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EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE COLOSSIANS 1
I. ADDRESS AND SALUTATION
1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ [Christ Jesus]2 by the will of God, and Timotheus our [ὁ, the] brother, 2To the saints and faithful [or believing] brethren in Christ which [who] are at Colosse:3 [.] Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.4
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Colossians 1:1-2 a. Address. Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.—See Ephesians 1:1. To this church, not founded by himself and to its false teachers, he thus defines his official position as the Apostle called immediately by the ascended Son of God: hence “Christ Jesus.”
And Timotheus the brother.—On this see Van Oesterzee (Lange’s Commentary) 1 Timothy. The same phrase is added, Philemon 1:1. and 2 Corinthians 1:1; in 1 Corinthians 1:1 : “and Sosthenes the brother”; Philippians 1:1 : “Paul and Timotheus, servants of Jesus Christ”; 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1 : “Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus”; Galatians 1:1-2 : “Paul an Apostle—and all the brethren that are with me.” Since “my” is not added as in Romans 16:21, “Timotheus my workfellow,” this last passage compels us to understand the word ἁδελφός in the simple sense of “Christian brother,” with no more special relation to Paul, than that of one Christian to another (as Colossians 1:2, ἁδελφοῖς). The Apostle writes, not merely in virtue of his peculiar authority as an Apostle, but together with tried associates; he includes with himself his helpers and friends. To him the Christian brother is a friend and assistant, with whom he has consulted and now acts respecting the case of this church, without resigning or impairing his independence (Colossians 1:24; Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:7). Timothy is not on this account the writer of the Epistle, which Paul dictates to him (Steiger), else according to Romans 16:22, Tertius should have been named in the address, Romans 1:1; and must each of the Epistles to the Thessalonians have been dictated to two persons ? or the Epistle to the Galatians to the whole circle of Paul‘s companions ? for Galatians 6:11 is the usual autograph salutation. See Schmoller in loco (Lange’s Commentary, Gal.) and Laurent: Neutestamentliche Studien, p. 4 sq. Nor can Timothy be regarded as the dispatcher of the Epistle (Schenkel), and certainly ὁ does not mean “fellow Apostle” (Chrysostom: οὐκοῦν καὶ αὐτὸς ). [So Theophylact. Wordsworth, supporting the view that Paul was the founder of the Colossian church, says: “In the case of all the other Epistles, where Timothy is thus introduced, it is certain that he had been with St. Paul at the places, and was well known to the churches to which those Epistles were sent.” “If Timothy had not been at Colosse, it is hardly probable that, being still a young man, he would have been associated with the Apostle in this address to the Colossian church.” “This opinion is also confirmed by the words ὁ , the brother, signifying that he was well known to them as such, and was their own brother as well as St. Paul’s. Timothy is introduced as ‘Timothy the brother’ in the Epistle to Philemon, who lived at Colosse.” Eadie:—“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.”—R.]
Colossians 1:2. To the saints in Colosse.—See Ephesians 1:1. [See Beveridge, Vol. VI. Serm. II., p. 401, where he answers the question, “What is it to be a saint?”—R.]—And faithful brethren in Christ.—After defining their relation toward God, the relation of the members of the church to each other is noted in the word “brethren.” This is one, mediated and maintained by Christ, while the adjective πιστοῖς describes its internal, true and vital character. At all events “in Christ” must be joined with “brethren” or better with “saints,” ἁγίοις, here used as a substantive, and hence having the local attribute joined to it; it must not be joined to πιστοῖς, which is not = faithful (Steiger). [The E. V. might be amended—to read “believing” instead of “faithful,” but the ordinary reader would then be more likely to regard “in Christ” as connected with it rather than with “brethren” or “saints.” Alford joins ἐν Χριστῷ to ἀδελφοῖς and suggests, to account for the omission of the article before ἐν Χ. that the idea ἀδελφὸς ἐν Χριστῷ was familiar.—R.] A comparison with Ephesians 1:1-2, shows, amid all the similarity, the unmistakable original independence.
Colossians 1:2 b. The Greeting. Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.—Comp. Ephesians 1:2. [The final phrase, hitherto rejected by most modern editors, has found a new and important support from Cod. Sinaiticus. While the reason given in the critical note for retaining it should have due weight, the testimony of Chrysostom and Theophylact must not be disregarded: “Yet in this place he does not insert the name of Christ.”—Theophylact adds: “Although it is his usual way to insert it.” The reason he subjoins: “Lest the Apostle should revolt them at the outset, and turn their minds from his forthcoming argument,” Eadie properly terms “silly;”—especially since, as Wordsworth, referring to Chrysostom, remarks: “It is observable that in the beginning of this Epistle—addressed to a church where the name of Jesus Christ was disparaged by many, and written in order to vindicate His Dignity—the Apostle repeats the word Christ four times”—not including this instance, where both adopt the briefer reading.—R.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
All Christians are brethren. In addition to the remarks on Ephesians 1:1-2, one thing must here be noted; the fact that Paul, the Apostle of Christ Jesus, describes with the same name of brother, Timothy, whom he places beside himself, and the Colossian Christians to whom he writes with apostolic authority. From this we infer:
1. The Church founded by Jesus Christ is presented to our view as a “family of God,” in which all the members are children of God and brethren to each other.
2. Compared with the difference from God, all differences between the members so far disappear that all are simply brethren.
3. Even in the organism of the church those members, distinguished immediately and by special authority, do not pass out of this fraternal relation; that most important office of the church, the apostolate, is but an accident of the brotherhood; the Christian position is the basis of position in the Church and surpasses it.
4. On fraternal fellowship and love depend all relations of life, all the gradations of that fundamental form which God has established in the earthly human community; each should feel that he is incorporated in the family.
5. True fraternity is not the result of natural family feeling, nor of any form of human community, but the product of God’s Spirit in Christ.
6. But the brotherly love, which embraces all united in the faith, does not in the New Testament mode of life make the special personal relation of friendship stand out more sharply; the disciple of Christ has none other as friend than the disciple of Christ, but has all, who are such, without distinction as friends. Yet as soon as the church is enlarged numerically, there must naturally appear, within the great circle, personal affinities, and chosen companionship. Notwithstanding what is remarked above, biblical justification of these is not wanting, since the Lord Himself chose three of the Twelve to be nearest to Himself, and of these but one leaned on the bosom of Jesus. So Paul, among many whom he loved, had no one so “like-minded” as Timothy (Philippians 2:20), and in the beginning of the apostolic history we see Peter and John more closely united together than to the others (Palmer: Moral, p. 400 sq.).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
If we can pray “Our Father,” we are and we have brethren. “Father” bids us know and feel and conduct ourselves as children, “our” as brethren.
Starke:—First, we must be certain of the will of God, then we must follow it cheerfully, whether the world look sweet or sour.—We must not think that we alone can do all, so that nothing goes right but what we alone do. Each must be of such a mind, as to bear a helper beside him.—Whoever fears the Lord from childhood and diligently uses God’s Word, like Timothy may soon become a man in Christ, though in years still a youth.
Schleiermacher:—The Scriptures know nothing of those who were especially saints, preeminent above others, but all who through Christ are brought back into living fellowship with God, are saints.
[Passavant:—It is not: believers on Christ, but in Christ; the Apostle views Christians as through faith firmly founded in Christ, vitally and deeply rooted in His heavenly Being, members of His body, flesh of His flesh, and spirit of His Spirit, life from His life.—On the greeting. Notice everywhere in the writings of the New Testament and especially in the Epistles of Paul, this thorough, unsearchable and indissoluble union of the Father and the Son; from eternity one Being, one Life, one Work of one Eternal Power and Love—and in this Eternal Blessed unity of the Father and the Son was from the beginning decreed and provided and bestowed all that should become to us the peace of eternity: the grace corning unto us.—Rieger:—Fellowship with God through faith makes saints, fellowship with one another makes brethren in Christ.—Henry:—He thought himself engaged to do his utmost, as an Apostle, because he was made so by the will of God.—As all good ministers, so all good Christians are brethren one to another—toward God they must be saints, and in both faithful—Schenkel:—Why Christians are called saints: 1) how humbling, 2) how exalting this designation.—R.]
[Christians are brethren, whatever diiferenco of age or opinion (Paul and Timothy), in spite of distance and degrees of knowledge and piety (Paul and the Colossians); because all are “brethren in Christ.”—R.]
 Title: Πρὸς Κολ ο σσαεῖς, א. and others; πρὸς Κολ α σσαεῖς, A. B. K. and others. [The latter is adopted here by Lachmann, Tisehendorf, Meyer, Alford, Wordsworth. Alford incorrectly cites א. in support of the latter reading, both in his apparatus criticus and Proleg. p. 34, Vol. ΙΙΙ.—R.] Comp. Introd. § Colossians 4:1.
Colossians 1:1; Colossians 1:1.—Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ in א. A. B. F. G. [Lachmann, Tisehendorf, Alford, Ellicott.—R.]; better supported therefore than Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
Colossians 1:2; Colossians 1:2.—[Κολοσσαεῖς is to be retained on the authority of א. B. D. F. L. (Alford, Wordsworth); Κολασσ. Lachmann, Tisehendorf, Ellicott. The order of the E. V. is not that of the original: “To the saints in Colosse and believing brethren in Christ.”—R.]
Colossians 1:2; Colossians 1:2.—Καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, wanting in no other Pauline salutation, occurring in precisely the same form (except in the pastoral Epistles), is sustained by א. A. C. E. G. and others, but omitted by other important authorities and critics (Tisehendorf). The original absence of the phrase is less explicable than the subsequent omission in some MSS. [Rejected by Meyer, Alford, Wordsworth, Ellicott.—R.]
II. FIRST PART
Mention of the ground of Christian fellowship and warning against apostasy
Colossians 1:3 to Colossians 2:23
1. Thanks to God for the faith and love of his readers from the beginning
3We give thanks to God and [omit and]5 the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always [always, when praying] for you,6 4Since we heard of your faith in Christ 5Jesus, and of the love which ye have7 to all the saints, For [on account of] the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; 6Which is come unto you [lit.: is present unto you], as it is in all the world; and8 bringeth forth fruit [is bringing forth fruit and increasing],9 as it doth [it is] also in [among] you, since the day ye heard of it [it], and knew the grace of God in truth: 7As ye also [Even as ye]10 learned of Epaphras our dear fellow servant, who is for you11 a faithful minister of Christ; 8Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The immediate object of thanksgiving (Colossians 1:3-5). Ver. S. We give thanks.—As a rule the Apostle begins with thanksgiving; this is precisely as in 1 Thessalonians 1:2; but in 1 Corinthians 1:4, though the address reads: “Paul—and Sosthenes,” we find εὐχαριστῶ (so also Philippians 1:1-3). The plural is not then conditioned by the mention of Timothy in the address (Meter, Schenkel), yet it is not=εὐχαριστῶ (Baehr). Plural and singular forms are not used arbitrarily by the Apostle; the choice depended upon the predominance of the Apostle’s individual feeling, or of the common sentiment of those participating: and this certainly includes not merely him or those named in the address, but the church in the house or place where the Apostle was. [Ellicott says: “we, i.e., I and Timothy,” but intimates that the context always fully accounts for the selection of singular or plural. So Eadie, Alford. Conybere contends for the singular meaning of the plural throughout all the Epistles—which is inadmissible.—R.]
To God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.—See Ephesians 1:3.—Praying always for you defines more particularly “we give thanks;” the participle marks the thanksgiving as part of the prayer, and the adverb renders it prominent, that the former was never wanting in the latter. “Always” is not to be joined with the participle “praying” (Greek Fathers, Bengel, Luther, etc.) [Alford, Ellicott, E. V. The majority of modern commentators join it with the verb,—Eadie renders: “We bless God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always, when praying for you.”—R.] Still less is “for you” to be joined with “we give thanks” (Baehr). The latter cannot be decided by Romans 1:8; 1Co 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:2, while the former opinion is confirmed by Ephesians 1:16. On the difference between περί and ὑπέρ, see Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 6:18.
Colossians 1:4. The occasion of thanksgiving.—Since we heard, ἀκούσαντες.—This second participle (aorist) sets forth what had preceded the thanksgiving, while the first one (present) appends what had accompanied it. See Winer’s Gram. p. 323.12 The plural here marks the fact as publicly known, not merely made known to the Apostle and his friends.
Of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which ye have to all the saints.—“Your faith in Christ Jesus” is the first ground of this thanksgiving; your faith, resting on Christ, moving itself in Him; the phrase “in Christ Jesus” limits “faith” so Ephesians 1:15, not ὑμῶν (De Wette). The preposition does not affect the meaning of “faith,” so that it becomes “believing constancy” (Luther), but it only denotes that the object is to be regarded, not as the end of effort (εἰς), but as the element and ground. [Ellicott: “In Him as the sphere or sub-stratum of the πίστις, that in which the faith centres itself. The omission of the article gives a more complete unity to the conception, ‘Christ-centred faith.’ ” Alford: “the immediate element of their faith, not its distinctive character, is the point brought out,”—R.] On the remainder of the clause, “and of the love which ye have to all the saints,” see Ephesians 1:15.—[The reading: ἣν ἔχετε carries “more affectionate commendation” (Alford) than the simple article of the Rec. It draws attention to the love and points to its persistence (Ellicott).—R.]
Colossians 1:5 : describes this love more closely.—On account of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.—[Joined to “love.”—R.] Since διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα is joined grammatically to ἣν ἕχετε, Paul has not written ἀγάπην τήν as in the parallel passage, Ephesians 1:15, but subjoined the relative clause. “The hope” is characterized by the clause “which is laid up for you in heaven,” as objective, like the ἐλπὶς βλεπομένη (Romans 8:24), “that which is hoped for,” which is preserved, set aside (ἀπό), in deposito reconditum (Lösner), as a securely placed treasure (Chrysostom: τὸ ; Bengel: sine periculo), or rather as a reward and prize according to 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 1:4; Matthew 19:21; comp. Hebrews 9:27; Hebrews 6:18. On “in heaven,” see Ephesians 1:10. Accordingly this hope gives a motive for the love in its activity as well as its extent; it does not depend upon the present, on temporal life and possessions, nor on the men, the brethren whom it reaches. It is certain of the eternal, heavenly, divine possessions and salvation, and has in these enough. “Hope” is not therefore the third with “faith” and “love” (Steiger and others), nor does it furnish a motive for faith (Baehr and others); least of all for the thanksgiving (Bengel: “from the hope is manifest how great the ground of thanks giving for the gift of faith and love”). [So Eadie, Barnes. The E. V.—“for the hope” seems obscure. Both “on account of” (Eadie, Alford), and “because of” (Ellicott), leave the reader uncertain as to the connection, which is the main difficulty here.—R.]
Whereof ye heard before, ἣν προηκούσατε.—In the ἅπαξ λεγόμενον: προακούειν, according to the context the πρό refers to the object, “the hope laid up” which πρό is future and concealed. Meyer is therefore incorrect: before you had this hope; Heinrichs: alio doctore (Epaphra) ante me; Böhmer, Huther: before the Epistle was written; Schenkel: before he had received tidings of their faith. The interpretation (Grotius): prima rudimenta accepistis, as if προακούειν described the first instruction of catechumens, is unwarranted. [Braune seems to follow De Wette and Olshausen in their view of the force of “before,” “before the fulfilment of the hope,” but as Eadie well remarks “such an exegesis is a species of truism.” Ellicott: “not before any definite epoch, but merely at some undefined period in the past,” “formerly.”—Eadie gives the sense of “already,” as intimating that this hope had been made prominent in preaching, and they of course heard of this in hearing the gospel; a view to be preferred as giving more point to the passage and fully accordant with the context.—R.] To “laid up in heaven” corresponds what is joined to “heard before,” viz:
In the word of the truth of the gospel—through which the “hearing before” has its guarantee. This expression is another briefer and independent setting forth of Ephesians 1:13, “after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” The hearing before of the hope is mediated by the preaching (ἐν τῷ λόγω̣) of the truth (τῆς ), which is the substance of the λόγος, but is taken out of nothing other than the gospel (τοῦ εὐαγγελίου), to which the truth belongs. It is not proper to follow the parallel passage, which is grammatically different, and take “of the gospel” as a genitive of apposition to “in the word of truth” (Steiger), or to “the truth” (Baehr), [Ellicott: “a defining genitive, allied to the genitive possessivus (genitive continintis), which specifies, and so to say, localizes the general notion of the governing substantive: ‘the truth which was preached in and was announced in the gospel’ ”.—R.] Nor is “the word of the truth”=sermo verax (Erasmus), or “the preaching of truth” (Huther, Bleek), nor “of the truth of the gospel”=genuine gospel (Storr), nor is λόγος defined as to its substance by ἀληθείας as absolute truth, as to its form by εὐαγγελίου as “proclamation of salvation” (Schenkel).
The deeper cause of thanksgiving (Colossians 1:6-8). Colossians 1:6. Which has come unto you—lit., is present unto yon. This is spoken of the gospel. Παρών notes its being present (1 Corinthians 5:3; 2 Corinthians 13:10); with πρὸς ὑμᾶς, 2 Corinthians 11:8; Galatians 4:18; Galatians 4:20, here εἰς ὑμᾶς. In the passages quoted the Apostle stands before them, turned towards them; here he speaks of the gospel, that penetrates into them; he describes the steady, constant and finally entire penetration of the gospel, which is not forced through with one blow. [The preposition conveys the idea of its having reached them, the participle implies its abiding there (Ellicott).—R.] The added clause: as it is in all the world, renders prominent the simple fact of the presence of the gospel in the world. The preposition ἐν marks the distinction between its presence in the world, and in Colosse, where it has already wrought what it should and would. “In all the world” indicates the whole world as the field, in which the gospel is found and which it will permeate. It is not confined to one part, had already begun its efficacy in the most diverse places, among Jews and Gentiles. Hence it is no synecdoche, “meaning the most noted parts of the world, as Romans 1:8; Romans 10:18” (Grotius), nor only the Roman Empire, nor popular hyperbole (Meyer). [Alford: “No hyperbole, but the pragmatic repetition of the Lord’s parting command.—R.]
And is bringing forth fruit and increasing.—[Alford, omitting καί, calls the paragraph broken and unbalanced.—R.] It is not merely in all the world, but efficient there also. We have here the usual transition from the participial construction to that of the finite verb (Winer’s Gram., p. 505 sq.); the participle with εἷναι indicates continuance and duration (Winer’s Gram., p. 326 sq.). [So in English, hence the literal rendering: “is bringing forth fruit and increasing” is preferable.—R.] Theodoret: καρποφορίαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου κέληκε τὴν ἐπαινουμένην πολιτείαν, αὔξησιν δὲ τῶν πιστευόντων τὸ πλῆθος. The figure is borrowed from a tree which both bears fruit and grows (Matthew 7:17; Matthew 13:32; Luke 13:19). The former word refers to the faith, the love, the Christian virtues, which the gospel produces in the internal and external life, the latter to the extension and the multiplication of its adherents (Acts 6:7; Acts 12:24; Acts 19:20). [The former the intensive, the latter the extensive progress of the gospel. Ellicott.—R.]—As it is also among you, introduces Colosse as a part of the field, in which the gospel is and is working (“in all the world”), and furnishes a proof that the gospel is, and how it is, “in all the world.” Hence ἐν ὑμῖν is “among you,” not “in you” (Luther). “Bringing forth fruit and increasing” must be supplied. [“It doth,” supplied in E. V., is to be changed to “it is,” to correspond with the participial form of the verb in the former clause.—R.]
Since the day ye heard it, and knew the grace of God in truth.—[Braune, following De Wette, supplies no object after “heard,” making “the grace of God” the object of both verbs. Meyer, Steiger, Eadie, Alford, Ellicott, supply: “the gospel,” which is to be preferred. E. V. “of it,” is unsatisfactory; they must have heard the gospel, as well as heard of it, before it would bring forth fruit among them.—R.] On the construction ἀφʼ ἧς ἡμέρας see Winer’s Gram., p. 130. The first proclamation of the gospel was followed by the acceptance of it, and from that time forth the Christian life and character of the Church developed internally and externally in constant progress. The object is “the grace of God,” the substance of the evangelical preaching (Colossians 1:6), the marrow of the gospel over against the law. “In truth” is an adverbial qualification of the verbs “heard” and “knew.” The gospel is proclaimed vere et sincere absque fuco, οὐκ ἐν ̣ καὶ λόγοις εἰκαίοις13 (Greek Fathers), and is accepted non simulate, sed vere. It implies a contrast to the false teachers and is not = ἀληθῶς, “truly,” nor to be joined with “grace” (Storr and others), nor = in the gospel (Grotius) [Barnes.—R.]. Nor is it to be joined only to “knew” (Meyer and others), nor to “heard” alone (Baehr and others). [Alford: “in its truth, and with true knowledge.” So Eadie: “the words ἐν describe the teaching of Epaphras, or represent that genuine form, in which, by his preaching, the grace of God had been exhibited at Colosse.” This makes it qualify the verb “knew,” and at the same time define “the grace of God” by presenting the element, in which the gospel was proclaimed.—R.]
