversa tolerant, ipse compatitur. Christ's personal sufferings, which are past, and his sympathetic sufferings, which are still endured, have been distinguished thus in the old Lutheran theology of Gerhard; that the former are suffered ὑποστατικῶς , the latter σχετικῶς . The Rabbins, in their special dialect, attached a similar meaning to the phrase חבלימשׁיח -sufferings of Messiah-distributing them through various generations. The church is in the next clause called the body of Christ: and the Head suffers in all His members. The apostle's sufferings were those of Christ, for Christ is identified with all His people. The scene of the apostle's conversion impressed this truth upon his mind too deeply ever to be forgotten by him: the startling challenge yet rang in his ear “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” The Redeemer was one with the poor flock at Damascus, so soon, in Saul's imagination, to be “scattered and peeled;” for the errand of blood was directed against Him as really as agains t them. On the other hand, but in accordance with this truth, apostates who resile from their profession, and virtually proclaim that they have discovered faith in Christ to be a dream and a delusion, are said to “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” Again, in 2 Corinthians 1:5, the apostle says “The sufferings of Christ abound in us,” that is, sufferings endured by Christ in us; and therefore, such being the sympathetic affinity between us, our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. Again, in Hebrews 13:13, Christians are exhorted to “go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach;” not reproach on His account, but the reproach which is His, and which He still bears in us, through our living connection with Him. 2 Corinthians 2:10. Nay, more, we are informed in Hebrews 11:26, that Moses esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” Now, according to the Old Testament, the God of the theocracy, the Jehovah of the burning bush, the Angel of the covenant, is none other than He who became incarnate; so that, while Moses, as His representative, incurred special and ungrateful obloquy, that obloquy is termed the reproach of Christ, of Him who sent him, and who was personated by him. And there is ample foundation laid for the language before us in our Lord's pathetic and solemn discourse, recorded in Mathew, in which He declares His oneness with His people, that He lives in them, endures in them the pangs of hunger and thirst, and in them is fed and refreshed, is shut up when they are imprisoned, and welcomes the step of benevolence-is conscious, with them, when they are in a foreign land, of the desolation and solitude of a stranger, and is thankful for the shelter and fellowship of hospitality-feels the shame of their nakedness when they are bereft of clothing, and accepts with joy the proffered gift of a compassionate friend-suffers in them in their sickness, and enjoys a kind look and deed.
The personal sufferings of Jesus are over, but His sufferings in His people still continue. They are still defective; for much remains to be endured in this world. The apostle, in suffering for the sake of the church, felt that he was filling up the measure of those afflictions.
The double compound verb ἀνταναπληρῶ denotes “to fill up in relation to.” Some, like Olshausen and Elsner, lay no peculiar stress on the preposition; but we cannot suppose it to be used without some special purpose. The verb ἀναπληρῶ has a simple sense, but ἀνταναπληρῶ has a relative one. What the relation is, has been disputed. Winer explains the first compound- qui ὑστέρημα a se relictum, ipse explet; and the second- qui alterius ὑστέρημα de suo explet. Robinson and Schrader give ἀντί a reference to the Colossians-who “in your room fill up;” while Fritzsche, in a note under Romans 15:19, suggests the notion of accumulation- in malis perferendis aemulans. Some give the first preposition the sense of vicissim “in turn,” as is done by E. Schmid, Beza, Macknight, and Le Clerc, who render- ille ego qui olim ecclesiam Christi vexaveram, nunc vicissim in ejus utilitatem pergo multa mala perpeti. Others, as OEcumenius, give it the sense of equivalent repayment for the sufferings which Jesus endured for us; or, as Gerhard has it, quoted in Bähr “as Christ suffered for my redemption, it is but fitting that I should, in my turn, vicissim, suffer for the advancement of His glory.” This view is also held by Bähr, Böhmer, and Tittmann. We cannot adopt this view, for we do not see it fully sustained by the passages adduced in support of it. The passages from Dio Cassius, Apollonius Alexandrinus, and Demosthenes, do not bear it out; for in them the ἀντί of the verb may bear an objective sense-may denote the correspondence between the supplement and the defect. So Conybeare, in the passage before us “the ἀντί is introduced into ἀνταναπληρῶ , by the antithesis between the notions of πληροῦσθαι and ὑστερεῖσθαι .” Meyer's view is similar, and it is, we believe, the correct one. The verb denotes to fill up with something which meets the exigence, or is equivalent to the want. The apostle filled up the sufferings of Christ not with some foreign agony that had no relation to the defect; but the process of supplement consisted of sufferings which met the deficiency, in quality and amount. It was not a piece of new cloth on an old garment, or new wine in old bottles-an antagonism which would have happened had Paul suffered “as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer, or as a busybody in other men's matters;” but the apostle filled up what was yet wanting in the Saviour's sympathetic sorrows, for he adds, they were endured-
᾿Εν τῇ σαρκί μου ὑπὲρ τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ “In my flesh for his body's sake.” Storr, Bähr, Böhmer, Steiger, and Huther, connect the first clause with τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Χ .-sufferings which are in my flesh. But more naturally, with Meyer and De Wette, we join the words to the verb, and believe them to represent the mode or circumstances in which the apostle filled up what was left of the afflictions of Christ. It was in his present fleshly state, and as a suffering man. 2 Corinthians 4:11; Galatians 4:14. The next clause points out the cause of suffering “for his body's sake;” and this fact gave his sufferings their mysterious and supplemental value. Suffering for His body, implies the fellow-suffering of the Head. Steiger and Lücke's connection “sufferings of Christ for His body's sake”-is wholly against the spirit of the interpretation. [ Τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ ὅ ἐστιν ἡ ἐκκλησία . Ephesians 1:23.]
(Colossians 1:25.) ῟Ης ἐγενὅμην ἐγὼ διάκονος “Of which church I was made a minister.” [ Διάκονος , Ephesians 3:7.] In the passage in the Epistle to the Ephesians, the apostle speaks of his diaconate in reference to the gospel; but here in connection with the church. And truly the church never had such a servant as Paul - of such industry and heroism - such enthusiasm and perseverance-such sufferings and travels-such opposition and success. He had no leisure even when in chains. The artistic beauties of Athens served but to give point to his orations; and the Praetorium at Rome furnished him with occasion to describe the armour and weapons of the sacramental host of God's elect. His service stands out in superlative eminence, whether you measure it by the miles he journeyed, by the sermons he preached, by the stripes and stonings he endured, by the privations he encountered, “in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness,” and by the shipwrecks he suffered, or by the souls he converted, the churches he planted or watered, the epistles he wrote, and the death which crowned a life of such earnestness and triumph.
Κατὰ τὴν οἰκονομίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ , τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι εἰς ὑμᾶς “According to the dispensation of God committed to me for you.” [ Οἰκονομία , etc., Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:2.] In the Divine arrangement of the spiritual house, the apostle held a function which had special reference to the members of the Gentile churches. Paul regarded this as his distinctive office, and how he gloried in it! It had a breadth which suited his mighty mind, and it necessitated the preaching of an unconditioned gospel, which specially delighted his ample heart. He would not be confined within the narrow circuit of Judaism; the field on which his soul set itself was the world.
Πληρῶσαι τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ - “To fulfil the word of God.” Romans 15:19. The meaning is not altered, whether you connect these words with the first or second clause of the verse, either “of which I was made a servant, to fulfil the word of God,” or “according to the dispensation given in charge to me, to fulfil the word of God.” The last is the more natural, and is in accordance with the usual style of the apostle. In either case πληρῶσαι is the infinitive of design. The verb has various meanings in the New Testament, and has therefore been variously understood here.