Colossians 1:7. Even as ye learned of Epaphras.—Καθώς refers to “in truth” [Alford: “in which truth”—R.], and describes the manner in which they had learned from Epaphras. The verb, the object of which must be “the grace of God,” marks the intermediate step between “hearing” and “knowing” and describes the earnest, constant effort of the Colossians, to which the activity of Epaphras corresponds.—Epaphras a Colossian or Phrygian (Colossians 4:12 : “one of you”), with Paul in his imprisonment (Philemon 1:23 : “my fellow prisoner”), is not identical with Epaphroditus, the Macedonian, a preacher of Philippi14 (Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:18), as Grotius arbitrarily assumes; here indicated as the founder of the Church in Colosse, but otherwise entirely unknown to us. Even should we accept the reading καί before ἐμάθετε, we could not, with Wiggers,15 treat it as though it were καὶ (as in Romans 5:7; Ephesians 4:4), in order thus to maintain that there had been a proclamation of the gospel in Colosse before that of Epaphras. Still less does the καθώς resume the preceding καθὼς ἐν παντὶ τῷ κόσμῳ, as though Epaphras had only told that the gospel was every where proclaimed (Theodoret). The preposition ἀπό indicates that the Colossians had gladly met Epaphras and heard him speak. The words which follow are a confirmation of the preaching of Epaphras: our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ.—“Our dear fellow servant” describes him in his position toward Christ (δούλος) [no thought of his imprisonment with Paul (Conybeare)—R.], and toward Paul with his helpers (σὺν—ἡμῶν), and in his relation to them (ἀγαπητοῦ), as an excellent minister, who, entirely dependent on the Lord, and independent of men, labored as a colleague with the Apostle and his fellow laborers, especially for the Church at Colosse (ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν), from the beginning, with proper fidelity (ὄς ἐστιν πιστός) in the service of Christ (διάκονος Χριστοῦ). [The reading of the Rec. ὐπέρ ὑμῶν “for you,” “on your behalf,” is not only better supported, but avoids the repetition of the other reading, while it is as strong a commendation of Epaphras to the Colossians, to say that he had been a faithful minister of Christ for them, as to say that he had been faithful vice apostoli.—R.]
Colossians 1:8. Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.—The declaration is made prominent. Epaphras has not only seen in Colosse, but spoken in Rome to Paul in a detailed, perspicuous way, as a witness respecting “your love in the Spirit.” The love was “not carnal, but spiritual” (Œcumenius), “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22 : Romans 15:30); Spirit is of course the Holy Spirit (as Romans 14:17). Hence it is not the spirit of man, the inner man, nor a “love which depends on an internal sentiment and disposition, a love sincere and earnest” (‘a Lapide, Böhmer and others), and since the context must decide what is the object of the love, it is to be regarded as “love of the brethren” (Colossians 1:4), including love to the Apostle, but not this latter exclusively (Baehr, Bleek and others); the following “we also” at least cannot decide this to be the meaning, since the Apostle does not pray merely in reciprocity. It is improper to join ἐν πνεύματι with δηλώσας (Wahl), as though Epaphras had narrated it through inspiration, or to explain it, per spiritum sanctum (Grotius). [Eadie properly expounds “love” as denoting the Christian grace of love, hence “in the Spirit.” Alford: “the chief gift of the Spirit,” “thus in the elemental region of the Spirit;” Ellicott: “genuine and operative only in the sphere of His blessed influence.”—R.]
It is unmistakably the object of Paul in this honoring description, to establish as firmly as possible in every direction the authority of Epaphras; his doctrine is right, his relations to the Apostle hearty and intimate, his interest for the Colossians active and pure, undisturbed from the first. He seems to have been suspected by the false teachers. Paul gives prominence to these facts, in order to shame the errorists, to warn and guard the Church against them; for their sake and that of the cause, he enters particularly upon the efficiency and conduct of Epaphras. Estius: “Lest they might suffer themselves to be led away from the doctrine which they had learned from him by new teachers.”
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Faith and Love are the chief points, in judging of the condition of the Christian Church. Faith must not only be directed to (εἰς) Christ, but be a life in (ἐν) Christ; it is the foundation and source of love, by which it worketh [Galatians 5:6.—R.]. This love must be “in the Spirit” (Colossians 1:8), that it may be pure, and extend “to all the saints” (Colossians 1:4), that it may be large-hearted, not limited by sensuous, arbitrary and selfish sympathies. Living, active faith in Christ alone leads to such purity and extent of love, because the believer has first of all love to God, the Father of Jesus Christ (and through Him his Father), and from a faith on the love of God in Christ, which enjoys the love of the Father and Son, he gains a love to all, in whom the same faith is active, who have become and still are the objects of the same mercy, altogether irrespective of the stage of results accomplished, however manifold the degrees of its strength may be. It overleaps party lines and difference of creeds, and prays in truth: Our Father, which art in heaven. In “Father” lies the doctrine of faith, in “our” the ethics of love, in “which art in heaven,” the impulse and motive of hope.
2. The activity of this love, growing out of faith, which embraces all Christians as brethren, as children of the Father, has its mainspring in the hope of salvation, secure for us in heaven. This is Christian eudæmonism, which indeed has in view the salvation of our own souls, the perfection and blessedness of our own personality, yet not selfishly, but seeks and knows in fellowship with all believers; nor yet externally, sensualistically, like a Turk or heathen German, but internally, in the spirit of the mind; nor yet here, but in heaven, not in time, but in eternity, hence not as a materialist or atheist burning for good fortune and earthly pleasure; and finally not in our own strength, as it has been attempted “in godless virtue,” but as a gift of the gracious God through Christ.
3. Faith grows from the preached word of gospel truth. Since faith as to its essence is God’s word become living in the heart of man, since it grows out of this word as from a seed, its establishment and growth depends altogether upon the preaching of this word of God (λόγος, Colossians 1:5), which alone contains the truth indispensably necessary for the soul, presenting the grace of God, which is the marrow of the gospel (Colossians 1:5 : τῆς , Colossians 1:6 : τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ). This and not the preaching (Schenkel) is the vital principle of Christianity, which penetrates ever more deeply into the believers, producing in them and in the life of the church the fruits of virtues, both active and passive, ever extending more widely, ever permeating more thoroughly every one and all things (Colossians 1:6). [“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” (Eadie).—R.] Preaching is only the principal means, to which we must hold fast in simplicity and freedom from all perversion, deterioration or obscuration.
4. The teachers or preachers of the gospel must labor as belonging to Christ, as entirely dependent on Him (Colossians 1:7 : δοῦλος) yet attached to Him (διάκονος); they are not servants of the church (Schenkel), but only of Christ; servants, but for the church (ὐπὲρ ὐμῶν), in doctrine (Colossians 1:6-7), in supplication to God (Colossians 1:3), and in the varied intercourse with men, among whom they would advance their cause. They should never forget that they do not stand alone and for themselves, but in fellowship (Colossians 1:7 : σύνδουλος), that as colleagues they should esteem and love each other, that one should rejoice without envy in the other, as Paul in Epaphras, who meekly flies to him, and should fraternally suffer with each other, as Epaphras with Paul. [Henry:—“Thus he puts an honor on an inferior minister, and teaches us not to be selfish, or think all that honor lost which goes beside ourselves. We learn in his example not to think it a disparagement to us, to water what others have planted, or build on the foundation others have laid.”—“Observe Christ is our proper master and we His ministers. He does not say your minister, but the minister of Christ for you. It is by Christ’s authority, but for the people’s service.”—R.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Even where we must fear and blame and warn, an opportunity for thanksgiving is not wanting.—In the general prayer for Sunday service belongs the petition for love toward all men; however easy towards some, it is just as difficult towards all.—Do not suffer a preacher, colleague or friend to be misunderstood and falsely judged, for speaking well of him belongs to obedience to the Ninth Commandment; neither break out blindly against him, that misunderstands the neighbor whose cause you would advance.—Rejoice when you see the word of God efficacious, and learn to wait patiently, as a husbandman for the fruits.
Starke:—He who does not believe on Jesus Christ, does not believe on God at all; so though the Jews and Turks think they believe on God, yet they in no wise do; for they do not believe on Jesus, on whom we must believe before we can assure ourselves of grace and salvation from God.—[Always to pray, and always to give thanks are the Christian’s needful duties.—If teaching and learning are of the right sort, then God’s word hath good speed.—Not all loving is praiseworthy; love in the Spirit is commended.—R.]
Rieger:—In the eyes of the world the character of a philanthropist, embracing all in his love, will indeed bring us more honor and glory than love to the saints; for this implies a distinction which the world does not willingly admit. The world has a love to which a Jew or Turk is more acceptable than a saint.—If we consider only the yet feeble beginnings of faith, the still prevailing temptations, we may doubt whether we have cause to rejoice and thank God. But by looking out to the mark of hope, which is set before us, the grace to us becomes very great.—It is certainly unspeakable how much the world, now so unbelieving and unthankful, does yet enjoy of the fruits of the gospel; how many arts and sciences, milder customs and laws would not exist, had not the gospel made the first advance in that direction.
Schleiermacher:—Faith, since it is active, becomes not only love to Christ, but also love to all, who belong to Christ.—We see how readily we allow ourselves to be led into all manner of divisions and limitations of love, which have less ground than then existed in the difference between Jewish and Gentile Christians. It is better to study such a love to all saints, and not one that extends to the few who exactly and specially agree with us, however great enjoyment there may be in it.—[The gospel is a germ, made fruitful by God, which cannot be received, without its making an impression on the spirit.—R.]
Passavant:—There is generally an unspeakably beneficent, tender feeling in giving thanks from the heart for a benefit.—Thanksgiving will be the bliss of eternity. The beginning, the first steps thereto must be made on the porch, else we shall have no voice nor place, no life above in the holy choirs.—It may often be long: days, years, decades may pass as we hear and know the gospel, before we obtain a living knowledge of the grace of God, that permeates our heart and mind and life.—“There are men,” says Pascal, “who admire external greatness alone, as if there were no mental greatness; others can only admire mental greatness, as though there were not one infinitely higher, to be found in wisdom.”
[Lisco:—The Apostolic thanksgiving and the praise therein contained has no other purpose than encouragement, 1) to continued steadfastness; 2) to further advance in all good.—Henry:
Colossians 1:3. In our thanksgiving we must have an eye to God as God (He is the object of thanksgiving as well as prayer), and as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom and through whom all good comes to us.
Colossians 1:4-5. Faith, hope, and love, are the three principal graces in the Christian life, and proper matter of our prayer and thanksgiving.—We must love all the saints, bear an extensive kindness and good-will to good men, notwithstanding lesser points of difference and many real weaknesses.
Colossians 1:6. All who hear the word of the gospel, ought to bring forth the fruit of the gospel.—Wherever the gospel comes, it will bring forth fruit to the honor and glory of God. We mistake, if we think to monopolize the comforts and benefits of the gospel to ourselves.
Colossians 1:8. Faithful ministers are glad to be able to speak well of their people.—R.]
Colossians 1:5. “For the hope.” Every blessing which the gospel makes known has futurity in its eye,—and the Christian life, in the meantime, is one as much of expectation as of positive enjoyment.
Colossians 1:6. 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.—The gospel was ecumenical, but the error which menaced them was only provincial in its sphere.
Colossians 1:8. Love is to be regarded as the crown and consequence of all the other graces. The Spirit of Him who is Love takes possession of the believing bosom, and exerts upon it His own assimilating power. A Christian community may be congratulated upon its love.—R.]
[Schenkel:—The true Christian idiosyncrasy of a church: 1) Its ground—faith in Christ: 2) its fruit—love to the saints; 3) its power—hope of the heavenly treasure of eternal life.—The gospel of Jesus Christ, the tree of life for humanity: 1) The fruit, which it brings; 2) the extension, which it gains.—The power of the gospel: 1) It consists in the word of the grace of God. 2) It is conditioned by a faithful proclamation and simple apprehension of it.—R.]
Colossians 1:3; Colossians 1:3.—Θεῷ πατρί, B. C. and other MSS. and the oldest versions. א. [with A. K. L.] and others insert καί, as in Ephesians 1:3; Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 11:31 in a similar connexion; here it is an interpolation. [Τῷ πατρί is another reading, not well supported. Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott (though not with perfect confidence) reject καί; Wordsworth retains it.—R.]
Colossians 1:3; Colossians 1:3.—Περί, א. A. C. [K. L., Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth—R.], the less supported ὑπέρ [Lachmann—R.] probably from Colossians 1:9, and because more significant. [See Exeg. Notes on the above emendation.—R.]
Colossians 1:4; Colossians 1:4.—Ἣν ἔχετε, א. A. C. and others, supported by the context, [so all recent editors—R.]; τήν is poorly supported, probably from Ephesians 1:15. [The italics of the E. V. are therefore unnecessary.—R.]
Colossians 1:6; Colossians 1:6.—Καὶ ἔστιν on the authority of F. G. K. L. and the oldest versions, supported by the context. [Tischendorf, Meyer, De Wette, Ellicott.—R.] Καί is omitted in א. A. B. C. and others [by Lachmann, Alford, Wordsworth—R.], and is the less difficult reading.
Colossians 1:6; Colossians 1:6.—[Καὶ αὐξανόμενον, supplied on the authority of א. A. B. C. D.1 F. L., many versions and all modern editors.—R.]
Colossians 1:7; Colossians 1:7.—After καθώς, א. A. B. C. D. omit καί. It is a “mechanical repetition” from Colossians 1:6. [So modern editors. E. V. retains it in “also,” which should be omitted. Καθώς = “even as,” here (Ellicott).—R.]
Colossians 1:7; Colossians 1:7.—Ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, C. E. F. K. L. and א. corrected and in nearly all versions. The otherwise well supported ἡμῶν, א A. B., is an error of the transcriber, accounted for by the prevalence of the first person. [Tischendorf, Ellicott, Wordsworth. Alford, quoting Ambrosiaster (4th century, vice apostoli), reads η̇μῶν, following Lachmann.—R.]
[The original references are to the 6th German edition; altered throughout to the 7th German ed., 1867.—R.]
[“Truly and sincerely, without dissimulation, not in deceit and rash words.”—R.]
[Conybeare, II. Col 385: “Epaphras is the same name with Epaphroditus” (?)—“but this can scarcely be the same person,” etc.—R.]
[Sludien und Kritiken. 1838. p. 185.—R.]
2. Earnest supplication for the progress of the Church in true knowledge, especially of the Being and Work of Christ
9For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire16 that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all Wisdom 10 and spiritual understanding [in all spiritual wisdom and understanding]: That ye17 might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in [by]18 the knowledge of God; 11Strengthened with all might [strength]19 according to his glorious power [the power of his glory],20 unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness [joy];21 12Giving thanks unto the Father, which [who]22 hath made us meet, to be partakers [for the portion, εἰς τὴν μερίδα]23 of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13Who hath delivered us from [out of] the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son [the Son of his love];24 14In whom we have redemption through his blood [omit through his blood],25 even the forgiveness of sins: 15Who is the image of the invisible God, the 16 firstborn of [before] every creature: For [Because] by [in] him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in [on] earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he Isaiah 26:0 before all things, and by [ἐν, in] him all things consist [subsist]. 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn27 from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. 19For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell [Because in him God was pleased that the whole fulness should dwell]:28 20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself: by him, I say, whether they be things in [on] earth, or things in heaven. 21And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works 22 [lit.: as to your understanding in wicked works], yet now hath he reconciled,29 In the body of his flesh through [his] death,30 to present you holy and unblamable and un 23 reprovable in his sight: If [If at least, εἴγε] ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature31 which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.32
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The immediate object of supplication: full knowledge of the Divine will, (Colossians 1:9.)
Colossians 1:9. For this cause refers to the entire paragraph, Colossians 1:3-8. What the Apostle had heard of the Colossians moved him to the petition. This is required by the contents of the petition and by the accords: “since the day we heard” (Colossians 1:9), to which the object must be supplied from above (“your faith in Christ Jesus and love to all the saints”); Colossians 1:6. “since the day ye heard” and Colossians 1:4. “since we heard:” and also “do not cease to pray for you” (Colossians 1:9), and Colossians 1:3, “praying also for you.” After his thanks to God, Paul now gives the purport of his prayer. Certainly Colossians 1:9 is not connected with Colossians 1:8 alone, where the love of the Colossians to himself is spoken of: because he had heard this, he now prays for them (Bleek); as though Paul, like the Pharisees, prayed only for those who loved him.
We also, as in “we give thanks” (Colossians 1:3), is Paul and those with him, hence not Timothy merely (Meyer, Schenkel), nor is he excluded (Baehr). Καί, “also,” refers chiefly to Epaphras, who represents and labors for the Colossians (Colossians 1:7-8), and then to the Colossians also, who were won to the gospel (Colossians 1:6) and have love to the brethren (Colossians 1:4; Colossians 1:8). It does not therefore indicate merely the reciprocity of intercourse between the Colossians and Paul (Schenkel, Meyer). [It has here its slightly contrastive force (Ellicott), and marks the change of subject; “we on our part” (Alford).—R.] It is not to be separated from ἡμεῖς and joined to διὰ τοῦτο (De Wette), nor by any means to προςευχόμενοι(Baumgarten-Crcsius).
[Since the day we heard.—Ellicott: “incidental definition of the time with reference to ἀκούσαντες, Colossians 1:4. Eadie: “The receipt of the intelligence produced immediate results and led to prayer. The effect was instant—and it was not spent with a single impulse.” The prayer was continuous also.—R.]
Do not cease to pray for you, and to desire.—On οὐ παυόμεθα with the participles, see Ephesians 1:16. [Ellicott: “an exactly similar affectionate hyperbole.”—R.] The first verb denotes the wish (2 Corinthians 13:9; 3 John 1:2; Acts 27:29), addressed to any one, then in general a prayer expressing a wish; the second, the supplication, entreaty, the medium with its reflection; sibi expetere, the pressing hearty petition from a sense of fellowship. [It seems a better distinction to regard the first as general, the second as special, “the one prayer in its ordinary aspect, the other direct request.” Καί “brings into prominence a special after a general” (Alford). The comma of the E. V. answers the same purpose here.—R.]
That ye might be filled.—(Bengel: “He made mention of his supplications generally Colossians 1:3; he now expresses what he supplicates.” Ἵνα indicates the aim of the petition, the purpose of the petitioner, hence not simply its purport (against Harless, Eph. 17). [On ἴνα after verbs of praying, see Alford, 1 Corinthians 14:13. “The purport and purpose become compounded in the expression.” Ellicott: “Ἵνα has here its secondary telic force, the subject of the prayer is blended with the purpose of making it.”—R.] Πληρωθῆτε pre-supposes the imperfect state of those prayed for, and from its position at the beginning renders prominent the importance of progress to fulness. It occurs in this Epistle alone five times, here; Colossians 1:25; Colossians 2:10; Colossians 4:12; Colossians 4:17; in Ephesians (Ephesians 1:23;Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 4:10; Ephesians 5:18), and in Philippians (Philippians 1:11; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 4:18-19), each four times.
With the knowledge of his will.—Τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν is an accusative of reference, like Philippians 1:11; so σκηνοποιὸς τὴν τέχνην (Acts 18:3). [Ellicott: “accusative of the remoter, the quantitative object in which the action of the verb has its realization.” “The genitive marks the absolute material out of which the fulness was realized, the accusative as it were, the domain of which the fulness was evinced.”—R.] See Winer’s Gram. p. 216. Further it is not =τῇ ἐπιγνώσει, since they were not to be filled with the knowledge, but their knowledge should be full, perfect. The word itself describes the knowledge which grasps and penetrates the object (Meyer), as Colossians 1:10; Colossians 2:3; Colossians 3:10. [Wordsworth: “ἐπίγνωσις, full knowledge is more than γνῶσις, it is a gift and grace of the Holy Spirit. This word occurs oftener in this Epistle than in any other of St. Paul. He may perhaps have used it as a contrast to the false γνῶσις or gnosticism of the false teachers, who were beguiling the Colossians with the speciousness of their vain philosophy. They in their theories promise γνῶσις, but the Apostle gave ἐπίγνωσις by his ministry.” De Wette suggests, the former is a mere impractical and theoretical, the latter full and living knowledge.—R.] “Of his will,” since it concerns the purpose of the prayer, is God’s will, and, according to the context (Colossians 1:10), the will of God respecting the walk and conversation of the Christian in the world. Hence not the redemptive decree, as Ephesians 1:9 (Steiger and others), not the will of God which operates on us and is efficient in us, but the will of God to be obeyed by us, “hence not the will of the majority (Schenkel). [The immediate context “in all wisdom,” is against this limitation of “His will.” The result of full knowledge was to be worthy walk, but the knowledge was not therefore to be limited to His will respecting walk. As a fact Christian walk is based on a far wider knowledge.—R.]