Vitringa, as was natural to such a Hebraist, seeks the meaning of the term from Jewish usage, and compares πληρόω to גָּמַר , H1698, which signified to teach. Flatt and Bähr follow him in their exegesis; but such a method has no warrant, and we are not forced to it by the impossibility of discovering another. Cornelius a-Lapide ekes out a meaning in this way-to fulfil what Christ began; Steiger, following Tholuck, adopts the subjective idea - to realize and experience its fulness. One class of interpreters, represented by Calixtus and Heinrichs, apply it to the fulfilment of the Divine promises and prophecies of the admission of Gentiles into the church; and another class, headed by Theodoret, regard the clause as pointing out the diffusion of the gospel-the filling of all places with its preaching. Calvin takes the special idea of fulfilling or giving effect to the gospel - ut efficax sit Dei sermo, virtually the interpretation of some of the Greek Fathers; while Luther renders reichlich predigen, to preach fully-a notion adopted by Olshausen, that is, to declare the gospel in all its fulness and extent. Fritzsche has a conjecture of his own-that the apostle uses this term as if his instructions were a supplementary continuation of those of their teacher Epaphras; and De Wette, by a metonymy, regards the gospel as a service or decree which Paul wrought out, a notion also held by some of the Lexicographers. In assigning a meaning to the verb, much depends on the signification given to the noun. Now, we regard the following verse as explanatory-the λόγος being the mystery hid from ages and generations-not the gospel in itself, but that gospel in its adaptation to the Gentiles, and its reception by them. The a postle says of himself that he did not preach, but that he fulfilled the gospel. He carried out its design-held it up as the balm of the world-proclaimed it without distinction of blood or race. He did not narrow its purpose, or confine it to a limited sphere of influence; but, as the apostle of the Gentiles, he opened for it a sweep and circuit adapted to its magnificence of aim, and its universality of fitness and sufficiency. He carried it beyond the frontiers of Judaea, lifted it above the walls of the synagogue, and held it up to the nations. The gospel, since the apostle's time, has received no fuller expansion, nor have any wider susceptibilities been detected or developed in it. As an instrument of human regeneration, he brought it to perfection. Whether you regard the purpose of its author, its own genius or adequacy, its unlimited offers, indiscriminate invitations, and tested efficacy; the apostle, in preaching it everywhere, and to all classes without reserve, laboured “to fulfil the word of God.” Luke 7:1; Luke 9:31; Acts 13:25; Acts 14:26.
(Colossians 1:26.) Τὸ μυστήριον τὸ ἀποκεκρυμμένον ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν γενεῶν , νυνὶ δὲ ἐφανερώθη τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ . This verse, as we have said, defines what is meant by the “word” which Paul fulfilled. The meaning of “the mystery hid from ages and from generations,” has been explained under Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:6. [ μυστήριον , Ephesians 1:9, αἰών , γενεά , Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 3:21.] Αἰών is age or lifetime, and γενεά is the space of one generation. In all past time, this mystery was concealed. The apostle does not say, as has been remarked- πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων , as if the mystery had been hidden from eternity; but only that it was wrapt in obscurity during the entire past historical epoch. It is a strange conceit of Bengel- Aeones referuntur ad angelos, generationes ad homines. The mystery is not the gospel generally, as Calvin and Davenant erroneously suppose; but the preaching of it to the Gentiles, and their incorporation into the church, or, as the apostle here describes it “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Nay, so little was it understood, that it required a special revelation to make it known to the reluctant mind of the Apostle Peter.
In the next clause the syntax is changed, and therefore, as might naturally be expected, we find various readings devised to amend the grammar, such as φανερωθέν in D and E, and ὃ νῦν ἐφανερώθη in other Codices. The participial construction is suddenly departed from, and the verb is employed. The anacoluthon gives a sharpness to the contrast. Winer, § 64; Bernhardy, p. 473. [Ephesians 1:20.] The adverb νυνί , supported by A, D, E, J, K, is the strengthened form of νῦν , Buttmann, § 80; and δέ points out the contrast. The verb employed to denote the disclosure of a mystery is ἀποκαλύπτω in Ephesians 3:5; but this verb occurs in a similar connection, Romans 16:26; Titus 1:3; Mark 4:22. The word denotes manifestation by Divine power, as the inspired history so plainly relates. But what is meant by τοῖς ἁγίοις ? Because the apostle, in the parallel passage in the Epistle to the Ephesians, adds ἀποστόλοις καὶ προφήταις , many think that the same addition is to be understood here. Such is the view of Theodoret, Estius, Bähr, Böhmer, Steiger, Olshausen, and others. F, G, add, without warrant, ἀποστόλοις to the text. There is no reason to depart from the meaning which the epithet bears in the first verse of the epistle; and so Chrysostom, Calvin, Meyer, and De Wette rightly take it.