Paul now sets forth the mode in which this “being filled” was to be consummated: In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.—Hence this is not to be joined with “walk” (Colossians 1:10), which is otherwise defined (Theodoret and others). See Ephesians 1:8 : “in all wisdom and prudence.” Σύνεσις is not identical with φρόνησις (Sir 1:4; σύνεσις φρονήσεως); the latter refers more to the God-given organ, the former more to the activity of man in using it; the latter more to the original gift, the former obtained rather by exercise. [The former is perhaps seen more in practically embracing a truth, the latter more in bringing the mind to bear upon it (Ellicott).—R.] The adjective “spiritual” belongs to both substantives. It indicates that the “being filled” cannot be effected by any purely natural, development of human mental life from its own power. The wisdom is not “fleshly” (2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 1:26), nor is the understanding of this character; yet neither are of themselves spiritual,” they become so only through the Holy Ghost. [Eadie and Alford join πνευματικῇ to συνέσει alone, but it seems better with Ellicott to join both adjectives to both substantives. On σοφία and σύνεσις, the general and particular, Ellicott remarks: “both appear to have a practical reference; the former is, however, a general term; the latter its more special result and application.”—R.]
The aim of the petition; Christian walk. Colossians 1:10-12. They were not to rest with “knowledge of His will,” but advance.
Colossians 1:10. That ye might walk.—The infinitive, περιπατῆσαι, depending on πληρωθῆτε is epexegetical (Winer’s Gram. pp. 298, 301); it is not necessary to supply εἰς or ὥστε. The closer definition follows.—Worthy of the Lord refers to Christ [as always apparently in St. Paul’s Epistles (Ellicott).—R.], the model of the Christian. Neither 1 Thessalonians 2:12, “worthy of God,” nor Ephesians 4:1, “followers of God,” will justify us in understanding it otherwise.—Unto all pleasing describes the manner of the worthy walk, giving prominence to the purpose (εἰς). Ἀρέσκεια, only here, in a good sense, describes in classical authors the conduct of the ἄρεσκος, the obsequious, i. e., obsequiousness. The context requires that it be understood as “pleasing Christ” not God, in spite of Matthew 5:48 (Schenkel). Since Christ can be pleased in everything, “all” is added.
This is confirmed by the following characteristic of the Christian walk: Being fruitful in every work.—[Braune reads, “being fruitful and increasing in every good work,” a collocation in conformity with his view of the text and his exegesis. The order of the E. V. seems to preserve the symmetry and present the meaning better.—R.] On the nominatives καρποφοροῦντες καὶ αὐξ., instead of the more exact accusatives, to agree with ὑμᾶς implied after περιπατῆσαι, see Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 4:3. Here it is readily explained, yet not by joining the participles to πληρωθῆτε (Bengel); the two participles are united as in Colossians 1:6; first bearing fruit, then growing more, as in a tree, in order to greater fruitfulness. The sphere of both is denoted by “in.” The prepositional phrase, standing first for emphasis, is not to be joined with “pleasing” (Oecumen, Steiger and others), but with the verbs [or according to the view of Alford, Ellicott and others, with the verb “being fruitful”—undoubtedly to be preferred if the instrumental dative is retained. See below.—R.] By “good works” we are to understand, works required by the will of God, growing out of faith, demanded, not merely by law, but by relations, circumstances, by the inward impulse of the conscience and the Holy Ghost.
[And increasing by the knowledge of God.] The advance is made into, up to the knowledge of God. This indeed depends upon their being “filled with the knowledge of His will” (Colossians 1:9). Their being fruitful and increasing in every good work aids thereto. Hence Luther is incorrect; and be fruitful in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God. [The order of the E. V. is the same.—R] Advance is made from knowledge to knowledge in the Christian walk, wherein the spirit of God guides into all truth (John 16:13; John 14:26). Είς is neither = κατά (Böhmer) nor = ἐν (Beza), nor = the dative which Huther and others read. [The close union of the two participles above and the preceding exegetical note are based on the less supported reading: εἰς τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν. The better reading is τῇ ἐπιγνώσει (instrumental dative). This is to be joined with αὐξανόμενοι “increasing by the knowledge of God.” As the main reason for retaining the reading of the fewer MSS. is that it is more difficult, Alford remarks, supporting τῇ ἐπιγνώσει: “this is by far the most difficult of the three readings, the meaning of ἐν and εἰς being very obvious, the former pointing out the element, the latter the proposed measure of the increase. And hence, probably, the variations. It is the knowledge of God which is the real instrument of enlargement, in soul and life, of the believer—not a γνῶσις which φυσιου, but an ἐπίγνωσις which αὐξάνει.” So Olshausen, De Wette, Huther, Eadie, Ellicott.—R.]
Colossians 1:11 gives a second definition of the walk, almost exactly like the first in its construction.—Strengthened with all strength, ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει δυναμούμενοι. The verb, which occurs only here, marks those walking worthy of the Lord as energized in activity, not in one direction, but in all: in will, affection and perception, in understanding, in home and calling, in all external relations. [Braune seems to regard ἐν as indicating the element, and δύναμις as subjective (so Alford). It seems more natural and accordant with the phrase immediately following, to take ἐν as instrumental and δύναμις as objective, i. e., strength from God. So Meyer, Eadie, Ellicott (Theodoret is quoted by the latter), and E. V.; in either case “all” implies that the energy extends to every department.—R.] The paranomasia, as well as the construction like that of the previous clause, forbid the separation of the prepositional phrase from the verb, to join it with what precedes.
According to the power of His glory, κατὰ τὸ κράτος τῆς δόξης.—Power is requisite, the Christian does not have it in himself; the measure of it is not inconsiderable, it increases. God alone gives it in proportion to the Power which He has, in comparison with whose glory, majesty, grace and mercy, we are and have nothing. His glory ever reveals itself more and more to him who walks worthy of the Lord. The motive and measure of our strength is in the might of the majesty of God, whom we know ever better. Hence δόξα and ἰσχύς (Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 6:10, “according to the power of his might”) are not to be considered as parallels and the former limited here to the Ruler’s dignity (Steiger), nor is the phrase=“glorious power” (Luther, Baehr, [E. V.], and others), as though it were ἔνδοξον κράτος.
Unto all patience and long-suffering with joy.—Through growing strength progress is made in directions the most various (πάσαν, all) “unto patience” (ὑπομονήν) which is not merely suffering (ὑπέχει, Judges 7:0. only) i. e., sustinere. Ὑπομένειν means the mind in suffering; ὑπομονήν denotes this constancy and patience of the mind. Hence we find, not the patience of God, but “the God of patience” spoken of (Romans 15:5), it is not God, who demands, but who dispenses “patience” (Tittmann, Syn., I. p. 191). “Patience” is opposed to displeasure without power to help or change; “long-suffering,” to displeasure with power to punish, to avenge, to alter and avert. Chrysostom: “one is long-suffering towards those whom it is possible to requite, but patient towards those whom he is unable to requite.” In the former case the objects are usually men, in the latter, circumstances. It is incorrect to make “patience” refer to the extent, and “long suffering” to the continuance of the feeling (Schenkel), or to contrast timidity with the former and irritability with the latter (Huther), or to ignore the distinction (Meyer, Bleek). [Ellicott renders εἰς, “to insure, to lead you into,” marking the final destination; Eadie: “in order to.” See his notes in loco, on the distinction between “patience” and “long suffering.”—R.] That which is characteristically Christian in both is: “with joy,” which is impossible in such a case without the power of God. In “patience and long-suffering” the Christian is glad, and certain of the victory of his cause, of his reward with God both in his own heart and in heaven. It must not then be joined with “giving thanks” (Colossians 1:12), as is done by the Greek fathers, Estius, Huther, Meyer, Schenkel, Bleek. [And also by Tischendorf, Lachmann, Ellicott, on the ground of the parallelism in the structure of the clauses.—R.] “With joy” would be entirely superfluous in that connection; the parallelism is not compulsory, and besides it is not “in joy,” indicating the element, but “with (μετά), which shows that it is only an accompaniment with “patience.” [As De Wette says: by such a connection “we lose the essential idea of joyful endurance—and the beautiful train of thought, that joyfulness in suffering expresses itself in thankfulness to God” (Alford).—R.]
The third definition follows (Colossians 1:12-14).
Colossians 1:12.—Giving thanks to the Father who hath made us meet.—Even in sorrow, let there be thanksgiving; let not Him be forgotten who giveth gifts and is the Father. It is incorrect, to take the participle, not as coördinate with “being fruitful,” “increasing,” “strengthened,” but as connected with “do not cease,” Colossians 1:9 (Greek fathers, Calvin, Bengel); or to supply “of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Colossians 1:3) after “Father” (Meyer) [Alford, Ellicott.—R.], instead of regarding Him, in accordance with the context, as our Father, who however is and proves Himself such in Christ: qui idoneos fecit, fueramus enim inidonei, 2 Corinthians 3:6 (BenGel). “Us” includes the Apostle and his companions and his readers, who are Christians.—For what has He made us meet?—For the portion of the inheritance of the saints in light.—“For” (εἰς as above) marks the aim the “making meet,” which (as aorist) shows that it is already, even though incipiently, attained. Τὴν μερίδα describes the “portion,” share, which falls to one personally (Luke 10:42; Luke 12:43), and “the inheritance” (τοῦ κλήρου) describes the whole of which the Christian is partaker, as given sorte non pretio (Bengel), as undeserved. The expression is borrowed from the Old Testament (Psalms 16:5, “the portion of my inheritance, μερὶς τῆς κληρονομίας); as the chosen people obtained Canaan (ἡ γῆ τῆς κληρονομίας) through the grace of God, and each Israelite his part in the distribution of the land, so the Christian obtains his portion in and of the kingdom of heaven. “The saints” then describes the possessors of the heritage. The position of ἐν φωτί forbids our connecting it with ἱκανώσαντι, “making meet” (Greek fathers, Steiger, Meyer), which besides is accomplished in another way than “in light;” or with “inheritance” (Beza, Huther, Bleek), or with “Portion” (Bengel). It is a closer description of the sphere in which “the saints,” the Christians, (Colossians 1:2) are found in their walk (Colossians 1:10), in order to mark the extent of the benefit conferred, upon them through the “aking meet,” which is the occasion of the thanksgiving. Comp. Ephesians 5:9; Ephesians 5:11; Ephesians 4:18 According to the context the result is the principal point here, not the means, which are introduced afterwards, but without any exposition of “in light” or any reference to it. Hence it is incorrect, to contrast with Christians as the “saints in light” other saints in darkness, under the law in the Old Testament, which is contrary to the usus loquendi and to Pauline views (Grotius: thus is shown the distinction of the law and the gospel), or to refer it to future glory (Schenkel: = ἐν τῇ δόξῃ). [This last view is the popular one;. “light is taken to mean “heaven,” and the passage interpreted as a thanksgiving for what God has done to prepare us for an inheritance in heaven, or inheritance with the saints in heaven. Obviously this is forbidden by the context. Eadie, who joins it with “inheritance” as descriptive of it, Alford, who connects it with, the whole phrase “portion—saints,” and Ellicott, who indicates a preference for joining it with “inheritance of the saints,” all avoid this mistake. The saints are now “in light,” and the inheritance is “in light.” “In light” as the sphere of their walk, the saints enjoy their “inheritance” which is “begun here and the meetness conferred in gradual sanctification, but completed hereafter.”—R.]
God’s act and gift, as the foundation and beginning of the Christian walk, more accurately, defined (Colossians 1:13-14).
Colossians 1:13. Who hath delivered its out of the power of darkness.—“Who” refers back to “Father.” His act is first, “hath delivered us,” i. e., has drawn, snatched us out of danger (see Passow, Lex.). Chrysostom: “He does not say delivered, but snatched (ἐῤῥύσατο), showing our and their great misery and captivity.” Zanchius: “This is more than: he has liberated. For those are liberated, who are willing and desirous and deserving of being made free; those who are seized are often unwilling, as Lot from Sodom; he magnifies both the grace and the power of God.” “Out of the power of darkness” denotes the power under the dominion of which Christians were before Redemption. The first substantive describes the organized power, the second its character, as Ephesians 2:2 : “the power of the air;” Ephesians 6:12 : “powers of this darkness.” [Alford: “power i.e., in the territorial sense; darkness—not to be understood of a person but of the character of the region.” Ellicott: “evil and sin viewed objectively.” Davies refers here to the dualism of the Zend-avesta.—R.] Necessarily opposed to this is “the power of His glory” (Ephesians 1:11), and as a consequence “the saints” are “in light.” Here we find a justification of the exposition given above.
And translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.—But He did not stop with this “deliverance” (καί); He has “translated” (μετέστησεν) us. The word denotes a local change, hence a change of relation, determining the conduct and walk. “Into the kingdom” is in contrast with “out of the power,” and “the Son of His love” with “darkness.” “The Son of His love,” which recalls both in phrase and connection Ephesians 1:6, occurs only here, and sets forth the Son with the greatest emphasis as the Object of His love, upon whom His entire love flows, and through Him therefore upon us. The Son is not conceived of here as “out of” the love, born out of its substance (Augustine), [i. e., “Love considered more as an essence than an attribute.”—R.]; nor is it=His beloved Son (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:25; Matthew 12:18). [Nor “His dear Son” (E. V).—R.] Not only is the “power” His, but the “kingdom” also, the Messianic kingdom of heaven, which is already actually present here, but not completed in the Christian Church, and therefore not identical with it. This is not then to be understood of the church (Baehr, Huther and others). [“The term has a reference neither purely metaphorical (the church), nor ethical and inward, nor yet ideal and proleptic (Meyer), but—semi-local and descriptive—nor is this wholly future” (Ellicott).—R.]
Colossians 1:14 gives the modus translations (Thomas Aquinas): In whom we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins.—Like Ephesians 1:7, except that “through his blood” is omitted here [retained in Rec. and E. V.—R.], the means of redemption not being made prominent; and that ἀμαρτιῶν is deeper and more internal than παραπωμάτων. Paul’s freedom and independence are unmistakable. [The exact force is: “In whom we are having the redemption” (Ellicott).—R.] Such a possession is the result of the act of God which changes our relation to Him [through the Redeemer whom the Apostle then describes.—R.]
The exalted relation of the Mediator to God and the world. Colossians 1:15-17. Bengel: “He describes the glory and eminence of Christ above the highest angels; and scatters those germs from which he afterwards confutes the worshippers of angels. This so full knowledge of Christ is comprehended only by those who are experienced in the mystery of redemption.”
Colossians 1:15. Who is.—“Is,” not “was” or “became;” hence we have here defined, not what He became at His appearing in the flesh, but what He is, and is personally (τοῦ υἱοῦ—ὅς). [Undoubtedly the subject of the whole passage is “the Son of God’s love” (Colossians 1:13); and this subject must be taken in its widest and most complex relations, whether as Creator or Redeemer, the immediate context defining the precise nature of the reference (Ellicott). Meyer very justly remarks: “It must be noted that Paul is viewing Christ according to His present Being, i. e., according to His present and permanent status of exaltation, and hence he expresses not what Christ was, but what He is.” Yet it cannot be denied that while this is true, there must be a distinction made in referring the various predicates to the subject, for even Meyer in objecting to this says: “The only correct reference is to His whole Person, which in the theanthropic status of his present heavenly Being is continuously what His Divine nature (considered in itself) was before the Incarnation, so that by virtue of the identity of His Divine Nature, we can attribute the same predicates to the Exalted One as to the Logos.” He thus himself implies a distinction, which he will not permit in Paul’s language. In claiming as we do with the Fathers generally, Bengel, Ellicott, Bleek, Wordsworth and many others, that the immediate reference throughout this verse is to the λόγος ἄσαρκος (against Melanchthon, Barnes, Eadie, and Alford, who refer it to the λόγος ἔνσαρκος), we by no means deny that all which is here predicated is, now and forever, true of the Son of God’s love, but guard against a false interpretation of the predicates themselves. Admitting that such a distinction can be made, we find a reason for the above reference in the fact that Colossians 1:16, which gives a reason for the statements of this verse, must be referred to the Logos, or to the whole Person of Christ, “by virtue of the identity of His Divine Nature.” The grammatical connection with Colossians 1:14, which refers to the λόγος ἔνσαρκος is not so close. The subject then in this verse is the Son of God’s love, as He wag before the incarnation, and as He still “is.—R.]
The image of the invisible God, εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ (2 Corinthians 4:4). The first thing is His relation to God, immanent and permanent. Εἰκών is not in itself something visible (Philo: θεοῦ λόγον εἰκόνα λέγει θεοῦ). Comp. Genesis 1:26-27. God’s image in man is not that which is perceptible by the sense, only thus cognizable. Compare the expression with μορφῆ θεοῦ, ἴσα θεῷ (Philippians 2:6), and ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ ξαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ (Hebrews 1:3). It denotes likeness to and equality with the invisible God (John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:18), who cannot be perceived absolutely without a Mediator and a revelation, hence is invisible to angels and the redeemed (Hebrews 12:14). The context here differs entirely from John 1:14. Here we must think of the Exalted One, transported from our sight, who yet already existed before the creation. Thus the “Son of His love” is further described (Theophylact: μόνος—καὶ ). The revelation, the making known, the rendering visible of the Father is put in the second place. It is not to be viewed as the chief point here, nor as the sole ground of this expression (John 14:9), as Calvin, Schenkel and others prefer; nor is it to be entirely denied (Baehr, Huther). [It is worthy of note that here, as in all the terms used in the Scriptures to express His relation to the Father, there seems to be an implication of revelation (λόγος, ἀπαύγασμα χαρακτήρ, μορφή, and even in πρωτότοκος π. κτ.) On this relation, immanent and permanent, the actual revelation in the Person of Jesus Christ, indeed the context implies, in all other ways, seems to rest. Still we must be careful not to limit the meaning to this actual revelation as Eadie, Barnes and others do, for as Braune remarks:—R.] it is a sad dilution to interpret: God has as it were made Himself visible in Him (DeWette), in Christ it is manifest that God is wise, powerful, good and the like (Grotius).
The first-born before every creature, πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως.—[So Ellicott. Braune’s exegesis is better set forth by: the first begotten before every creature.—R.] This second predicate defines His relation to the created world. Πρωτότοκος distinguishes Him as the Son from the creation (κτίσις); it is =πρωτόγονος, “first begotten” (Philo), but not =πρωτόκτιστος , ·πρωτόπλαστος (among the Alexandrians, Origen). It is joined with the first predicate, closely uniting with God and distinguishing from the creation. (Theodoret: “not as having creation for a sister, but as begotten before all creation.” Chrysostom: “not significant of glory and honor, but only of time.”) It is synonymous with ἀρχή (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 3:4). The genitive κτίσεως depends on πρῶτος as πρῶτός μου, John 1:15; John 1:30 (Winer’s Gram. p. 229). [So Meyer. It must be here remarked that Winer does not expressly sanction this view of this passage. It would not perhaps be strictly correct to say that the genitive is governed by πρῶτος in composition, although the Greek syntax favors such government in composition. Bengel even governs this genitive by the πρό found in πρῶτος. Ellicott’s view is a safe one: “genitive of the point of view, rendered more intelligible by the latent comparative force involved in πρῶτος,” though even this is but a circumlocutory statement of its dependence on πρῶτος, As the word is Alexandrian, the syntax has been supported by Hebrew usage, though the broad use of the Greek genitive scarcely requires this.—R.]
Since πάσης denotes every kind of creature, angels and men, Christ existed before all. He does not begin the series of a category, as “first begotten of the dead” (Revelation 1:15), “among many brethren” (Romans 8:29), but He is antecedent, conditioning the creation. [It is doubtful, whether it is better to take πάσης κτίσεως, collectively: “the whole creation,” or individually: “every creature,” the context favors the former, so Alford; the polemic aim of the Apostle, the latter, so Ellicott.—Braune makes this predicate refer exclusively to priority in time. On this Ellicott speaks of “His deigning by the mouth of His Apostle to institute a temporal comparison between His own generation from eternity and their creation in time,” but he admits “the possibility of “a secondary and inferential reference to priority in dignity.” Alford seems to include both views; “not only first-born, of His mother in the world, but first-begotten of His Father before the worlds—He holds the rank, as compared with every created thing, of first-born in dignity.” To the view which makes the latter thought the chief one, as held by Whitby, Barnes, Eadie (“the acting President of the Universe and therefore the first-born of every creature”), it may be objected; 1. that it confuses the aspects in which this verse refers to the Son of God’s love, see above; 2. it gives to πρωτότοκος a secondary and figurative meaning, where a more literal one seems more appropriate; 3. it ignores, or at least throws too far into the back-ground, the relation to the Father which is not only expressed in πρωτότοκος, but given further prominence by the close connection with the preceding clause; hence those who adopt it consistently refer that predicate also mainly to the revelation of the Father in Christ, rather than to the relation of the Son to the Father. Yet it must be admitted that there is an inferential reference to priority in dignity, a consequence of the priority in time of the Begotten to every creature; not only so, but as Braune well remarks: He ia antecedent, conditioning the creation—for the context, giving a reason (ὅτι) for this verse, goes on to set forth in detail His relation to tho creation. So that while His priority in time shows His independence of creation, creation is not independent of Him, as He is here described. In this His relation to the Invisible God is to be found the ground or condition of the whole creation. The 16th verse asserts that He is the causa conditionalis, this one seems to intimate that in virtue of His relation immanent and permanent to the Father, as the Image and Only Begotten, He holds the relation to the creation subsequently defined. So Wordsworth quotes Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch: “when God desired to create the world, He begat the world as προφορικὸν, πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως.” While He is thus placed out of the category of the created, He is the more intimately linked with “every creature.”—R.]
Therefore the view of the Arians that He is the first creature is incorrect, as also that of the So-cinians, Grotics and others, who refer κτίσεως to the new moral creation, in which case καινή would not be wanting (2 Corinthians 5:17). To make of the two predicates but one and join πρωτότοκος as an adjective to εἰκών (Schleiermacher, Stud. und Krit. 1832, p. 497) is not only harsh, but grammatically inadmissible. To read, πρωτοτόκος, “first bringer forth” (Isidore of Pelusium, Erasmus and others), is not allowable, since this is applied only to the female sex, and πρῶτος in that case would be irrelevant.
Colossians 1:16. Because in him were all things created.—This verse justifies the explanation given above. Ὃτι adds the reason that ante om-nem creaturam genitum esse filium, non creatum, before every creature the Son was begotten, not created: “in Him were all things created.” The emphasis is placed upon “in Him.” The verb requires us to understand the fact of creation as here spoken of; the historical act, as the aorist denotes. Acts 10:6 has ἔκτισε τὸν οὐρανόν κ. τ.λ., while Acts 14:7, reads: τῷ ποιήσαςτι τὸν ουρανόν. The same interchange occurs Genesis 6:7; Deuteronomy 4:22, Sir 15:14; Sir 24:9 [LXX.]. Schleiermacher should not therefore affirm that κτίξειν is not used in Hellenistic Greek of the original creation, but means to give order, arrangement. This creation is έν αὐτῷ, not ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ, which would indicate the first cause. This is not the Son, but the Father, as the thought in the word is efficient in the Son, out from whom the creation is accomplished; but there is no thought of emanation, hence ἐξ αὐτοῦ is not used. It is here indicated that the accomplishment of the creation rests in Him, its immediate instrumental cause is to be sought in Him, but not the last, principalis. Ἐν αὐτῷ is not to be referred to the κόσμος νοητός, the idea omnium rerum, which was in Him (Schleiermacher and others), nor is it =δι’ αὐτοῦ (Usteri); nor does ἐκτίσθη refer to the new moral creation, which reference is not supported by Ephesians 4:23, where the context is entirely different. [’Εναὐτῷ here denotes, not the causa instrumental is nor causa exemplaris, but causa conditionalis, as the conditional element pre-existent and all-including. Alford, Ellicott.—R.] Τὰ πάντα is the existing all, the totality of things [the universe, Alford.—R.], πάντα would be all that actually is (Winer’s Gram. p. 105). A specification as regards place follows: in heaven and that are on earth, τα ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.—Thus Paul writes instead of οἰ οὐρανοί, not excluding these however, because to him all depends upon this, that nothing was created without Him; He stands in such a relation to the whole creation that He was before it and it exists first through Him. There is no reason for understanding by this, habitatores qui reconciliantur (Wettstein), or only living creatures (Baehr) or rational creatures. On τοῖς οὐρανοῖς see Ephesians 1:10. We cannot conclude from the precedence of οἰ οὐρανοί that emphasis is placed upon the creation of angels (Theophylact), nor from the omission of “under the earth,” that God has not created for the lower world (Unterwelt): the context gives no warrant for this.—Visible and invisible.—This is added to describe the nature of what was created. There is no reason for referring both exclusively either to earthly (Schleiermacher), or to heavenly things (Theodoret); nor are the former alone visible, and the latter invisible, since among the visible we must reckon sun, moon and stars, and among the invisible human souls. The Apostle places the highest, “things in heaven,” first, but here the more important follows, because he intends to give a specification of the angels. It must be borne in mind that τὰ πάντα is described. Hence “invisible” does not refer merely to the heavenly world of spirits (Meyer), though this is the main reference (Bleek).—Whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, εἴτε θρόνοι, εἴτε κυριότητες, εἴτε αρχαὶ, εἴτε ἐξουσίαι. Εἴτε, thus repeated, specifies the world of angels, to which we arrive through “invisible;” at the same time it indicates an uncertainty respecting the classes of angels, or that nothing essential depends upon this classification. In Ephesians 1:21, we find άρχή, έξουσία δύςαμις, κυριόιης; δύναμις is not found here, nor θρόνος there. This latter word occurs here only in the New Testament, but is applied by the Rabbins, by Dionysius the Areopagite and testamentum Levi, to the angels in the seventh or highest heaven. These classes maybe regarded as different orders, joined in pairs; θρονοι, the highest, κυριότητες, the lowest, ἀρχαί and ἐξουσίαι, the intermediate. [Ellicott, comparing Ephesians 1:21, “where the order seems descensive,” says, “we may possibly infer that the θρόνοι are the highest order, etc., if indeed all such distinctions are not to be deemed precarious and presumptuous. It may have been suggested by some known theosophistic speculations of the Colossians, but more probably was an incidental revelation, which the term ἀόρατα evoked.” Pearson thus gives the intent of the passage and the force of εἴτε: “Lest in that invisible world, among the many degrees of the celestial hierarchy, any order might seem excepted from an essential dependence upon Him, he nameth those which are of greatest eminence, and in them comprehendeth the rest.”—R.] Schleiermacher most incorrectly applies ἀόρατα to earthly empires, civil orders and legal conditions (Melanchthon similarly), and understands here magisterial offices and other functions of persons in power.
All things were created by him and for him, τὰ πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ καὶεἰς αὺ̀τὸν ἔκτισται. [Literally, all things have been created through Him and to Him.—R.] Solemn recapitulation (Meyer). The perfect, setting the past in relation to the present, is chosen instead of the aorist, noting the factum, because we have here a dogmatic consideration of the completed and now existing creation (Winer’s Gram. p. 255). Hence also we have not merely δι’ αὐτοῦ (instrumental), but εἰς αὐτόν, indicating Him as the τέλος of creation. Bengel: ἐν denotat prius quiddam guam mox διά et εἰς. Notatur initium, progressus, finis. Comp. Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6, where εἰς αὐτόν refers to God, as here to Christ, to whom the κυριότης τῶν πάντων is committed (Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 15:27), who is the delegated Regent of the world (Meyer). Εἰς denotes not simply for Him, but also to Him, in Him (Winer’s Gram. p. 390). That He is Lord over all is but one side therefore; the other is, that to Him the whole is directed, and thus is developed, exalted, glorified. To His exalted dignity is joined the glorifying of what is created, the participation of the creatures in His glory and blessedness. [Ellicott: ἐν αυτῷ, causa conditionalis; δι’ αὐτοῦ, causa medians; εἰς αὐτόν, causa finalis or finis ultimus. Alford: “He is the end of creation, containing the reason in Himself, why creation is at all and why it is as it is.”—R.]
Colossians 1:17 accordingly adds: And he is before all things.—Αὐτός and ἔστι are emphatic from their position.[“He Himself is” or “exists.”—R.] Both the permanence of the existence of Christ and His pre-existence are affirmed. The usus loquendi requires only, that it be understood of time, the context, of the whole; compare John 8:58. The Vulgate is incorrect: ante omnes, and Luther, vor Allen, [i. e., before all beings.—R.] So also the Socinians, Schleiermacher and others, who limit the meaning to superior rank, which is indeed sufficiently implied in such an assertion of priority.—And in him all things subsist.—[The E. V. here as in Colossians 1:15, unfortunately renders ἐν, “by.”—R.] The verb is used of things held together, as milk, which runs. So 2 Peter 3:5; γῆ ἐξ ὔδατος καὶ δι’ ὔδατος συνεστῶσα τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ λόγῳ. Without Christ all things would fall asunder. The perfect, following ἔστι has the force of the present—put together and now subsisting. The reference is to organic permanence, the continuance of the composition of the things of the world “in Him,” because He holds together what He has created. [Ellicott: “the causal sphere of their continuing existence,—not exactly identical with ἐν αὐτῷ above. Christ was the conditional element of their creation, the causal element of their persistence.”—R.] It does not refer to a consolidation of earthly relations (Schleiermacher), nor to the acknowledgment and rule of the Lord in the new world (Baumgarten-Crusius).
The relation of the Mediator to the Church. Colossians 1:18-20.
Colossians 1:18. And he is the head of the body, the church.—“And He,” αὐτός, [is emphatic, possibly involving an antithesis to some errors of the Colossian Church (Alford, Ellicott). The subject is “the Son of God’s love,” the passage requiring a reference to the λόγος ἔνσαρκος, the now glorified Christ.—R.] “Is” :in form this is a resumption of Colossians 1:17, connected closely with that verse, but in matter it refers back to the starting-point, Colossians 1:14, so that just as in Colossians 1:15-16, the corresponding relative clause (ὄς ἐστιν) follows, together with its proof (ὅτι). The parallel of thought—Christ, the Son of God, is before and over the world, as He is Head of the Church—is echoed in the chain of parallel clauses. On “the Head of the Body, the Church,” see Ephesians 1:22-23. The second genitive is unquestionably appositional (Winer’s Gram., p. 494, and Ephesians 4:9). In the parallel passage: “Head over all things,” etc.—the relation of Christ to the world is defined by “over all things.” On the Church as an organism, a Body, see Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 5:30; that the world might not be considered this Body, “the Church” is added. It does not refer to the family of God in heaven and on earth (Rösselt); this is too spiritualistic, is contrary to biblical realism and usus loquendi.
Who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, ὄς ἐστι , πρωτότοκος πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν.—“First-born,” πρωτότοκος, here is somewhat different from Colossians 1:15,—in the more exact sense of one beginning a series. Hence ἐκ can be omitted, as in Revelation 1:5. The preposition marks the fact, conceived of as in Ephesians 5:14 : “arise from (ἐκ) the dead;” as ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν also occurs, to denote the separation of the living from the dead. The reference is not to those merely who have died within the church (Schenkel); for when the dead revived in the Old Testament times, they were not “first-born from the dead,” since they died again; it is otherwise in the case of Christ. [Ellicott distinguishes this passage from Revelation 1:5, where the preposition is omitted: “first-born not only of, but out of the dead”—He left their realm and came again as with a new begetting and new birth into life.”—R.] It is pre-supposed, but not stated either in the text or context: “because He restores life to others” (Calvin. Theodoret: “the phrase hints also at the resurrection of us all”). [Eadie retaining his view of πρωτότοκος, as referring to priority in dignity, remarks: “as He rose from the midst of the dead, He became their chief,—came out from among them as their representative. His people rise in virtue of His power. He is not only the pledge, He is also the pattern.” This is undoubtedly true, but only implied here.—R.] By “first-born,” which was not chosen without a reference to Colossians 1:15, ἀπχή, a word of wide signification, is here more closely defined as “the Beginning,” while the personality is at the same time thus emphasized as the principal thing. Comp. John 11:25. So Genesis 49:3 : “Reuben my first-born” (ἀρχὴ τέκνων μου πρωτότοκός μου, Deuteronomy 21:17). It is therefore=“the first-fruits of them that slept” (άρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων, 1 Corinthians 15:20), “first, that should rise from the dead” (πρῶτος ἐξ , Acts 26:23); hence to be taken as referring to time, with a secondary reference, however, to a power efficient in a succeeding series (Revelation 3:14; Revelation 22:13); in which it differs from ἀπαρχή. Hence it is neither principium (Baehr, Steiger, Huther), nor Regent of the world (Flatt), nor author of the Church (Baumgarten-Crusius), nor “beginning of the second and new creation” (Calvin). Nor is “of the resurrection” to be supplied (De Wette), since the Apostle had far more in view than “the dead,” nor “of the church” (Schenkel), since there is nothing to indicate this; nor is “first-born” an adjective joined to “beginning” (Schleiermacher). [While ἀρχή has here a primary temporal reference, and is further defined as a Personality by πρωτότοκος, there is an argumentative force in the relative “who” involving a secondary reference to “the church” which immediately precedes. So Ellicott, Eadie, who insists upon this too exclusively, however. Alford: “He is the ‘beginning,’ in that in Him is begun and conditioned the church.” Wordsworth suggests the two-fold sense of ἀρχή; 1. principium, beginning. 2. principalitas, dominion, rule. In the first sense, Christ is the source of life to the church: in the second, the Principality of all things, therefore even in His manhood superior to the angelic principalities and powers (against the false teachers).—R.]
That in all things he might have the pre-eminence.—[“In order that (ἵνα) in all things he (αὐτός, emphatic,) might become (γένηται) pre-eminent.”—R.] Ἵνα denotes the purpose of God working herein; it is not=ὥστε (Estius, Baehr). What He is, is the basis for something else, which is accomplished in the purpose—which becomes (γένηται); hence such permanent relations are here concerned, as took shape historically, and are adapted for definite ends, to be realized in time (Steiger). In that He is the Risen One, it is the design of God, that He becomes ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων, He, emphatically, and none other, sine locum tenentibus, sine vicario (Bengel), and “in all,” on all sides, in wisdom, holiness, might, death-overcoming power, dominion and glory, as respects the world as well as the church. The First, for ever and for every one. The verb πρωτεύω occurs only here in the New Testament and denotes strongly, “to have the first rank.” [Alford: “The wordis a transitional one, from priority in time to priority in dignity, and shows incontestibly that the two ideas have been before the Apostle’s mind throughout,” though, as Ellicott suggests, this being a result, the same meaning does not necessarily belong to πρωτότοκος.—R.] Ἐν πᾶσιν must be neuter, as Titus 2:9-10; 1 Timothy 3:11; 1 Timothy 4:15; 2 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 4:5; Hebrews 13:4; Hebrews 13:18,=παντί (1 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 4:8, etc). Did it refer to νεκρῶν, it must have the article. Hence inter omnes (Beza and others) is incorrect.
Colossians 1:19. Because in him God was pleased that the whole fulness should dwell.—As in Colossians 1:16, ὅτι introduces the ground of the last clause, and thus mediately of the whole preceding verse. It is not therefore a proof of the relative clause exclusively (Steiger), nor is this to be excluded (Meyer). Ἐν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα κατοικῆσαι may be simply rendered; the finite verb εὐδόκησεν leads to a will, a personal author as final cause, over against a becoming of necessity: on this account θεός is the self-evident subject, hence not specially indicated; ἐν αὐτῷ is to be joined with κατοικῆσαι, it is placed first emphatically, and denotes the same as in the foregoing; πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα is the accusative subject of the infinitive, and according to the context, without the necessity of supplying anything, the whole fulness of Him, who had formed the decree (Ephesians 3:19 : “all the fulness of God;” Colossians 2:9 : “of the God-head”). [With this rendering, the E. V. agrees, but supplies Father instead of God, marking, it is true, an obvious antithesis between Christ (the subject hitherto), and the new one. But the impersonal form of the verb is not strictly correct. Ellicott renders: “the whole fulness of God was pleased to dwell,” making πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα the subject of the finite verb. The question is only a grammatical one, as the dogmatical result is the same in either case. See Ellicott in loco.—R.] On πλήρωμα, compare Ephesians 1:10; on κατοικῆσαι, Ephesians 3:17; on εὐδόκησεν, Ephesians 1:5. To regard πλήρωμα as the fulness of the Gentiles and totality of Israel (Schleiermacher), is as unfounded, as to understand it, from the terminology of Valentin, of the complex of Æons (Baur). Hofmann also is in error, in understanding it as the fulness of that which is, making Christ the subject of εὐδόκησεν, too artificial. [Wordsworth, after giving two interpretations: 1. that God the Son was pleased; 2. that God was pleased, with a preference for (1), adds “on the whole, we may perhaps affirm, that the Apostle designedly placed εὐδόκησεν here without any limitation of a nominative expressed, in order to bring out the truth more fully that the εὐδοκία is to be ascribed to the Father in the Son, and to the Son in the Father, and that there is perfect unity in will and operation in both.”—R.]
Colossians 1:20. And by him to reconcile all things unto himself.—Locus hic torquet interpretes et vicissim ab illis torquetur (Davenant). The force of καί is clear: “this indwelling (Colossians 1:19) is the foundation of the reconciliation” (Bengel). Διʼ αὐτοῦ i.e., Christ, is placed emphatically first, denoting the known mediation. The main difficulty is found in ἀποκαταλλἀξαι εἰς αὐτόν. The verb occurs only here, Colossians 1:21 and Ephesians 2:16; here with εἰς αὐτόν, in the last passage with τῷ θεῷ. καταλάσσειν Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 : τῷ θεῷ, ἐα υτῷ; 1 Corinthians 7:11 : τῷ . The meaning is: to reconcile, strengthened by ἀπό. So that the one reconciled is freed, removed from something; open, conscious, outspoken enmity is not meant, rather concealed unconscious estrangement and separation of one or two parts (Hofmann): but it is found only in him who is reconciled, not in him who reconciles. See on Ephesians 2:16. With Meyer we hold as follows: sin began among the angels, and came, was brought from the angelic world to the race of men (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 1:10); thereby the whole creation was disturbed in its harmony, “was made subject to vanity,” in “the bondage of corruption,” and suffered according to the saying: delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi (comp. Romans 8:19-22). In Christ the act of reconciliation is accomplished, and this reconciliation is to unfold itself in all directions unto the palingenesia (Matthew 19:28; 2 Peter 3:15), to the coming (Parusie) of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Corinthians 15:28). The aorist infinitive denotes the historical fact; εἰς αὐτόν instead of the usual dative ἑαυτῷ marks the direction, and consequently the gradually accomplished development. We meet here the comprehensive and classical idea of reconciliation, which is considerably modified with respect to the universe, as well as to the human race and the angelic world, as is afterwards indicated. It is therefore incorrect to identify ἀποκαταλλάξαι with ἀνᾳκεφαλαιώσασθαι, Ephesians 1:10 (Melanchthon, Grotius, Baehr and others), or in accordance with this view, to apply εἰς αὐτόν to Christ (Luther and others) and not to God, as the context requires. [E. V., “to Himself,” correctly applies it.—R.] Nor is τὰ πάντα to be limited to intelligent beings, or to men only (A-Lapide and others) or to universam ecclesiam (Beza); nor does the verb mean; “the removal of reciprocal enmity” (Stolz, Schleiermacher and others). [Ellicott, while objecting to any dilution of “reconcile,” or limitation of τὰ πάντα, cautions against the irreverence of far-reaching speculations on the reconciliation of the finite and infinite. “It does say that the eternal and incarnate Son is the ‘causa medians’ by which the absolute totality of created things shall be restored into its primal harmony with its Creator—more than this it does not say, and where God is silent it is not for man to speak.” Eadie: “The one Reconciler is the head of these vast dominions, and in Him meet and merge the discordant elements which sin had introduced. 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.” The view of Braune, that this will find its full development at the coming of Christ, is not in opposition to the above view. See Eadie and Alford, also De Wette.—R.]