(Colossians 1:27.) Οἷς ἠθέλησεν ὁ Θεὸς γνωρίσαι , τίς ὁ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης τοῦ μυστηρίου τούτου ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν “To whom,” or, as being persons, “to whom God wished to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.” Some suppose that γνωρίσαι has a broader and more definite meaning than ἐφανερώθη , though without good foundation. [ γνωρίσαι , Ephesians 1:9.] It is wrong on the part of many expositors to press a theological meaning upon the verb ἠθέλησεν , as if it contained a special reference to free grace. It merely intimates that the Divine intention was not necessitated, and that it was God's pleasure to instruct His people in the full bearings and adaptation of the gospel. The saints did not discover the mystery: the development of Christianity sprang neither from their philanthropy nor their ingenuity, but it was God who unfolded the mystery in all wisdom and prudence. The apostle now illustrates the character of the disclosure- τί τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης (for such seems to be the preferable reading) “what is the wealth of the glory” of this mystery. There is no ground for resolving the phrase into a Hebraism, and rendering it with Chrysostom, πολλὴ δόξα ; nor with Erasmus, gloriosa opulentia; or with Beza and Davenant, gloriosae divitiae. [Ephesians 1:6.] Both terms, πλοῦτος and δόξα , are favourites of the apostle, and are employed to represent what is bright, substantial, and permanent. That mystery is enveloped in glory, and that glory has at once a solid basis and an unfading lustre. It is no halo which glimmers and disappears-no gilding which is easily effaced; but it is rich, having the weight, value, and brilliancy of gold. There is no authority for rendering, with Vatablus and Heinrichs, the interrogative by quantus. And tha t such wealth of glory may be appreciated, the apostle adds, in explanation-
῞Ος ἐστιν Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν , ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς δόξης “Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” There are various readings-the neuter ὅ being found in A, B, F, G, the Vulgate, and Latin Fathers-a reading suggested by the gender of the preceding noun. The masculine is preferable - the gender being caused by that of the following substantive Χριστός . Winer, § 24; Kühner, § 786, 3; Mark 15:16; Galatians 3:16. The meaning depends very much on precision of view as to the antecedent. It is not μυστήριον , as Chrysostom, a-Lapide, Kistmacher, Junker, and others suppose-a supposition which yields but a bald interpretation; for it is not the mystery in itself, but the wealth of the glory of the mystery which God had disclosed to the saints. It is not the fact that Christ was among the Gentiles, but the character and relations of that fact that the apostle dwells on. Nor is the antecedent merely πλοῦτος , as many maintain, among whom are Theodoret and OEcumenius, Meyer and Böhmer; nor simply δόξα , as Schmid holds; for the reference is not to the riches of the glory by themselves, but to those riches possessed and enjoyed by the Gentile converts. The one idea is at the same time involved in the other; the glory is not an abstraction, for it resides in the mystery, and the mystery cannot appear in nakedness, for it always exhibits this pure and imperishable lustre. The antecedent is rather the complex idea of the entire clause-not Christ in Himself, but in His novel and gracious relation to the Gentile world, as a developed and illustrious mystery. The term Christ is not to be explained away, as if it merely meant the doctrine of Christ, as is proved by the subsequent clause “whom we preach.” The words ἐν ὑμῖν are rendered by many “among you,” that is, in the midst of you, as in the preceding clause an d in the margin of our English Bibles. But the meaning “in you” is virtually implied; for Christ, as the hope of glory, was not contemplated merely, but possessed. He was not merely before them to be beheld, but in them to be felt. Pierce and Macknight render, loosely and incorrectly-Christ to you the hope of glory. This frequent allusion to the Redeemer by name-to His power and work, as the Divine source of blessing, seems to have had a reference to the views of some among the Colossians, who would have had a church without a Christ and salvation without a Saviour.