Having made peace through the blood of his cross.—Εἰρηνοποιήσας naturally and grammatically agrees with the latent subject of εὐδόκησεν, God. The Verb, only here, like the substantive εἰρηνοποιός (Matthew 5:9) is clear in its meaning. The aorist participle indicates the modality of “reconcile,” as Ephesians 1:19. Both acts are contemporaneous, conceived of as one, this does not ante-date the other [as E. V. implies—R.]. “Through the blood” marks the act as one of royal judgment and priestly sacrifice (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 6:14; Hebrews 6:18; Hebrews 6:20; 1 Peter 1:19); while “of His cross” marks the shedding of blood as a consequence of the punishment to which He devoted Himself, in humblest obedience (Philippians 2:18), in innocence for our sake, in holiness to make us holy. Both denote the definite, historical act, over against all spiritualistic conceptions, as well as Christ’s suffering and death over against our moral or ascetic works. In order to preclude any materialistic or magical views of the blood of Christ, Paul reaffirms; by him, thus making prominent the Person of Him, who had shed His blood, and thereby made peace with God. [“I say” added in E. V. conveys the meaning.—R.]—Besides this repetition, designed to guard against false views, there is added, in explanation of the object, which has been and shall be reconciled, made partaker of the peace: Whether there be things on earth, or things in heaven (comp. Colossians 1:16).—Here “earth” stands first, because he has been just speaking of the act on earth, by which the reconciliation begins. It is not easy to determine how the reconciliation of angels may be conceived of, since it cannot be applied to wicked ones, who remain unreconciled and are condemned, and the good need no reconciliation, only sustaining power. This difficulty leads us to refrain from any explanation, which would be at best a mere surmise. [See above on τὰ πάντα, which is specified here. Ellicott remarks: “How the reconciliation of Christ affects the spiritual world—whether by the annihilation of ‘posse peccare,’ or by the infusion of a more perfect knowledge, or (less probably) some restorative application to the fallen spiritual world—we know not, and we dare not speculate.” Wordsworth specifies a fourfold reconciliation, 1. Between God and man. 2. Between angels and man. 3. Between Jew and Gentile. 4. Between man and the inferior creatures. Under the last particular he refers to the attempt of false teachers to mar this work of universal reconciliation, by forbidding the free use of the creatures, Colossians 2:20-21. This is open to the objection stated below.—R.] The disjunctive force of εἴτε forbids the idea of reconciliation of the two parts with each other (Erasmus), nor do “things on earth,” “things in heaven,” favor the view, that Jews and Gentiles had become hostile to each other on account of heavenly and earthly things, matters of Divine worship and principles related thereto, but should now be reconciled (Schleiermacher). Nor does this refer to the reconciliation of the Jews and Gentiles to each other and with the world of spirits, nor to the final conversion and blessedness of the demons (Origen), nor to a tendency at least thereto (Olshausen).
Application. Colossians 1:21-23.
Colossians 1:21. And you.—Καὶ ὐμᾶς, as Ephesians 2:1, to begin a new sentence. There is an anacoluthon in the construction, since the reading is ἀποκατηλλάγητε, not ἀποκαταλλάξαι. See critical note 14. [The additional note gives the authorities for the reading Braune rejects. So great is the preponderance in its favor, that the translator feels bound to differ from the author here. The anacoluthon is not so strong with this reading; εἴτε is the object of the verb, though νυνὶ δέ intervenes.—R.] There is no reason for joining “and you,” with its immediate attributive, to the preceding sentence (Lachmann and others). [The better punctuation is that of E. V. and most modern editors, beginning a new sentence or paragraph here.—R.] Καί is not merely a copulative particle (and); but is = “even,” “precisely,” as the following characteristic requires: that were sometime alienated and enemies, ποτὲ ὄτας .—With ποτέ he refers to their past condition, and with emphasis, as its position indicates, in praise and thanksgiving; the participle is imperfect. On “alienated,” see Ephesians 2:12. Neither “from the commonwealth of Israel,” from that passage, nor “from the life of God,” from Ephesians 4:18, is to be supplied (Baehr); the context clearly suggests “from God.” But more than alienation is mentioned, they had passed into enmity of which the former is the germ; ἐχθρόυς is therefore active, enemy against God (Romans 8:7). It is incorrect to consider it as passive, invisos deo (Romans 5:10, Steiger), since it is enmity, not on the part of God, but of men, which is extirpated, out of which they are delivered in the reconciliation.—As to your understanding in wicked works, τῇ διανοίᾳ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς πονηροῖς.—Their enmity is thus described. The article refers to a known previous disposition and mode of conduct. The simple dative is one of reference; “in” marks the sphere in which the alienation and enmity manifested itself. Both belong to “alienated” as well as “enemies.” On διάνοια, see Ephesians 2:3; Eph 4:18; 1 John 5:20. [Ellicott: “the higher intellectual nature especially as shown in its practical relations.” “Understanding,” “mind” (as distinguished from heart in E. V.) is correct rendering, though Braune, referring it to the state rather than to the faculty itself, has Gesinnung, disposition.—R.] This manifests itself actively; in it the “wicked works” have their ground and soil. [The form τ. ἔργ. τοῖς πον. emphasizes the character of the works.—R.] The phrase includes all works which are done contrary to God’s command, or if formally in accordance with the law, yet from carnal appetites and propensities. It is incorrect to govern τῇ διανοίᾳ by ἐχθρούς (Erasmus: “enemies to reason”) or to consider it as the ground: through their disposition (Meyer), through their reason (Luther), since the cause of the enmity cannot be found in this organ or in this disposition, which is a product as respects the enmity. Nor does ἐν ἔργοις depend on διανοίᾳ (Beza, Baehr).—Yet now hath he reconciled, νυνὶ δὲ .—[Braune, reading ἀποκαταλλάγητεάλλαξεν “now you are reconciled.”—R.] Νυνί marks the present which begins with the reconciliation, when the readers have become par takers of it; δέ marks the resumption of the thought uninterrupted by the parenthesis [describing their previous condition—R.], like the Latin inquam. “Reconciled” is an act through Christ, (Colossians 1:20) not of Christ (Greek fathers, Calvin, Calov., others). Compare 2 Corinthians 5:19. [The subject throughout is God.—R.]
Colossians 1:22. “In the body of his flesh through death.—This sets forth in twofold manner the way or the means of reconciliation. First: “In the body of his flesh.” This describes the earthly, sensible, historical appearance of Christ. Sir 16:23 : ἄνθρωπος πόρνος ἐν σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ, where σαρκός refers to the sensual lusting. Here the reference is to the Redeemer and Reconciler, who had taken upon Him our flesh and blood and appeared in the life and history of our race; ἐν is to be taken locally. [Alford: “The situation or element of the reconciliation.” Ellicott: “the substratum of the action is pointed to by ἐν.”—R.] It is entirely foreign to the context to suppose “of his flesh” is in contrast with the body “of the church,” as Colossians 1:20 (Bengel). The antithesis is less docetic false teachers according to Colossians 2:23 (Steiger), or the glorified body of the Risen One, 1 Corinthians 15:44 (Schenkel), or exaggerated doctrine of angels (Meyer), than this, that the work of Redemption was far too easily separated from the person of Christ and His historical, human nature in the form of a servant. The expression is evidently anti-spiritualistic. Secondly: “through death,” [the means, instrumental cause.—R.] renders prominent the exit from this natural life, in short, the suffering and death referred to in Colossians 1:20; the entrance into this life through birth must have corresponded with such an exit. Hence it is not strange that Paul speaks often of the latter, but never of the former ex professo.
To present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.—The end to be attained. “To present you” depends on the verb “reconciled.” What has occurred to the Christian in this reconciliation is something to be preserved, unfolded, perfected. The God who effects reconciliation, effects more, as Ephesians 5:27. The subject is not the subject of the passive ἀπακαταλλάγητε, but of the active [i. e., of the verb ἀποκατἀλλαξεν, as most read—R.]; the accusative ὑμᾶς is the object not the subject of the infinitive (Meyer, Schenkel). Certainly the immediate result of the reconciliation, the righteousness imputed for the sake of Christ, is not meant (Huther and others). The three adjectives ἀγίους καὶ mark the continued effect of the reconciliation, viz., moral purity in three directions. As “holy,” ἄγιοι, they are consecrated to God, live to God, die to the world, have conducted and shown themselves as such; as “unblameable,” ἄμωμοι, they are free from the faults and stains of sin; as unreprovable, ἀνέγκλητοι, they are not accused by their neighbors. Bengel is not incorrect in his: erga deum, respectu vestri, respectu proximi. [Alford and Ellicott follow Meyer in referring the first to the positive, the latter two to the negative side of holiness. Davenant deems it the aggregation of three similar ideas. On the whole Braune’s view, which is that of Eadie, is much preferable.—R.] “In his sight,” κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ, refers undoubtedly to the Judgment, hence according to the context we may apply it to Christ. Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:10. [Alford seems most correct; referring it to the day of Christ’s appearing; but before His i. e., God’s presence. Ellicott doubts the former reference, but renders: “before Him, God not Christ.” The passage undoubtedly refers to justitia inhærens, as the necessary result of the reconciliation which gave to the believer justitia imputata. So Calvin, but, as Hooker judiciously remarks, “whensoever we have any of these (actual, inherent or imputed holiness) we have all—they go together.”—R.]
Colossians 1:23. If at least ye continue in the faith.—God’s act for and upon them is not carried out to a blessed consummation without subjective advance and personal activity. Εἴγε marks a condition, about which there is no doubt. [Alford: “assuming that.”—R.] It is the mildest, most delicate method of calling attention to the necessity of faith (Bleek), and seems to belong to “present,” rather than to depend on the finite verb, Colossians 1:21 (Bengel). See on Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 4:21. Ἐπιμένετε τῇ πίστει is construed, as Romans 6:1; Romans 11:22-23; 1 Timothy 4:16. [Stronger than μένετε, implying with the dative, rest at a place, perseverance to and rest in the end, “persist” (Alford, Ellicott).—R.] The article marks the faith as definite; an indefinite one, after their own pleasure, does not suffice.—Grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.—[“Grounded and settled and not being moved away” is the literal construction. The E. V. seems to make “moved away” co-ordinate with “continue.”—R.] The modality of the persistence is thus denoted: 1. Τεθεμελιωμένοι (see on Ephesians 3:18), whose antithesis is χ ωρὶς θεμελιόυ (Luke 6:49 : “without a foundation”), refers to an objectively given foundation, placed upon which they still stand. This is a reference to Christ, to God’s grace in Him, not to the hope (Meyer). 2. Ἑδρᾶιοι dicit internum robur, quod fideles ipsi habent; quemadmodum œdificum primo quidem fundamento recte solideque inniti, deinde vero sua etiam mole probe cohœrere et firmiter consistere debet (Bengel), 1 Corinthians 15:58. [These two denote the positive side of the modality of their persistence; then the negative follows—R.] 3. Μὴ μετακινούμενοι marks, through the present participle passive, what is very possible, likely to enter every moment from without and within; circumstances, purposes and suggestions, as well as lusts and selfish thought and desire can easily move, so that they are moved away from the hope of the gospel, held up before them as an aim (not a point of support—Schenkel), and both sure and glorious as belonging to the gospel (see on Ephesians 1:18). [Alford makes the hope subjective, but grounded on the objective, and the genitive possessive. Ellicott says: “the hope arising from, evoked by the Gospel,”—subjective, therefore: “τοῦ εὐαλλ. is the genitive of the origin or the originating agent”—which is preferable. Eadie thus discriminates between the three expressions: “the first epithet alludes to the cause, the second to its effect, the third depicts a general result,—as the use of μή seems to indicate.” Μή is usual and proper, however, in such a sentence as this—see Winer’s Gram. p. 443.—R.] Μετά refers to the inward change in being moved, ἀπό to removal from the given object, thereby effected.—Which ye have heard, denotes a fact which takes away all excuse, they know it, it has been told them. [Ellicott objects to “have” in the E. V. without reason, as the inexcusableness rests upon the fact that it has already been heard, thus best expressed.—R.]—It has been made efficient for them, and not for them alone: And which was preached to every creature which is under heaven, ==in the whole world. The command of Christ, Mark 16:15 : “preach the gospel to every creature” has begun to be carried out. “Preached to every creature” is not hyperbolical (Meyer), nor is κτίσις to be limited to the Gentiles. [Alford incorrectly renders: “in the whole creation.” Eadie and Ellicott call this hyperbole, though agreeing with Braune’s next remark.—R.] The Apostle prophetically sees as accomplished what has as yet only begun, and marks the universality of Christianity. Sane undiquaque vulgatum evangelium Christi, ne quid cogitarent Colossenses de mutanda fide, quæ jam ab omnibus esset recepta (Erasmus). [On the phrase, “which is under heaven,” Ellicott remarks, that it characterizes the κτίσις as ἐπίγειος, including, however, thereby, all mankind.—R.]
Whereof I Paul am made a minister.—See on Ephesians 3:1. [Meyer makes here “three considerations” enforcing their “not being moved away”—It would be, 1) inexcusable for themselves, because they had heard the gospel; 2) inconsistent with the universality of the gospel “preached to every creature;” 3) contrary to the personal relation of the Apostle to the gospel, “whereof I Paul,” etc.—R.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Christian knowledge. The progress of Paul’s thanksgiving for the faith and love of the Church to supplication for their advance in true knowledge derives its motive from the end in view, viz., Christian walk. Herein is implied. First: the basis of Christian knowledge is the Christian morality of the perceiving subject, in its fundamental traits and principles, in faith and love. Here it begins, and hence advance is made to and in the former. The subject of knowledge must also be correctly situated on account of the object of knowledge, and the organ of knowledge in the knowing subject must, at the same time, be first acted upon, that it may enjoy healthy activity and the reward of sound knowledge. Yet is faith itself an immediate knowing, and love, a desire which directly grasps the objects of faith, so that what makes an impression in faith, can be intelligently conceived. Second: the object of Christian knowledge is the will of God, in the unity of that will in creation, law and redemption, hence in the visible and invisible, in the temporal and eternal, in the moral and intelligent world, both what was designed in creation and redemption, and what was commanded in word as precept. Third: the effect of Christian knowledge is essentially a re-action upon the Christian walk, and thus they reciprocally further each other. Fourth: the way to Christian knowledge is essentially a life of practical morality. Fifth: its course is like that of the Christian life, a gradual advance, moving and developing itself in various experiences, temptations and circumstances.
2. The Christian walk has its ground in the fact of redemption, which has been decreed and ordained by God the Father, mediated and accomplished through the Son; its beginning, in the appropriation of this fact of objective redemption and subjective acceptance; its standard, in the example of our Lord Jesus Christ; its motive, in pleasing this Lord; its activity, in good works, according to the various relations of life in which we are placed; its modality in this, that what is done, is done from inward constraint and not from calculation; its development, in this, that it perceives more clearly each moment the will of God, grasps it more securely, retains it more firmly, proves it more widely: its genuineness, in the joy with which it bears and forbears, and controls itself with ever increasing strength; its tone, in gratitude for what God had done to and in and for One, and its aim in the eternal heritage in heaven, of which an earnest is given within us.
3. The Apostle’s conception of God. God, who is the beginning and end for the Christian, is conceived of, not as absolute substance, but as an absolute Person, in substance a Spirit, in character Love; here especially in the latter aspect. He has His will, and His εὐδοκεῖν (Colossians 1:19) wills itself as the good, wills it with energy and al-mightiness, and accomplishes His will in general and particular alike. In this recession (Zurücktreten) of the absolute substance behind the freedom of the absolute Subject, the right of Pantheism and Emanatism is taken away, in the precession (Vortreten) of His almighty and saving Love, that of Deism and Naturalism. The personality of the Living One, and the Life of the Absolute Person are the cardinal points of the Christian’s belief in God. Against Indifference “the whole fulness” of God (Colossians 1:19) speaks. By this is meant the fulness of Love and Holiness, of Wisdom and Power, of Grace and Majesty and Blessedness, which bursts forth in the works of Creation, Redemption, Sanctification and Glorification, but which neither is nor can be exhausted in the world; although immanent in the world, He far transcends it. Only in the Son of His Love is “the whole fulness” to be seen and found. Hence there is a reference to a Triune relation, since such fulness of God, the Living One, did not first come in flow with the creation, but moved already in Him, who is before and above all creatures.—The self-existence of God the Father, who is αἴτιος πάντων τῶν ὄντων, is indicated; on Him the Son Himself depends and His activity in the works of Creation and Redemption.
4. The Person of Christ is more accurately described in a threefold relation:
a) His relation to God is set forth in the phrases: ὁ υἱὸς τῆς , “the Son of His Love,” (Colossians 1:13); εἰκὼν τοῦ θιοῦ αὀράτον, “the image of the invisible God,” (Colossians 1:15). The first expression marks Him as the object of the Father’s love, which has in Him, nothing that can grieve it, holy as it is, or that it must first subdue; thus His Holiness, Sinlessness are implied, on account of which it is He, in whom the forgiveness of sin is obtained. The other phrase leads into the substance of the glory of God, manifesting itself first and most of all in Him, and denotes also His Divine Personality; He is indeed the Image of a Personality, so that he must both have existence and be a Person, especially as “all the fulness” of God is said to dwell in the Son of Man. It may be conceded to Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, I. 153–158), Beischlag (Christologie des N. T., 228–233), Schenkel and others, that the historical Christ must be made the subject for the most part (Colossians 1:13). [See Exeg. Notes on Colossians 1:15.—R.] But what gives to this One His position in history and His Dignity, lies above this history in his super-terrestrial position and intrinsically Divine Dignity. Indeed the historical events pre suppose the relation of the Son to the Father, His Divinity, and do not first constitute Him the Son, or God the Father, or Him a Person, who did not exist before, or was not yet a Person nor the Son of God.
b) His relation to the world is described by πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, “first-born of every creature” (Colossians 1:15), and further explained by the confirmatory clause (Colossians 1:16), “in him were all things created”—“by him and to him” (ἔκτισται), and sharply defined in Colossians 1:17 : “He is before all things and in him all things subsist.” In the given connexion there is first, a temporal definition (πρὸ πάντων), so that here His pre-existence is decidedly and expressly asserted, in agreement with John 17:5 : “πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἰναι, “before the world was;” Colossians 1:1 : ἐν , “in the beginning;” Ephesians 1:4 : “before the foundation of the world.” Second: Prominence is given to the Personality, denoted both by πρωτότοκος and the creation of God “in,” “by” and “to Him,” as in John 1:1 : πρὸς τὸν θεόν; John 8:58 : ἐγὼ εἰμί. So that the Apostle here treats of a pre-existent Person, not merely of a pre-existent principle, or of a historical Person, as though the pre-existent principle first became personal in Jesus at the Incarnation, or the personality had previously been only ideal. Compare Thomasius, Christi Person und Werk, pp. 60–66. Thirdly: His Creatorship excludes any creatureship in Him, and the identity of the Creator and Redeemer is so affirmed, that He who became man is placed more under the idea “God” than the idea “man.” On this account Theodoret aptly says, “not as having creation for a sister, but as begotten before all creation.” Fourthly: Our text defines Him, not as Him, ὑφ’ οὐ̄ all things were created, and yet as active in the creation: δι’ αὐτοῦ; He is not simply an archetype of the creation for the Creator. Fifthly: He is emphatically indicated as the foundation and centre of the world and its history, its stability, and development. [Chrysostom interprets this passage and Ephesians 2:22 : “as teaching that Christ is the Living Centre, to which all things in creation converge, the Divine Keystone in the arch of the Universe, on which the whole fabric leans; but he. warns his readers against supposing that Christ Himself is consubstantial with the creatures whom He made and upholds” (Wordsworth).—R.]
c) His relation to the Church is described by “Head of the body, the Church;” “beginning;” “first-born from the dead.” On the first expression, see on Ephesians 1:22. It is the organizing power, dwelling in Him, through which the Church has come into being. The other expression refers to the victory over death, as the fact upon which the secure status of the Church rests; as indeed Paul appears especially as a witness of the resurrection, wherever as Apostle he founds churches. All views which will not recognize and appreciate the Person of Christ as the centre of His work and His Church, as Divine in origin and nature, as eternal, pre-ter restrial and super-terrestrial, efficient both in Creation and Redemption, degenerate into a false speculation against which this Epistle to the colossians contends. The question is not raised here, not even a hint given, how we are to conceive of Divinity and humanity united in One; nothing is said upon this point; hence Nestorian error does not lie so near, as Schenkel thinks, but rather Arian or Sabellian or Gnostic or another spiritual error, which volatilizes the eternal reality of the Person of Christ, or a dualistic one, which overshadows and crowds out the act of the Redeeming Subject by asceticism or legality, the so-called virtue of the subject to be redeemed.