The clause ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς δόξης is in apposition with Χριστός . It is out of all rule, on the part of Erasmus, Menochius, and others, apparently following Theophylact, to render τῆς δόξης by the adjective ἔνδοξος . Nor is this glory simply that of God, nor is it the moral worth and dignity of Christians, nor yet the glory obtained in disclosing the mystery. The “glory” is the future blessedness of believers, as in Romans 2:7; Romans 2:10; Rom 8:18 ; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Hebrews 2:10; Romans 5:2. The noun ἐλπίς is not hope as an emotion, but the foundation of it, as in 1 Timothy 1:1, and it is followed by the genitive of the thing hoped for, or the object of hope. The clause is well explained by Theophylact- διότι δἰ αὐτοῦ ἐλπίζομεν τῆς δόξης τυχεῖν αἰωνίου . The life of glory rests on Christ as its author and basis-such is the blessed statement of the apostle. Let us pause for a moment over this glory, and its connection with Christ, and then we shall be able to know with the saints “what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.”
The glory of Christians is yet to come, but it is certain. What they so earnestly pray for, and so heartily long and labour for, shall be revealed over and beyond their anticipations. Deliverance from all evil is followed by introduction into all good. What is partially and progressively enjoyed in time, is fully and for ever possessed in heaven. The spirit in its present feebleness would bow and faint beneath the pressure of it, nay, it might die in delirious agony; but then it shall have power and stateliness not only to bear, but to enjoy the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Now, no man can see Him and live-our frail humanity would be consumed by the terrible vision; but the saint is prepared to gaze with unmingled rapture on His majesty, and to live, walk, and be happy in its lustre. The mind shall be filled with light from the face of God, and the heart shall pulsate with love in eternal and undivided empire. The image of God, in all its loveliness and brilliance, shall be restored to every heart, and that heart shall enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with Him who sits upon the throne. Nothing can happen to mar or modify this communion; for though an angel were to pass between him and the throne, he could cast no shadow upon the rapt and adoring saint. Every man shall be as perfect as Christ-in soul, body, and spirit, and beyond the possibility of forfeit or relapse. The burden of sin is removed, and to the sense of oppression there shall succeed the consciousness of spiritual buoyancy and elevation; the taint of depravity is wiped away, and the joy of salvation shall mingle its aromatic fragrance with the “new wine” in the kingdom of our Father. The body, too, shall be raised an ethereal vehicle, no longer the prey of disease, languor, and death, but clothed in immortal youth and vigour, and so assimilated to the blessed spirit within it, as neither to cramp its movements nor confine its energies. N o pain there-no throbbing brow there-no tear on the cheek there-no sepulchre there-no symbol of mourning there-no spectacle like the apparition of Rachel weeping for her children-or like the widow of Nain following the bier of a lost and loved one. “Death is swallowed up of life”-the graves have been opened-they that dwell in the dust have awakened to endless minstrelsy. Nor do they dwell in a paradise restored amidst the lovely bowers, shady groves, and exuberant fruits of a second Eden. Such glory is too bright for earth, and is therefore to be enjoyed in a scene which shall be in harmony with it. See under Colossians 1:12.