5. The Work of Christ, with respect to God, from whom the world has apostatized through sin, is described as an ἀποκαταλλάξαι τὰ πάντα, “reconciling all things;” with respect to the state into which the world has fallen through sin, as ἡ , “the redemption,” and as to its beginning and principle, as ἡ ἄφεσις τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν, “the forgiveness of sins.” First of all, the ultimate cause of Reconciliation and Redemption is God the Father (Colossians 1:13 : ὃς ἐῤῥύσατο, Colossians 1:19 : εὐδὸκησεν—ἀποκαταλλάξαι), as in creation. The Mediation of these belongs, as in the creation, to the Son of God, as Theanthropos in His historical Personality (Colossians 1:20 : by Him—and that “through the blood of His Cross,” Colossians 1:22 : “in the body of His flesh through death”); His Person has central importance, His suffering and death is the climax. He entered into the fellowship of humanity, which is the object of Divine wrath, endured in this fellowship the wrath of God resting upon it, gave Himself as a Sacrifice, holy and innocent, proved in His self-denying obedience, in His office as Saviour, that just as His Son in whom He was well pleased became man, so it was the man in whom He was well pleased,—so that the Father for the sake of this One could turn His complacency upon the whole race which through Him dies to sin, and turns to God in grateful love.
The work of Redemption, as to its Object, relates to the totality of the creatures, although it begins in the human race; as to its Purpose, it tends to a restitution of the creation, or to a bringing back of the creation to the path which it has forsaken, toward its proper consummation. The former marks the extent of the corruption of sin. Man is a prey to the “power of darkness,” which forms the antithesis to the kingdom of Love, so that darkness, which is opposed to Love, is to be conceived of, rather, as moral, than intellectual. Will, as well as knowledge, religiousness and morality, social and political relations, are effected and corrupted, and this can not only be affirmed of heathen (Colossians 1:21 : ὑμᾶς), but is applicable to Jews (Colossians 1:13 : ἡμᾶς). In the presence of this Redemption in Christ the advantages of Israel over the Gentiles disappear. The purpose of Redemption is directed, chiefly, to the internal sanctification of men, to the forgiveness of sin, extirpation of it and its consequences, to justification before God in the judgment within the conscience, and in the future at the last day (Colossians 1:21). But it extends in ever wider circles, in order to permeate the whole creation, and bring all creatures and all relations to happiness and blessedness with Him into eternity. [To avoid any misconception, see Exeg. notes on Colossians 1:20.—R.] Hence no dualistic view finds any justification here, in fact, dualism is anti-christian. The overcoming of the antagonisms, which are easily recognized, is thus set forth as a possibility and an indispensable task, and this is accomplished by ethical means, from the reconciliation of the world to the transformation of the world. [Henry: Christ is the Mediator of reconciliation, who promises peace, as well as pardon, and brings into a state of friendship and favor at present, and will bring all holy creatures, angels as well as men, into one glorious and blessed society at last.—R.]
6. The Church in which the Redemption, objective in Christ, and accomplished by Him, is, and will be subjectively appropriated, is presented in our text in a two-fold aspect;
a) as respects its region—the militant and triumphant church, referred to in the expression, (Colossians 1:18); ἀρχὴ, πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν;
b) as respects its inner life: cœtus vocatorum et fidelium, referred to in the expression (Colossians 1:12): ἅγιοι ἐν φωτί, “saints in light.” The organism of the church is indicated by the expression (Colossians 1:18): “Head of the body, the church.” Its extent is denoted by the former reference, its vitality by the latter, and its mission is to further, subjectively, the purpose of the work of Christ. It is by no means indifferent how one stands in the church and holds to her; but it is just as little without important influence, whether or that one belongs to her, as it is indifferent in what nation or family one is incorporated.
7. The morality of the individual within the church of Christ is defined as objectively caused (ἅγιος, “holy”), subjectively internal (ἄμωμος, “unblamable”), and constantly referred to God (ἀνέγκλητος κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ, “unreprovable in his sight”); and on that account conditioned by faith, which must prove itself in a two-fold manner, in its life and its substance, as right and correct, as genuine and true, as fides qua and as fides quæ creditur; it is indeed the word of God become alive in the Christian. This, at the same time, explains, why and that faith must be stable and independent of time and human opinions; it depends upon permanence.
8. The Word of God, which should be heard and proclaimed, requires living persons who have been filled and moved by it, whom it has first served, to serve it in turn. Here we find a direction for the establishment of public worship, in which the exposition and proclamation of the Word should not be wanting, as well as for the labors of Bible Societies, that should circulate God’s Word, not merely in black and white, as copies from the press, like booksellers, and bookbinders, but in accordance with the organism and mission of the Church, in connexion with the efforts of Home and Foreign Missions.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
There is an order in prayer. Luther sets it forth in his explanation of the second Commandment [Luther’s small catechism, the 2nd answer—on our Third Commandment.—R.]: “In all necessities call, pray, praise and give thanks.” The call for help, the cry of distress, the entreaty, which necessity presses out, is the easiest, briefest, first, the prayer of an elementary pupil; the petition in perplexity for a need is an affair of the apprentice, who has learned first to pray for himself, and when further advanced, to offer supplications of unselfish love for others. The journeyman knows how to give thanks for gifts received, but the master praises the giver, not forgetting Him in His bounty. Whoever can and does do this, will not slight the easier part. Paul always goes from praise to thanksgiving, and from thanksgiving to supplication. He begins with the former, nor does he neglect the latter. Do you also? [The Apostle’s order is that of mature Christian experience. But the other is that of the learner. It is also that of the Psalms. They usually begin with petition and end with praise. They were written in the times of preparation for Christ. How often Christians revert to David’s method. The Old Testament still leads us to the New—we pray first like the Psalmist, then like the Apostle.—R.]
Theory succeeds practice, as Philosophy follows Poetry. To live the truth is more than to know the truth. To perceive the truth is rather a matter of the sanctified will, than of the will-stored memory or the isolated intellect.—Being filled with the knowledge of the truth, is to know both what is nearest and what is most remote. Reason is both a telescope, to look into distant eternal things, and a microscope to inspect and understand the things at hand, in house and heart, in life and business, but to adjust the glasses aright is not hers, it belongs to the will, it is not an intellectual, but a moral act. Christian living is not the product, but the producer of Christian thinking.—The more you do, the more you become.—Only when bearing fruit, does the Christian grow.—Self-redemption is a falsity, and forgiveness of sins, without Christ, a lie. The folly of the sixteenth century, when people bought absolution with money, is laughed at, but why should we not also ridicule the blindness of the nineteenth century, when people forgive their own guilt and sin, and fancy they get absolution at a still cheaper rate. Those who credit Christ, no longer have a creditor in God; in this privilege unbelief has no share.—The Christian cannot divide or divorce God and Christ, God and the world, Creation and Redemption, Christ’s Person and Work, this world and the next, faith and love, faith and God’s word, faith and forgiveness, faith and bliss, religion and morality, church and Christianity, sin and corruption, grace and salvation, salvation and sanctification, though it is he who accurately distinguishes them.—The truth in Christ is the greatest paradox of life; the cross is a throne, death is life, weakness is strength, defeat is victory, gain is loss.—Christ, who satisfies all the needs of the human heart, begins with pardon, with grace that ends in blessedness with God. He blesses man in himself and goes on until He completes the whole creation—to the choirs of angels.—The Bible is the jewel of all the literature of the world; in the ring of the Bible the gospel is the diamond.—The news and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures come to us in personalities, and in him who understands them they become again personal.
Starke:—You flatter yourself that you are a good Christian because you do nothing wicked! Is a tree good then, that does not bear thorns and thistles? If you are not diligent in good works, your Christianity is nothing, your imagination is vain, your hope is lost. We must grow in knowledge, grow in the power of God, grow in spiritual walk and in holiness. If a new-born child does not grow perceptibly, it is a bad sign. So it is with a Christian also.—To be patient in so many sufferings of this present time, and long-suffering amid so many adversities are excellent gifts of God. But those are far advanced, who endure evil not only with patience, but with joy also.—Eternal life is an inheritance, hence it can be trifled away with sin, but not earned with good works. For a little child, though it have done nothing as yet, comes to its inheritance as well as the larger ones, who have done much.—Sad condition of men through the fall of Adam! once monarchs over all creatures, they must now be subject to the devil and his empire.—[Believers also are first born, and enjoy the liberty of the First Born.—The dignity of believers surpasses that of angels, for they are united with the Son of God, who is higher than all angels.—R.]
Rieger:—Darkness, ignorance, doubt, inability man traces to himself; vexation and impatience break out of this darkness. But the gospel first makes known that behind this there is concealed a rule and power of darkness, out of which a deliverance is required, deliverance accomplished by means of right and justice moreover.—It was not done by the Father’s sending the Son into the world, as a great witness of His love, to tell much of His name, and thus lead us away from our hostile disposition toward God, or direct us to confidence in Him: but God laid our sins and those of the whole world on this our Mediator, accepted His obedience, His sufferings, His sacrifice and the shedding of His blood as a ransom-price for us.—There is no doubt the corruption in heathenism was greater than now, although we, who spring from Christian, perhaps specially sainted parents, are still wicked and born sinners; yet much is ameliorated in our hereditary disease, and the favorable opportunity for us to find God as Love, is much facilitated. But this must be regarded rather as an advantage of our age, and not one of our persons. Through neglect of this grace of our age, we may become again as bad and worse than a heathen.—[The praise of the blood of Christ reaches to our being presented holy and unreprovable before God.—R.] Heubner:—The heart of a Christian is a large heart. Paul had already entered into intimate fellowship with this Church, although he had never seen it. What attracts the heart of one Christian to another? How easily true Christians at once understand each other!—The more fruitful our walk, the more does our knowledge of God grow. True knowledge can come only out of and with action. It is not only the knowledge that increases, but the power is enlarged, the capacity of enduring, holding out in conflict, as well as of cherishing kindly sentiments toward enemies—and of doing both with joy. We must live ourselves into Christianity.—Those who do not desire to become holy or to be “made meet,” may be external adherents, but are not citizens of the kingdom of heaven.—Christ is before all with respect to time; He does not belong to the series of beings created in time. This “before” of priority naturally includes the “before” of preëminence.—Justification precedes, sanctification follows: the heart must first be stilled, then it can collect itself and prepare for sanctification. The latter is the end of the reconciliation. Why then will we ever invert this order? Because we would ascribe pardon to our merit, and not to the merit of Christ.
Schleiermacher:—A mind, that would fully apprehend the truth of the gospel, will soon mark a voice in itself, when something important and essential is omitted, while on the other hand, good sense will soon warn us, if we allow ourselves to be misled, so as to insert in the Scripture, through artifice, something which is not there.—Only when He has become to us the knowledge of the Divine will, is there a walk worthy of Him.—Expanded knowledge is itself a consequence of fruitfulness in good works.—The more plain the will of God becomes to us, the more we see what God has laid upon us to do; so much the more do we encounter opposition, the more difficult it becomes to instil the same view into others, and the more does this spiritual conduct of life enter into spheres which appear foreign to it.—Oh that we so investigated the Scriptures, that it tended to edification!—Paul makes sanctification dependent upon “being grounded” in faith, and upon not being “moved away” from the hope of the gospel, which is no other than that of the consummation of the kingdom of God in Christ.
Passavant:—At the time of the council of Constance, three cardinals in their ride met a poor shepherd weeping on the beach. They asked him why he wept so. “Out of gratitude,” he answered, pointing to a worm, “that God has made me a man and not a poor worm like that.” “What would have been the gratitude of the poor shepherd, had the cardinals revealed to him, that God could, besides, make him meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.—Darkness is a kingdom, and this kingdom has its principalities and powers, and their artifice and malice is great; their might is great and the abyss is deep.—Many a one may appear pure and refined in conduct and culture, whose conscience sleeps, whose heart deceives itself; it is a dream of rest and peace, a false dream of life: sin can scatter over the whole life of a sinner her poppy leaves.—There exists among highly cultivated minds, among educated people, an alienation from God, and in consequence an enmity, which seems to arise not so much from the ordinary sinful flesh, as from the temerity and pride of the thinking or subtilizing faculty in us, which indeed is also flesh. [“One can—and the inconsistency is not rare—worship Jesus Christ as God, and yet not have acknowledged Him as God formally and with the understanding; the heart makes Him God, the understanding makes Him man, still with most men the heart cannot cure the mind of its error, but is rather led astray itself.” Quotation in Passavant.—R.] “To extend the law of Christ,” says Theodorus, “they did not use carnal weapons. The power of convincing speech alone attested the power of these divine precepts. Every where exposed to the greatest dangers, they endured in all cities, through which they passed, the most shameful and cruel mal-treatment: scourge and rack, prisons, executions and martyrdoms of all kinds were daily their lot: yet though the executioner could kill the bearers of the divine message, they could not kill the message itself. It proved still mightier after their death: the gospel survived with equal vital power the efforts and the rage of Barbarians and Romans: out of the funeral pile where they would bury the memory of those fishermen and tent makers, it went forth yet more brilliantly and gloriously.”
[Henry:—The Apostle heard that they were good, and he prayed that they might be better.—1. That they might be knowing, intelligent Christians. 2. That their conversation might be good. 3.
That they might be strengthened. Colossians 1:12 sq. Here is the summary of the doctrine of the gospel concerning the great work of our redemption by Christ. It comes in here not as the matter of a sermon, but as the matter of a thanksgiving.—He does not discourse of the work of redemption in the natural order of it; for then he would speak of the purchase of it first, and afterwards of the application of it. But here he inverts the order; because in our sense and feeling of it, the application goes before the purchase. We first find the benefits of redemption in our own hearts, and then are led by those streams to the original and Fountainhead.—They who are not saints on earth, will never be saints in heaven. All who are designed for heaven hereafter, are prepared for heaven now. They who have the inheritance of sons, have the education of sons, and the disposition of sons.—This meetness for heaven is the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts; which is part of payment, and assures the full payment.—The greatest enemies to God, who have stood at the greatest distance and bidden Him defiance, may be reconciled, if it is not their own fault.—There was such a value in the blood of Christ, that on account of Christ’s shedding it, God was willing to deal with men upon new terms, and bring them under a covenant of grace; and for His sake and in consideration of His death upon the cross, to pardon and accept to favor all who comply with them.—This gospel may be preached to every creature; for it excludes none who do not exclude themselves.—Paul was a great Apostle; but he looks upon it as the highest of his titles of honor, to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.—R.]
Colossians 1:10. Our fruitfulness should be an universal fruitfulness, an humble and self-denying fruitfulness, a proportionable fruitfulness, an abounding and abiding fruitfulness; this is to be fruitful in every good work.
Colossians 1:12. This meetness is a spiritual blessing, a transcendent favor, a discriminating favor, an everlasting favor; eternity will be too short to spend in the admiration of it; let such as are interested in it, now begin the work upon earth, of giving thanks to the Father for it.—R.]
Colossians 1:10. Superabundance of one kind of fruit is no compensation for the absence of another. “Every good work” is inculcated. Such fruitfulness is not exhaustive. The tree grows healthfully while its fertility is so great.
Colossians 1:11. That peculiar position which necessitates the exercise of “patience and long suffering” should not induce despondency, 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.
Colossians 1:12. None but the saints, as being “light in the Lord”can dwell in that light. They who enjoy it are made meet for social intercourse. Selfishness vanishes before universal love, the intense yearnings of a spiritual brotherhood are developed and perfected.
Colossians 1:13. 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.
Colossians 1:14. Forgiveness is more closely connected with redemption than any other blessing; it comes at once from the cross to the believing soul.
Colossians 1:15-19. The sentences in which Paul describes the rank and prerogative of Christ are like a bursting torrent. How he exults in the precious theme, and how his soul swells into impassioned panegyric!—Had the Divine Being remained alone, His glory would have been unseen and His praises unsung. 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 to reflect it.—At every point of His existence, it may be said of Him, “He is.” What faith in power and extent should not be reposed in such a Saviour-God!—In all things He has the preeminence. None like Christ is the decision of faith, none but Christ is the motto of love.—Every grace as it is needed, and when it is needed, in every variety of phasis and operation, is wrapt up in that fulness which dwells in Christ.
Colossians 1:20. Blood shed on earth creates feuds to be extinguished only by other blood; but the blood of Christ’s violent and vicarious death brings peace, restores alliance between heaven and earth.
Colossians 1:21. Man does not win his way back to the Divine favor by either costly offering or profound penitence. God re-unites him to Himself; has not only provided for such an alliance, but actually forms and cements it. The incarnation rightly understood, enhances the Redeemer’s greatness.
Colossians 1:23. Thus a life of faith is one of hope. The loss of faith is the knell of hope.—Man is not acted on mechanically by the grace of God, but his whole spiritual nature is excited to earnest prayer and anxious effort. The confidence of success inspirits them.—R.]
[Barnes: Colossians 1:9-11. It is a good time to pray for Christians when they are already prosperous, and are distinguished for zeal and love. We have then encouragement to do it.
Colossians 1:12-13. No words can express appropriately the goodness of God in thus making us heirs of light.
Colossians 1:15-18. In the affections of our hearts let the Saviour in all things have the preeminence. None should be loved by us as Christ is loved.
Colossians 1:19. In all our wants let us go to Christ, in whom all fulness dwells.
Colossians 1:20. What a glorious work is that of the gospel! It reconciles and harmonizes distant worlds.—R.]
Colossians 1:19. In Jesus Christ “all fulness” dwells, for the supply of spiritual destitution. Fulness of knowledge: knowledge is the great distinction of the mind, and here is all spiritual knowledge. Christ is Himself the wisdom of God; to know Him is to attain at once the highest knowledge. Fulness of holiness; holiness is the proper riches and beauty of the soul; and the subjects of Christ are created anew in holiness after His image. Fulness of consolation; the greatest comforts that ever visited the troubled heart of man are those which flow from Christ as their fountain. Fulness once more, as it respects the inheritance in reserve; of which the saints have at certain seasons a present sense and foretaste, though the light of eternity is required to display its real extent, to display the accessible fulness of the present Saviour.—R.]
Ahlfeld: He who places the full Christian grace before his soul, will strive the more earnestly to possess it. 1) Wherein does it consist? 2) How may I gain what I still lack?—Carsten: Peace through His blood on the cross. 1) Between God and man, 2) Heaven and earth, 3) in each human breast—or 1) The world reconciled with God, 2) Heaven opened, 3) Conscience stilled.—Löhe: A ladder that reaches from heaven to earth. 1) God the Father has set it through the Son of His Love; 2) the highest round, at first concealed, shines in the light of sanctification; 3) the second in that of justification; 4) the third in the bloody scene of Golgotha; and our Redemption.—Köhler: Thanksgiving for the benefit of Redemption; 1) end; 2) mode; 3) means; 4) Person of Redemption.
Zimmerman: Strife of two kingdoms for the souls of sinners; 1) God the Father devised the struggle concerning us; 2) God the Son has won the victory and kingdom for us; 3) whoever abides in Him, has escaped the enemy.33
On the epistle for the 24th Sunday after Trinity [Colossians 1:9-14. The Prot. Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, following that of the Church of England, uses Colossians 1:3-12.—R.]—Heubner: The great change wrought in man by Christianity. 1) Its nature: a) new light, full of knowledge and wisdom; b) a new virtuous walk, worthy of God; c) the translation into a new kingdom; d) the eternal Redemption. 2) The consequences: a) what is the reason, if we have not yet experienced this change? b) what have we to do?—Rautenburg: The question respecting our growth in Christianity. 1) Can we—2) will we grow? 3) Have we grown?—Paul prays for the believers in Colosse : 1) that, 2) what, 3) where and when he prayed for them.—Kapff: What is eternal blessedness ? 1) Redemption for all evil; 2) blessed fellowship with God and all saints; 3) unspeakable joy and honor in the glory of the heavenly kingdom.—Lorenz: Darkness and light. 1) Man according to nature; 2) man according to grace.—Florey: Light, the believer’s inheritance. 1) They have the light of truth; 2) they walk in the light of virtue; 3) they come into the light of blessedness.—Beck: How a share in the glorious power of God 1) makes us meet; 2) admonishes us to thanksgiving.
[Beveridge: Colossians 1:12. The happiness of the saints in heaven. 1) What kind of persons they are, who are or shall be happy in the other world; they are saints. 2) The happiness they enjoy there; the inheritance in light. 3) They who desire to enjoy that happiness must be duly qualified for it; “made meet.” 4) All who are so qualified must ascribe it wholly to God, and give Him thanks for it; “giving thanks,” etc.—Steinhofer : The economy of the Triune God in the work of our blessedness. 1) What God has determined according to the counsel of His own good pleasure; 2) what in His Son from all eternity for our salvation; 3) what actually takes place in us to the praise and glory of His name.—The three glorious names of Jesus (Begotten before every creature, first-born from the dead, Head of the Body) should awaken us 1) to an humble joy, 2) a complete faith, 3) a tender love to Him.—Lisco: The actual union of God with the human nature in Christ the ground of the most intimate re-union of humanity with God through Christ.—Schenkel: A fruitful teacher’s duty to pray unceasingly for his people.—The Christian should not rest until he has fully known the will of God, 1) in its highest designs and ends; 2) according to its manifold methods and means.—How Christian life and Christian thought reciprocally condition each other. 1) Without Christian thought the Christian life is not plain. 2) Without Christian life Christian thought is not correct.—The blessing of Redemption: 1) Wherein it consists (forgiveness of sins); 2) whereby it is obtained (through the blood of Christ.)—Jesus Christ, the Risen One, the Head of the church: 1) Its Founder, 2) its Upholder, 3) its Ruler.—Jesus Christ, according to God’s good pleasure, the Bearer of all fulness of humanity and of man. Consider then 1) His glory, 2) our poverty.—The threefold witness for the truth of the gospel: resting 1) on the antiquity, 2) the extent, 3) the power of the proclamation of the same.—R.]
Colossians 1:9; Colossians 1:9.—Καὶ αἰτούμενοι is wanting in B. [On the order of the latter part of the verse see Exeg. Notes.—R.]
Colossians 1:10; Colossians 1:10.—[Ὑμᾶς, inserted after περιπατῆσαι, Rec. Tischendorf, Wordsworth. Rejected by Lachmann, Meyer, Scholz, Alford, Ellicott, on the authority of א. A. B. C. D. F. The subject “ye” necessarily supplied in the finite construction of our language.—R.]
Colossians 1:10; Colossians 1:10.—Instead of the more difficult reading: εἰς τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν, of D.3 E.2 K. L., we find in א. B. [C. D. F. G] τῇ ἐπιγνώσει, which with Meyer is to be regarded as an explanation. [Braune’s German text: in der Erkenntniss, is certainly a typographical error for in die. Erkenntniss. The reading ἐν with the dative has little support. Εἰς with the accusative, which Braune adopts, is that of Tischendorf (Exodus 2:0 and 7, not 1). But Lachmann, Griesbach, Scholz, De Wette, Alford, Ellicott follow the preponderant uncial authority and read τῇ ἐπιγνώσει, all of them previous to the discovery of א., which confirms this reading. I have therefore altered the English text to express the force of this reading (instrumental dative).—R.]
Colossians 1:11; Colossians 1:11.—[“Strengthened with strength;” δυνάμει δυναμούμενοι.—R.]
Colossians 1:11; Colossians 1:11.—[The hendiadys of the E. V. is generally considered unfortunate. Coverdale, Rhemish: “the might of His glory.”—R.]
Colossians 1:11; Colossians 1:11.—[“Joy;” Wickliffe, Rhemish, Eadie, Alford, Ellicott.—R.]
Colossians 1:12; Colossians 1:12.—B. inserts καλέσαντι καί before ἱκανώσαντι [retained by Lachmann only.—R.]. D.1 F. G. read καλέσαντι only, omitting ἱκαν. The first appears to have been interpolated, then the subsequent omission.
Ver 12.—[“For the portion,” more literal than E. V., following the versions of Wickliffe, Coverdale and the Rhemish—“for the share,” “for the part,” etc.—R.]
Colossians 1:13; Colossians 1:13.—[“Son of his love,” preferred by all modern commentators, avoiding the hendiadys of the E. V.—R.]
Colossians 1:14; Colossians 1:14.—[Ellicott: “διὰ τοῦ αἴματος rests only on cursive manuscripts, and is rightly omitted by nearly all modern editors.” From Ephesians 1:7.—R.]
Colossians 1:17; Colossians 1:17.—Wordsworth reads ἔστι, “exists,” instead of ἐστί “is.” “Subsist,” Alford, Ellicott.—R.]
Colossians 1:18; Colossians 1:18.—Ἑκ is to be retained before τῶν νεκρῶν with B. and the corrector of א.—B. alone has the article ἡ before ἀρχή.
Colossians 1:19; Colossians 1:19.—[The rendering of Alford, given above, coincides with that of Braune. See Exeg. Notes.—R.]
Colossians 1:21; Colossians 1:21.—B. and others have ἀποκατηλλάγητε. The reading ἀποκατήλλαξεν, א. A. C. and others, seems to be an emendation on account of the construction. [The preponderance of authority is on the other side. Lachmann adopts the reading of B., but Rec, E. V., Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth follow the mass of MSS. See Exeg. Notes.—R.]
Colossians 1:22; Colossians 1:22.—Αὐτοῦ after θανάταυ א. A., is properly omitted in B. [Τοῦ θανάτου is=“his death” here.—R.]
Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:23.—Τῇ is omitted after πάση in א. A. B. C. and others. The corrector of א. adds it.
Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:23.—Instead of διάκονος, the reading of א. B. [?A.] is κήρυξ καὶ , yet δίακονος is added in the margin of א.
[These divisions are made to rhyme in German—a fashion in sermonizing that happily has not yet come into vogue in America: 1) Gott der Vater hat den Kampf um uns ersonnen, 2) Gott der Sohn hat Sieg und Reich fur uns gewonnen; 3) wer in Ihm, bleibt, der ist dem Feind entronnen.—R.]
3. Joy of the Apostle in his suffering and labor
24Who [I]34 now rejoice in my [the]35 sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind [ὑστερήματα, deficiencies] of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s 25sake, which is the church; Whereof I 36 am made [became]37 a minister according to the dispensation of God which is [was] given to me for you, to fulfil the word of 26God; Even [To wit] the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations [the ages and from the generations],38 but now39 is made manifest to his saints: 27To whom God would [willed to] make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which40 is Christ in [or among]41 you, the hope of glory: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus [in Christ]:42 29Whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The joy in suffering. Colossians 1:24.—Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you.—“Now” marks the present, which is described by “in my sufferings for you;” precisely therein, surrounded, encompassed by sufferings “I rejoice.” [Eadie: “ ‘at the present time,’ with the chain upon my wrist:—not, however, as if he had been sorrowful at a previous period.”—R.] At other times he had his joy without bonds, in full freedom of activity for the gospel. The object of joy is not denoted by ἐν, but by ἐπί with the dative, Matthew 18:13; Luke 1:14; Act 15:21; 1 Corinthians 13:6; 1 Corinthians 16:17, or by διά, John 11:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:9. Only in Luke 10:20; Philippians 1:18 is the object introduced by ἐν τούτῳ. The object of his joy is that his sufferings had good fruit among the Gentiles. Comp. Philippians 1:12-20. It was in Rome that he had learned this; hence “now.” The bitterness of sorrow cannot disturb his joy at the sweetness of the fruit. See Ephesians 3:1. Hence it is incorrect to consider νῦν a particle of transition (Baehr), or of consecution, or τὰ παθήματα as the object of the joy (Grotius, Huther and others). Nor is ὑπέρ=“instead of” (Steiger), or “on account of” (wegen, Stolz), or to be joined with χαίρω. The reference is neither to the occasion of the sufferings of the Apostle to the Gentiles, nor to his example, but to the fact, that his sufferings are for the good of the Church, as indicated by what follows. [Eadie agrees with Stolz: “on account of.” He was imprisoned because of his preaching to the Gentiles. This is true, but Alford’s view agrees better with the text, context and Braune. “The preposition cannot here imply substitution—but strictly in commodum vestri, that you may be confirmed in the faith by—not my example merely—the glorification of Christ in my sufferings.” So Winer: zum Vortheil, Gram. p. 358.—R.]
And fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ.—[“And am filling up fully the lacking measures of the sufferings of Christ,” Ellicott.—R.] Καί leads us forward from the subjective feeling to the objective state of the case (Meyer), but not from the particular (ὑμῶν) to the whole (Luecke); nor is it= καὶ γάρ (Baehr), nor yet=sed (Bengel). By τὰ ὑστερήματα (Philippians 2:30; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1Co 16:17; 2 Corinthians 8:13-14; 2 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9); we are to understand arrears, which must be can Celled [“deficiencies,” Alford—R.]; where such are found is indicated by τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Χριστοῦ. As in 2 Corinthians 1:5 (“the sufferings of Christ”) the meaning here is, sufferings which Christ endured.43 The Apostle, whom Christ had asked, when he persecuted the Church (Acts 9:14), “why persecutest thou me?” and who in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:33; Ephesians 4:12) calls Him the Head of the Church, and this His body, could speak thus without fear of being misunderstood. What befalls His own, the Master accepts as done to Himself (Matthew 10:40-42; Matthew 25:31-46). Hate and persecution He had announced to them beforehand (John 15:18-21; John 16:1-4). What the servants suffer is aimed at the Master. He takes it to Himself. All enemies of the Church are His enemies also, who shall be put under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:25). See Winer’s Gram. p. 178. Melanchthon: non quod ad meritum, quod plenissimum est solius Christi, sed quod ad militiæ societatem attinet. Here the Apostle treats of historical matters, phenomena and facts, behind which we must ever hold fast to a real, though invisible connexion of the Head with His Church—(here just as in Philippians 3:10; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 4:10 sq.; 2 Timothy 2:11; 1 Peter 4:13)—with respect to the historical development, the course of the Kingdom through the world. There is nothing whatever to indicate atonement with God [i. e., by means of these sufferings of Christ, the “deficiencies” of which Paul was filling up; this interpretation made this “a proof text for the doctrine of indulgences” among the medieval Romanists—it is doubtless thus understood still among them.—R.] As little as τὰ ὑστερήματα describes any lack or insufficiency of afflictions in themselves, so little stress can be laid upon the choice of the specially significant expression (θλίφεις) instead of the more general παθήματα (2 Corinthians 1:5). It is incorrect to understand τοῦ Χριστοῦ as meaning: similar to the sufferings of Christ (Huther and others), or for the sake of Christ (Böhmer and others), or borne auctore et auspice Christo (Luecke), or the Church directly. On ἀνταναπληρῶ placed first on the main idea, Bengel makes the excellent remark: fixa est mensura passionum, quas tota exantlare debet ecclesia; quo plus igitur Paulus ezhausit, eo minus et ipsi et poslhac et ceteris relinquitur; hoc facit communio sanctorum. While ἀναπληροῦν occurs more frequently in the New Testament, ἀνταναπληροῦν is found here only, and is rare any where. The preposition ἀντί, according to the context, refers to a filling up in view of arrears, and marks the extent and weight of the Apostle’s sufferings. It cannot be regarded as referring to Christ (instead of Christ, or: as He for me, so I now suffer for Him [vicissim]), or to the Church; not even to the fact that he had formerly persecuted Christ and afflicted the Church; although he now as a sufferer completed the sufferings which come on the Church, while as a persecutor he had formerly brought such upon it. Tittmann (Syn. I. p. 230) and Winer (de verb. comp. Colossians 3:0 :p. 22) explain: alterius quod deficit loco et vice supplere; not indicated here. [Eadie gives the clearest statement of the various interpretations, and mentions those who uphold them. His own view, which agrees in the main with that of Braune, Alford, Ellicott,—and of many of the best commentators from Chrysostom to our day, will appear from the following extracts: “The personal sufferings of Christ are over, but His sufferings in His people still continue. 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 denotes to fill up in relation to; 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.—Filled up what was yet wanting in the Saviour’s sympathetic sorrows.” So Augustine on Psalms 61:0.—See Doctrinal notes below.—R.] A further and fuller definition of ἀνταναπληρῶ is given in the next clause: In my flesh for his body’s sake.—[In support of the above view, Wordsworth aptly remarks: “Hence the Apostle says, that I may fill up what is lacking of Christ’s sufferings in His Body; not in the Head.”—R.] The two phrases belong together; “flesh”—“body” denote the reciprocal relation; the former describes the person of the Apostle on the side which is affected by the sorrow (Galatians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:11), the latter the organism to which benefit accrues from the sorrow endured, from the bearing of the sorrow; the individual sacrifice for the whole (Meyer) is the intent of these adverbial phrases. Comp. Ephesians 3:13. Steiger incorrectly joins these phrases with “the afflictions of Christ as one idea: the verb requires closer definition rather than this. [So Ellicott: ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου defines the seat, and inferentially the mode of the “filling up,”—in exquisite contrast (Meyer) with the σῶμα, which defines the object of the action.—R.]—Which is the church, is simply an explanation (see Ephesians 1:22), as ὑπὲρ τοῦ σώματος ὑμῶν is an explanation of ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν.
The ministerial position of Paul. Colossians 1:25-27.
Colossians 1:25. Whereof I became a minister, ἦς ἐγενόμην ἐγὼ διάκονος.—See Colossians 1:23. This vocation of suffering for the Church he must endure as its minister; as servant, not as master, as servant of the gospel and of the Church, qui evangelio servit, idem ecclesiæ servit (Grotius). [Eadie: “of which Church;” Ellicott: “ἦς has a faintly explanatory force,—‘I fill up, etc.—the Church, being an appointed minister thereof,—in Colossians 1:23 the διακονία referred to the εὐαγγέλιον, here to the Church by which the εὐαγγέλιον is preached”—R.] As servant, which he became : according to the dispensation of God which was given to me for you.—Κατὰ τὴν οἰκονομίαν τοῦ θεοῦ [gemäss der Haushalterschaft (stewardship, Alford) Gottes.—R.] defines his ministry as that of an οἰκόνομος, God as οἰκοδεσπόιης, His (τοῦ θεοῦ) is the οἰκονομία entrusted to him, he and his office belong to God. It is therefore the office, not the management, dispensatio (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:2). [Ellicott: “not the disposition of God, but the spiritual function, the office of an οἰκόνομος.”—The word is difficult to render accurately in English. “Dispensation” can remain, not from its fitness, but in lack of a better.—R.] Hence “which was given to me.” A comparison of Romans 15:15 (“the grace that is given to me of God”) with 1 Corinthians 3:10 (“the grace of God which is given unto me”) enables us to perceive that the emphasis is laid upon this, that the office, which was given to him, was of God, not that God had given it to him. The expression regards the Church [Kirche] as the house of God in connexion with the view that the congregation [Gemeinde] is the body of Christ, as in Ephesians 1:22 sq. and Colossians 2:21 sq.).—The added phrase, εἰς ὑμᾶς [“for you,” “towards you” (Alford)—R.], gives the reference, the direction of the office, which God had determined, and takes the readers as denoting, concretely and immediately, the heathen world to which they belonged.
To fulfil the word of God.—This is his allotted duty. The infinitive depends on δοθεῖσαν. [Infinitive of design.—R.] In the object the gospel is included, and thus the idea of a message, which should be carried in all directions. Hence “fulfil” implies the figure of a measure to be filled. Bengel: ad omnes perducere. Paulus ubique ad summa tendit. Comp. Romans 15:19. There indeed the locality is given; here it is indicated also by εἰς ὑμᾶς, which precedes. Hence it is not=to fulfilling the promises (Beza), that was not the affair of the Apostle, nor=to proclaim fully in extent and contents (Olshausen), nor=to preach fully (Luther), nor=to complete, as if finish the teaching of Epaphras (Fritzsche), nor=to teach as נָפַר (Flatt, Baehr and others), nor yet=to realize (Steiger),=to work out (De Wette),=to bring to full faith (Chrysostom, who connects εἰς ὑμᾶς here). [Alford seems to incline to the view of Chrysostom, but rejects the assumed connection: “to fulfil the duty of the stewardship, in doing all that this preaching of the word requires.” Ellicott: “to give its fullest amplitude to, to fill up the measure of its fore-ordained universality, not perhaps without some allusion to the οἰκονομία, which could thus be fully discharged.” So Meyer and Eadie. See Homil. Notes.—R.]
Colossians 1:26 defines more closely the word of God as to its purport.—The mystery which hath been hid from the ages and the generations.—See Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 3:4; Ephesians 1:9. The synonymous phrase (καὶ—γενεῶν), alone is new, and unique in the New Testament (yet see Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 3:21; Acts 15:21). Beside the ages of the world, the generations of men living in them are brought into special prominence, and thus the concealment from the beginning of human history is marked. Bengel incorrectly refers αἰῶνες to angels, γενεαί to men. [Ellicott: “the mystery was the divine purpose of salvation in Christ, and more especially as the context seems to show ‘de salvandis gentibus per gratiam evangelicum’ (Davenant).—The Apostle does not say, πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων, from eternity. The expression is historical. The counsel was formed πρὸ τ. αί., but concealed ἀπο τ. αι.” Eadie seems to be incorrect in limiting “mystery” here to the salvation of the Gentiles, though it has a special reference to this.—R.]
But now is made manifest to his saints.—The Greek liked the transition from a participle to a finite verb, of course with due regard to the structure of the thought, Winer’s Gram. p. 505. [Here the transition gives prominence to the second member of the sentence, and sharpens the contrast.—R.] Ephesians 3:5 is parallel. Special emphasis rests upon νυνὶ δε on account of the antithesis. In contrast with ἐγνωρίσθη, which refers to knowledge, and ἀπεκαλύφθη which refers to special spiritual revelation, ἐφανερώθη is the most general and comprehensive expression, certainly not without a reference to the historical actualization, to the fact of evangelical preaching (2 Timothy 1:10). [Meyer observes that this manifestation took place in different ways, partly by revelation, partly by preaching and exposition, and partly by all combined. Eadie and Alford seem disposed to limit it to direct manifestation by Divine power, “at the glorification of Christ and the bestowal of the Spirit.” But the whole context refers to Paul’s ministry, hence the more extensive view, which includes preaching, is to be preferred.—R.] Thus “His saints” means all Christians, and must not be limited to the Apostles on account of the parallel passage (Baehr, Steiger, and others). Nor should “saints” be taken indefinitely (Huther), because the mystery of the reception of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God was not known by many Jewish Christians. The word is not ἐγνωρίσθη, “known;” these were? only a minority at best, and their misconception was rather respecting the mode, the immediacy of the entrance of the Gentiles. [Davenant applies it to the elect, which though true enough, is not pertinent here, see below.—R.]
Colossians 1:27. To whom God willed to make known, οἷς ἠθλησεν ὁ θεὸς γνωρίσαι.—This relative clause marks the design of God. Ἠθέλησεν44 is not to be limited to free grace, as, the Greeks and Reformed claim. [Chrysostom, Calvin, Beza, De Wette—modern commentators, even Eadie, object to pressing such a meaning. Alford: a legitimate inference, but not an exposition.—R.] Simply=it was His will. His design in the “making manifest” was “to make known.” Thus the view respecting the former verb is corroborated. The relative clause does not limit the force of ἄγιοι, to those who should know: οἶς is: as to whom, [quippe quibus (Meyer): as being persons “to whom,” etc. “Seing that to them it was God’s will,” etc. (Ellicott).—R.] The object of γνωρίσαι is: what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.—“What is the riches” is quæ suit divitiæ not quales. On ὁ and τὸ πλοῦτος, see Winer’s Gram. p. 64. The Apostle is speaking of the wealth “of the glory of this mystery.” Δόξα is the main idea, which must not be weakened: on it depends a “wealth,” while it depends “on this mystery,” and come with the revelation of it Hence it is incorrect to render: “glorious riches” (Luther) and gloriosi hujus mysterii (Beza). Δοξα is glory, and not to be limited to “bliss” (Michaelis), “glorious results” (Chrysostom), nor yet to be extended to God’s Being, His wisdom and grace (De Wette), the Divine self-revelation (Schenkel). Calvin is excellent: “He teaches that these riches had appeared, particularly among the Gentiles; for what could be more deserving of admiration, than that the Gentiles who for so many ages had been sunk in death, and whose condition might seem altogether desperate, should suddenly be received into the family of God, and receive the inheritance of salvation?” [On the meaning of δόξα, see Alford and Ellicott.—The former, following Meyer, makes it identical with δόξα below—the latter distinguishes it, more correctly. Both would not restrict it to either a subjective or objective meaning; it partakes of both.—R.] On this account “among the Gentiles,” is to be joined with “is,” which must be supplied, not to “this mystery.” Among the Gentiles the riches of the glory of this mystery revealed in the gospel appeared in the sharpest contrast with the deepest shadows (Olshausen).