Now, Christ is the hope of this glory. Glory had been forfeited, but Jesus interposed for its restoration. When the Saviour is received by faith, the hope of glory springs up in the bosom-a hope as strange aforetime to it as the pine and the box-tree in the desert. Christians are by nature sinners doomed to die, yet, through Christ, they exult in the promise of life. Though, in their physical frame, they are of the earth earthy, their treasure is in heaven. They can look on the Divine Judge, who must, but for Christ, have condemned them, and call him, in Jesus, their Father-God; and they can gaze on the home of angels, so far above them, and say of it, in confidence-that, too, is our home. The basis of this life is Jesus. If it be asked, why have his sins not borne down the evil-doer, and crushed him beneath the intolerable load? why has the lightning slumbered beneath the throne, and not swiftly descended on his head? why are the angry passions within him hushed, and his gloomy thoughts dissipated? whence such a change in relation and character?-the problem is solved by the statement “Christ within you.” This hope rests on His objective work-for “it was Christ that died.” Who shall reverse the sentence of our justification, or pronounce it inconsistent with sovereign equity? And who shall condemn us? Shall sin raise its head?-He has made an end of it. Shall Satan accuse?-he has been cast out. Shall conscience alarm?-it has been purged from dead works. Or shall death frown horribly on us?-even it has been abolished. The basis of this hope of glory is also the subjective work of Christ-by His Spirit within the saint. Not only has he the title to heaven, but he gets maturity for it. The process of sanctification begets at once the idea and the hope of perfection. If one sees the block of marble assuming gradually, under the chisel, the semblance of humanity, he infers at once what form of sculptur e the artist intends. So, if there be felt within us the transforming influence of the Holy Ghost, bringing out the Divine image with more and more fulness and distinctness, can we doubt the ultimate result? Romans 15:13. Such consciousness inspires vivid expectation. In short, in whatever aspect the saints view their hope, they see it in connection with Christ. If they look behind them, the earliest dawning of it sprang from faith in His cross; if they look around them, it is sustained by the promises of Him who sealed these pledges in His blood; if they look forward and upward, it is strengthened by the nearing proximity of realization in Him who is “in the midst of the throne.” What a blessed change to the Gentile world! They had been described as once “without Christ,” but now Christ was in them; once they had no hope, but now, they had in them Him who was the hope of glory. No wonder that the apostle rejoiced in suffering for the Gentile churches, and thanked God for that arrangement which enabled him to carry out the gospel to its widest susceptibility of application, and thus develop a doctrine which had been concealed for ages. Is his language too gorgeous, when, surveying the wondrous process and the stupendous results, he speaks of the “riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles-Christ in you, the hope of glory”? And that glory is not to be under eclipse-that Saviour is not to be selfishly concealed. No; the apostle adds, as characteristic of his grand commission and daily labour-
(Colossians 1:28.) ῝Ον ἡμεῖς καταγγέλλομεν “Whom we preach.” Acts 17:3; Philippians 1:17. Chrysostom and Theophylact lay undue stress on the κατά , as if the idea of down- deorsum, were implied in the verb, and the inference were, that they delivered a message which had descended from heaven. This Christ, so glorious in person and perfect in work-the incarnate God-the bleeding peacemaker-the imperial governor of the universe-it is He, none else, and none besides Him, whom we preach. Not simply His doctrine, but Himself; and He was preached, not by Paul alone, but by all his colleagues. This Christ is the one and undivided object of proclamation; and if He be the hope of glory, no wonder that they rejoice to proclaim Him wide and far, and on every possible occasion. The apostolic preaching was precise and definite. It contained no reveries about the heavenly hierarchy. It was overlaid by no tasteless and tawdry declamation about invisible and worthless mysteries. It dealt not in ascetic distinctions of meats and drinks. There was about it none of those abstruse transcendentalisms in which the Colossian heresiarchs seem to have indulged. It did not gratify the morbid and curious, by prying into celestial arcana. It did not nourish a carnal pride under the delusion of a “voluntary humility.” Nor did it dethrone a Saviour-God, and substitute the worshipping of angels for the faith, love, and homage due to Him. The one theme was Christ “Him first, Him last, Him midst.” Christ, as the one deliverer, conferring pardon by His blood, purity by His Spirit, and perfection by His pledge and presence, securing defence by His power, comfort by His sympathy, and the hope of glory by His residence in the believing heart; this Christ, as the only source of such multifarious and connected gifts, we preach, and we preach with special tenderness and anxiety. For he characterizes his preac hing thus-
Νουθετοῦντες πάντα ἄνθρωπον , καὶ διδάσκοντες πάντα ἄνθρωπον ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ “Reminding every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom.” Colossians 3:16. The two participles, as might be expected, have been variously distinguished. [ Νουθεσία , Ephesians 6:4.] There is no warrant in the context for translating this first term by the Latin corripientes -as in the Vulgate; as if the apostle meant to say, either that men in sin needed to be rebuked, or that false teachers were subjected by himself to severe and merited castigation. Theophylact, followed by De Wette and Olshausen, refers the first term to practice- ἐπὶ τῆς πράξεως , and the second to doctrine- ἐπὶ δογμάτων . According to Steiger, the one marks the early communication of Christian truth, and the latter characterizes fuller instruction. By Huther the heart is supposed to be concerned in νουθετοῦντες , and the intellect in διδάσκοντες . Meyer affirms that the two words correspond to the cardinal injunction of the gospel- μετανοεῖτε and πιστεύετε -repent and believe. We are inclined to be somewhat eclectic among these opinions, and to regard the first term as the more general, and the second as the more special-the one as describing the means employed to arouse the soul and stimulate it to reflection, and the other as the definite form of instruction which was communicated to the anxious and inquiring spirit. The apostle warned every man-any one, every one,-urged him as a sinner to bethink himself, to consider his danger, as the victim of a broken law-and apprehending the certainty of sa fety alone in Christ, to look at the adaptation of the gospel and the glory of its evidence, and to submit to its paramount claims. And he taught “every man”-gave him full instruction-left him in no dubiety, but presented him with a correct and glowing sketch of redemption by the cross. And this was done-
᾿Εν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ “In all wisdom.” Estius and Rosenmüller, Pierce and A. Clarke, following the Latin Fathers, blunder when they take these words to denote the object of the teaching; for in the New Testament that object is governed in the accusative. Mark 6:30; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21; John 14:26; 1 Timothy 4:11; Titus 1:11. Röell combines both this view and the following one. Chrysostom rightly renders ἐν by μετά . See the phrase explained under Ephesians 1:8. It is probably to be joined to the latter or principal participle, and points out the mode or spirit of the apostle's teaching. 1 Corinthians 3:10. The apostle rejects, indeed, one species of wisdom-that which so often assumed the selfsatisfied name of philosophy; but still he felt the necessity of employing the highest skill and prudence in discharging the duties of his office. 1 Corinthians 2:4. To preach the gospel so as to guide the wandering sinner to Christ-to drive him from all refuges of lies, and urge him to embrace a free and full salvation-to enlighten, comfort, strengthen, and refresh the children of God, is seen to be a task demanding consummate wisdom, when we consider the endless varieties of character and temperament, the innumerable sophistries of the human heart, and the ever-changing condition and events of our brief existence. Yet, while Christ crucified is the theme of every address, such uniformity of doctrine does not imply sameness of argument or tedious monotony of imagery and illustration. There may be, and there will be, in this wisdom, circumstantial variety in the midst of essential oneness-for the truth, though old, is ever new.