Two phrases in apposition make the sense clearer. First: which [or who] is Christ in you, [bei Euch, “among you—R.]—“Christ among the Gentiles, the greatest paradox in that age” (Bengel). First “without Christ,” “without God.” “Children of wrath by nature” (Ephesians 2:12-13) now He is among, in them (Ephesians 3:17). Ἐν ὑμῖν corresponds to ἐν ἔθνεσιν, “Christ” to “the riches of the glory of this mystery,” and ὄς marks this reference, though it conforms to the following name, not to τὸ πλοῦτος (Winer’s Gram. p. 157). [Hence the various readings do not affect the sense.—R.] The reference to “this mystery” (Huther) [Alford, Ellicott.—R.] is too restricted, and not welt-founded in grammar or fact. By “Christ” we must understand not the knowledge of Christ (Theophylact), nor the doctrine of Christ (Grotius) nor yet “from Christ” (Flatt), but Himself, His Person. “You” means the Gentiles, not simply the Colossian readers, as in Colossians 1:25.—Secondly: the hope of glory, in exegetical apposition with “Christ,” in whom the Gentiles have the surety for the future fruition of the glory of salvation: in Him we have here as seed, what we shall have in Him there as harvest. Entirely like 1 Timothy 1:1, “Jesus Christ, our hope.” [“Glory” here is future blessedness, above it has a more general reference, see Eadie, Ellicott.—R.] “Christ—your life,” Colossians 3:4, is similar. John 11:25. Comp. Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:12; Romans 8:24. Bengel: Christus in nobis, per se Iætissimum; sed multo Iætius, respectu eorum, guæ revelabuntur.
Paul’s labor. Colossians 1:28-29. “Whom we preach, ὃν ἡμεῖς καταγγέλλομεν.—The emphasis must be laid on ἡμεῖς, which might be wanting, did not the Apostle speak in opposition to false teachers. At the same time, he notes that he does not stand alone. It does not refer directly to Timothy (Meyer), nor to Epaphras; it is doubtful whether Paul thought of particular persons. Certainly Bleek is mistaken in his view that he thought particularly of no other one than himself. [So Conybeare, who insists ever upon the singular force of ἡμεῖς.—R.] The singular which follows (Colossians 1:29 : κοπιῶ) forbids such an opinion. Erasmus incorrectly places the emphasis upon ὅν; “this one, not Moses or angels.”
Warning every man and teaching every man.—This gives the modality of the καταγγελεῖν. Both participles [νουθετοῦντες and διδάσκοντες] are used, Colossians 3:16, in another order. The first aims to affect the will, using what is already known, the other to foster knowledge, beginning indeed with what is known; it denotes the imparting of information, linked with what is known, or the extension and deepening of knowledge, and here indeed, in the second place after νουθετοῦντες, on the basis of experiences and occurrences in the present and past, with a view to the future and eternity. Ephesians 6:4; Acts 26:18; Romans 3:23-26. Both embrace repentance and faith—not the first participle the former, and the second, the latter (Meyer). [So Ellicott, and Alford, “but not too closely or exclusively.”—R.] Nor is the first alone moral, and the second only didactic (Schenkel). Bengel too is incorrect, νουθετοῦνται, qui jam doctisunt, διδάσκονται, rudes. [For the other views, see Eadie, who, while regarding the first term as the more general, and the second as the more special,—agrees in the main with Braune’s view as given above.—R.] Both are more closely defined: in all wisdom, ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ.—See Ephesians 1:8. There is no reason for joining it to διδάσκοντες alone, (De Wette, Meyer) [Alford, Ellicott and apparently Eadie.—R.], and the view is a perversion, which finds in it the object of the instruction (Estius and others). “Wisdom of words” (1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 2:1-4) is excluded, but insight into the individuality of one to be taught and admonished, into his condition, and into the-method by which it can be successfully done. [Alford: “the method of teaching.” Ellicott: “in every form of wisdom—the characteristic element in which the teaching was always to be, and to which it was to be circumscribed.” Chrysostom: μετὰ πάσης σοφίας These views are correct, but should be extended to “warning” as well.—R.]
That we may present every man perfect in Christ.—Ἵνα gives the end of the “preaching,” mediated by the “warning” and “teaching.” As in Colossians 1:22, παραστή σωμεν which is placed first for emphasis, is used with reference to the Judgment; so earnest a matter is it; it has not to do with men’s judgment. The offering of a sacrifice is not found in the context. “Every man” is repeated for the third time: every individual the Apostle bore on his heart. Bengel: hoc toties positum maximan habet δεινόητα ac vim, et causam continet, cur etiam ad ignotos scribal. As “perfect” each should there appear, and indeed, as the context and Colossians 1:22 require, in his whole being, not simply in knowledge (Chrysostom [Calvin] and others), or in justifying faith (Olshausen). Perfection is possible only “in Christ,” who alone conditions and effects this, in life and nature. By this he excludes all those false methods of voluntary asceticism, to which the false teachers guided. [Such a reference is considered doubtful by Alford and Ellicott, “in Christ” being so frequently used by the Apostle.—R.]
Colossians 1:29. Whereunto I also labour.—[“To which end.”—R.] The proclamation of Christ is the Apostle’s life-work (εἰς ὅ) and not simply a service, and also (καί) a painful labor (κοπιῶ) [Καί, also; besides preaching, etc.—I labor also. The relapse to the singular—“has an individualizing force, and carries on the reader from the general and common labors of preaching the gospel, to the struggles of the individual preacher” (Ellicott).—R.] This is strengthened by striving, ἀγωνιζόμενος.—By this he means both the internal conflicts of soul (Colossians 4:12; Colossians 2:1 sq.) in care, prayer, sympathy and earnestness for sanctification, and the external “fightings” (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; Philippians 1:30). Chrysostom adds μετὰ πολλῆς σπουδῆς τουτέστιν μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς . Meyer [Eadie, Alford.—R.] incorrectly limit it to internal, Grotius, Baehr and others to external conflict.
According to his working, which worketh in me mightily.—“According to his working” (ἐνέργειαν αὐτοῦ according to the context: Christ’s) denotes, that Paul is not led and limited to his own strength, but strives according to the measure of the energy of Christ, which too worketh mightily in him, Ephesians 3:20, Philippians 4:13. Paulus per se non valeret, pro eo ac Christus in eo operatur, pellet (Bengel). It is both humility and certainty of victory. As little as αὖτοῦ should be considered as referring to God (Chrysostom and others), so little is the participle to be taken as passive (Ewtius) and ἐν δυνάμει (comp. Romans 1:4) to be referred to miracles (Vatable). [Ellicott, quoting Calvin, thinks there is no reason for excluding miracles summarily, though he admits such a reference would be only secondary. Eadie makes the phrase specify “the mode of operation.” “The occurrence of the noun and a correlate verb intensifies the meaning”—Such a “working” would be “in power.” “Its ample energies clothed him with a species of moral omnipotence.”—R.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The sufferings of the Church are the sufferings of Christ. The connexion of Christ, as Lord and Head, with the Church, His Body is so close, that the sufferings of the Church are the sufferings of Christ. “We know that the unity of the head and the members is such, that the name Christ sometimes comprehends the whole body” (Calvin). “The head feels pain before the other members: thus experience teaches. For if you tread on a man’s little toe, or hurt any other one of the most insignificant members, you notice it at once in his countenance. So Christ, our Head, takes the pains of us, His members, as if they were His own, and it burdens Him, as though it befell Himself, when any sorrow meets us” (Luther). [Wordsworth quotes Augustine on Psalms 61:0, as follows: “Jesus Christ is one Man with His Body and His Head; the Saviour of the Body and the members of the Body are twain in one flesh; they are one in suffering, and when the iniquity of the world is past, they will be one in rest. Therefore the sufferings of Christ are not limited to Christ; nay, rather the sufferings of Christ are not except in Christ. For if you understand Christ to be both Head and Body, the sufferings of Christ are all in Christ. Hence the Apostle says ‘Ut suppleam quod desunt pressurarum Christi in carne meâ.’ Whosoever therefore thou art, if thou art a member of Christ, whatsoever thou sufferest, was lacking to the sufferings of Christ. Therefore that suffering of thine is added because it was lacking; thou art filling the measure, not making it flow over. Thou sufferest so much in thyself as was to be poured in the universal passion of Christ, who suffered in our Head, and who suffers in His members, that is, in us. The whole measure of suffering will not be filled up till the world comes to an end.”—R.] Two opinions present themselves here in opposition at either extreme: That of Meyer, that persecutions are indeed directed against Christ, but He, the victorious Ruler in Glory, cannot be passively affected by them; and Schenkel’s, that He, as Head of His Body, must even now share its feelings. The former view sunders them, and makes of Christ’s sympathy a mere phrase; the latter so confounds them in one, that the sympathy of Christ is marred and soiled by the susceptibility of the militant Church, instead of this being alleviated, purified and exalted by that.
2. The atoning and the enduring sufferings of Christ. A distinction must be made between the sufferings of Christ, which atone for sin and extirpate its corruption, and those which endure sin and its evils. The former, which He vicariously and representatively bore for us, are not here spoken of. The Romanists (Cajetan, Bellar mine, and others) are in error, in referring this passage to these only, and then regarding Paul’s sufferings as supplementary to those of Christ, and hence, as also atoning and substitutionary, founding upon this their dogma of a storehouse of superfluous good works and indulgences. According to John 19:30, “It is finished,” Christ’s propitiatory sufferings need no supplement and completion; neither do His sufferings remove merely the guilt of original sin, nor is atonement for sins after baptism to be sought through the saints; one needing redemption himself, cannot make atonement. [For authorities on both sides of this controversy, consult the notes of Eadie, Alford and Wordsworth.—R.] This passage does not speak of those redeeming sufferings, of the sufferings of Christ in the theological, doctrinal sense, but in the historical sense, of the sufferings of Christ in the world, of the sufferings of His Church from the world. These have a sum and extent not yet concluded, which are diminished in the onward progress to final victory, so that what the world, exhausting itself in its enmity, does to the members of Christ, turns out to the advantage of the Church, in so far as these members bear and forbear in the fellowship of their exalted Lord, the victor who sympathizes with triumphant sympathy. It is by just such suffering heroes in the Church, that she is helped out of manifold sorrow.
3. The Word of God is, as to its nature, revelation of a mystery, which would otherwise have been hidden from men, as to its tenor, testimony respecting Christ for all men. And this tenor is universal, directed to all men, is mediated by the proclamation of historical facts, begins within the man, and reaches beyond the germs and conflicts of time into perfection in eternity.
4. The ministry of the Word is an ordinance of God in and for the Church He has formed. It pre-supposes the revelation of Christ in the world, in the history of humanity, has to do with the proving of the same for each and every one by means of a proclamation, which takes hold of and advances the whole man, morally and intellectually, in will and knowledge. It should preserve, as its end, the internal sanctification and perfection unto the final Judgment, and is conditioned by the personal labors of the minister, as Christ’s energy in him.
5. Special care for Souls is very important [“every man”—R.] It begins with Christ’s special care.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The Christian has to be thankful for so many and so great things, which he cannot lose, that in the sorrows of time, with the prospect of eternity and bliss, he is not joyless, but should be constantly rejoicing.—The Christian may rejoice, where men rejoice, and can rejoice, where it is impossible for men. He can rejoice, when he has his child in his arms,—and over its bier also. It is a great mistake to suppose that a certain melancholy and restraint of lively emotion is joined with Christian faith and piety.—Christian joy is the echo of a higher joy, which drowns the tumult of earthly sorrow.—The springs of joy in Mount Zion and Calvary cause it to flow on without interruption, and inexhaustibly.—The Christian’s sorrow can and will bring good to the whole body and cause of Christ; in this the world’s enmity but wearies and exhausts itself, to make the Christian come forth ever brighter.—The minister of the Word labors with the Eternal on the Eternal, for eternity, more than the artist; but only when He who has contrived eternal Redemption, works upon him, and he does not resist Him.
Starke :—Preachers are not lords of the faith. but servants of the church, who have to direct all their service to the edification of the church.—The gospel is indeed made known to all the world, but is known in its truth and power only by those, who let themselves be brought thereby to faith,—Christ is in His believers, and this is the greatest mystery.—If many a teacher did not interlard his discourses with uncertain stories, fables, figures and other things of human wisdom, they would sink deeper into the hearts of men.
Rieger:—The joy of the Apostles amid their sufferings was a fruit of the sorrow of Jesus under His. In our sufferings there must often be revealed to us, amid fear and sorrow, the weakness of our flesh, but often also, amid great peace and conscious joy, the manifold power of God and His Spirit of glory. Both are wholesome. Let one force or affect nothing, but accept what and as God finds it necessary.—One must so serve the church, that the gospel be derogated in no respect; yet one must not, under the pretext of the gospel, lord it over the people, but be a helper of their joy.
Gerlach:—In a few significant words the Apostle here brings to our view the activity of a genuine preacher of the gospel; 1) he preaches the mystery of the grace of God in Christ; 2) he admonishes all sinners to repentance; 3) he instructs even the plainest, poorest, most ignorant men; 4) he seeks to guide all to perfection, will withhold the higher light and life from none, keep none in a lower grade, is never satisfied with himself, nor permits himself to be satisfied with the state of others; 5) is ever conscious that a life of labor, especially of conflict too, is allotted to him; and 6) in this life confides only in the power of God working in him mightily, which is promised him, and hence gives God the glory for all.
Schleiermacher:—He could compare his sufferings with the sufferings of Christ, because they too had their cause in the antagonism of men to the preaching, which Christ had begun, and because to him they also were a work of obedience. Now too there are more views of Redemption, more representations of the manner of the liberty of the Sons of God, and yet there is ever more to be revealed of this mystery.
Heubner:—Suffering for atonement, Christ alone and fully bore; but suffering for our preservation and for the extension of the kingdom of Christ, every Christian must bear; since Christ has left a share to each.—The gospel sermon is a universal enlistment of souls for Christ. No man is too bad. Empty and hungry souls are led to Him, with Him to be satisfied and sanctified.
Passavant :—“I do not fear the crowd of men, nor the angry outbreak of the world,” wrote Matamoras, the Spanish martyr (November, 1862), from his prison in Granada; “as a Christian I have strength enough to lift myself above the raging torrent of earthly anger;—-not through my own might, through my own powers, no, but through the strength our loving Father bestows upon me in Jesus; through Jesus, who is my Shield, an impenetrable shield, against which the whole world is weak.”—Among the poor heathen of those times as of ours, could be seen only ignorance, hollow deceits, brilliant errors and lies; crying, devilish sins and proud vices raged among the refined Greeks and the proud men in all classes of the spoiled people. The light, or the uncertain, distorted ray of a former, light, was limited to the narrow circle of nobler, minds; the yet beautiful, rare fragments of the shattered truth remained a private possession of their pupils: the more lovely souls in every nation had only the uncertain legends of the poets as a solace: the priestly utterances, the arbitrary wisdom of the sage, as light on the path of life to death; many, perhaps very many sought salvation and peace at the dumb altar of “the unknown god.”—The mystery since then has been made known to myriads of myriads; yet only the smaller part have comprehended it; to the saints alone has it been revealed in their hearts.—Without this “Christ in us” all hope beyond earth is but empty fancy, vanity and delusion; Christ among us and the clearness of His heavenly kingdom about us, only an unknown foreign land into which we have no desire to enter. Then our Christianity is but a borrowed, beautiful garment, which neither fits us nor hides our nakedness.
Colossians 1:24. The joy of the Christian in sorrow: 1) Its ground; 2) Its kind.—The blessing of persecution for the church of the Lord: 1) wherein it consists; 2) whereon it rests.
Colossians 1:27. Christ lives among us: 1) A mystery to the unbeliever; 2) the comfort and joy of all believers.
Colossians 1:28. The task of the evangelical sermon: 1) as to its contents; to warn and to teach; 2) as to its form; “every man in all wisdom;” 3) as to its end; to “present every man perfect in Christ.”
Colossians 1:29. The duty of the evangelical preacher: 1) wherein it consists—in labors and striving; 2) whereby its fulfilment becomes possible—through the help and power of Christ.—R.]
[Burkitt:—Such as are eminent in the church, and, as ministers of the gospel, do lay out themselves more abundantly in the church’s service, must expect to meet with a measure, and a full measure of suffering beyond others.—Observe the subject, the manner, the end of St. Paul’s preaching. Also his pains and diligence; the gracious help and blessed success he had, humbly and thankfully acknowledged, and ascribed to God.—R.]
[Henry:—The preaching of redemption 1. to whom it was preached (Colossians 1:23), 2. by whom it was preached. 1) Whence Paul had his ministry (Colossians 1:26); 2) for whose sake he has his ministry (Colossians 1:25); 3) what kind of a preacher Paul was; a suffering preacher (Colossians 1:24), a close preacher (Colossians 1:28), a laborious preacher (Colossians 1:29). 3. The gospel which was preached (Colossians 1:26-27). 1) A mystery long hidden, 2) now made manifest to the saints.—The meanest saint under the gospel understands more than the greatest prophets under the law.—The ground of our hope is Christ in the word, or the gospel revelation, declaring the nature and methods of obtaining it. The evidence of our hope is Christ in the heart, or the sanctification of the soul and its preparation for the heavenly glory.—R.]
[Eadie:—In the Divine arrangement of the spiritual house, the Apostle held a function which had special reference to the members of the gentile churches. He would not be confined within the narrow circuit of Judaism; the field on which his soul set itself was the world.—The Apostle says of himself that he did not preach, but that he fulfilled the gospel. He carried out its design—he did not narrow its purpose—he opened for it a sweep and circuit adapted to its magnificence of aim, and its universality of fitness and sufficiency. As an instrument of human regeneration, he brought it to perfection—The glory of Christians is yet to come, but it is certain. Such glory is too bright for earth, and is therefore to be enjoyed in a scene which shall be in harmony with it. Christ is the hope of this glory.—The process of sanctification begets at once the idea and the hope of perfection.—The apostolic preaching was precise and definite. The one theme was Christ, “Him first, Him last, Him midst.” Not simply His doctrine, but Himself.—What in other spheres is enthusiasm, in the Christian ministry is sobriety.—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.—Barnes:—In such a work it is a privilege to exhaust our strength; in the performance of the duties of such an office, it is an honor to be permitted to wear out life itself. Doing this, a man when he comes to die will feel that he has not lived in vain.—R.]
Colossians 1:24; Colossians 1:24.—Before νῦν some MSS. read ὅς, which is wanting in א. A. B. C.; more likely to have been added for closer connexion with the preceding context, than to have been omitted. [Alford suggests that it is from the preceding termination. Rejected by all modern editors, though retained in E. V. Instead of “Who” read “I,” or better “Now I rejoice.”—R.]
Colossians 1:24; Colossians 1:24.—[The E. V. follows Rec., which inserts μου after παθήμασιν. This reading is supported by no uncial authority except א3.; rejected by all modern editors, hence not noted by Braune. The E. V. undoubtedly gives the true sense.—R.]
Colossians 1:25; Colossians 1:25.—א. reads Παῦλος after εγώ, but not B. and others; probably from Colossians 1:23, causa nexus.
Colossians 1:25; Colossians 1:25.—[“Became,” Alford, Ellicott, Coverdale (Test.).—R.]
Ver 26.—[The article of the Greek should be retained in English, to give definiteness: ages and generations “before us,” Alford.—All older English versions omit it, however.—R.]
Colossians 1:26; Colossians 1:26.—[Rec. with A. D. K. L., Lachmann, Tischendorf, Ellicott, Wordsworth, read νυνί; א. B. C F., Alford, νῦν.—R.]
Colossians 1:27; Colossians 1:27.—[Ὅς is the reading of א. C. D. K. L. Rec; adopted by Tischendorf, Meyer, Ellicott, Wordsworth; ὅ is supported by A. B. F. G., Lachmann, Alford. Braune renders welcher, thus adopting the former reading.—R.]
Colossians 1:27; Colossians 1:27.—[Ἐν ὑμῖν, literally “in you,” but here “among you” also. Braune: “bei Euch.” See Exeg. Notes.—R.]
Colossians 1:28; Colossians 1:28.—[Ἰησοῦ is wanting in א.1 A. B. C. D.1 F. G.; rejected by Tischendorf and modern editors generally. E. V. follows Rec, which inserts it. Uncial authority slight.—R.]
[Meyer: “Τοῦ Χριστοῦ is a subjective genitive. Paul describes his own sufferings, according to the idea of ‘the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ’ (1 Peter 4:13; comp. Matthew 20:22; Hebrews 13:13), as ‘the afflictions of Christ,’ in case the Apostolic suffering was essentially of the same kind, which Christ had endured (the same cup, of which Christ had drunk, the same baptism, with which Christ had been baptized). The sum of these afflictions is conceived of as a definite measure, as is frequent in classical usage in similar figurative representation.—‘I rejoice in my sufferings, which I endure for you, and how great and glorious is that which I am engaged in accomplishing through these sufferings