And the apostle dwells on the individualizing character of the gospel, and repeats the words “every man.” There is in this probably a special reference to the partial views of those who were disturbing the Colossian church. The apostle felt an undying interest in every man, whatever his character or creed-every man, whatever his race or lineage-every man, whatever his colour or language-every man, whatever his class or station; every living man on earth shared in his sympathies, had a place in his prayers, and, so far as the sphere of his personal teaching extended, might receive the impress of his counsels, and the benefit of his instructions. The motive of his effort is then described-
῞Ινα παραστήσωμεν πάντα ἄνθρωπον τέλειον ἐν Χριστῷ “In order that we may present every man perfect in Christ.” A glorious aim- ἵνα -the noblest that can stimulate enthusiasm, or sustain perseverance in suffering or toil. The ᾿Ιησοῦ of the Textus Receptus is not supported by full authority. The phrase “perfect in Christ” does not simply mean perfect in knowledge, because of this previous teaching, as Chrysostom and Calvin supposed; for the effect of such knowledge is moral in its nature, and sanctifying in its effect. John 17:3. Such perfection is “in Christ,” in fellowship with Him, is derived from Him, and consists in likeness to Him. The verb occurs in Colossians 1:22, and in a clause of similar import. The time of presentation is described under Ephesians 5:27. The object of his preaching was to save every man. He was contented with nothing less than this, and nothing else than this was his absorbing motive. Not that every man was perfected whom he had endeavoured to instruct, but such was his avowed object. Theophylact thus writes- τί λέγεις… πάντα ἄνθρωπον… ναί , φησι , τοῦτο σπουδάζομεν· εἰ δὲ μὴ γένηται , οὐδὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς . Clement of Alexandria takes πάντα in the sense of ὅλον -the man entire-soul, body, and spirit. And the gaining of that object cost the apostle no small pains and labour, for he adds-
(Colossians 1:29.) Εἰς ὃ καὶ κοπιῶ “For which I also labour.” To attain this blessed end, I also toil - ἀγωνιζόμενος - “intensely struggling,” or as Wycliffe renders- I traueile in stryuynge. It was no light work, no pastime; it made a demand upon every faculty and every moment. 1 Timothy 4:10. Since the apostle had many adversaries to contend with, as is evident from numerous allusions in his epistles, Philippians 1:29-30, 1Ti 6:5 , 2 Thessalonians 3:2, many suppose that such struggles are either prominently alluded to here, or at least are distinctly implied in the use of the participle. But the context does not favour such a hypothesis. It would seem from the following verses, that it is to an agony of spiritual earnestness that the apostle refers-to that profound yearning which occasioned so many wrestlings in prayer, and drew from him so many tears; μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς σπουδῆς , as Chrysostom paraphrases it. When we reflect upon the motive-the presentation of perfect men to God, and upon the instrument-the preaching of the cross, we cease to wonder at the apostle's zeal and toils. For there is no function so momentous,-not that which studies the constitution of man, in order to ascertain his diseases and remove them; nor that which labours for social improvement, and the promotion of science and civilization; nor that which unfolds the resources of a nation, and secures it a free and patriotic government-far more important than all, is the function of the Christian ministry. What in other spheres is enthusiasm, is in it but sobriety. Barnes well says “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 honour to be permitted to wear out life itself.”
It was, indeed, no sluggish heart that beat in the apostle's bosom. His was no torpid temperament. There was such a keenness in all its emotions and anxieties, that its resolve and action were simultaneous movements. But though he laboured so industriously, and suffered so bravely in the aim of winning souls to Christ and glory, still he owned that all was owing to Divine power lodged within him-
The work to be perform'd is ours,
The strength is all His own;
'Tis He that works to will,
'Tis He that works to do;
His is the power by which we act,
His be the glory too.
Therefore the apostle thus concludes-
Κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν αὐτοῦ τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἐμοὶ ἐν δυνάμει “According to His working, that worketh in me with might.” The preposition κατά expresses the measure of Paul's apostolical labour. He laboured not only under the prompting of the Divine energy, but he laboured just so far as that imparted energy enabled him. 1 Corinthians 15:10. “By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” The pronoun αὐτοῦ refers not to God, as many imagine, but to Christ. The participle is not in the passive, but the middle voice, as in Galatians 5:6. [Ephesians 3:20.] Winer, § 38, 6. The phrase ἐν δυνάμει does not, as Vatablus and Michaelis suggest, refer to miracles, but has an adverbial sense, specifying the mode of operation. Romans 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:11. The occurrence of the noun and a correlate verb intensifies the meaning. Winer, § 32, 2. [Ephesians 1:5-6.] It was no feeble manifestation of Divine power that showed itself in the great apostle of the Gentiles. Its ample energies clothed him with a species of moral omnipotence. Philippians 4:13. The sublime motive to present every man perfect in Christ, through the preaching of Christ, could only be realized by the conferment of Divine qualification and assistance. Mere human influence cannot reach it, though the faculties be kept in full tension, and the mind be disciplined into symmetrical operation. Learning, industry, and genius, are of little avail, without piety and spiritual support. “Our sufficiency is of God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5-6.
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Eadie, John. "Commentary on Colossians 1". Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter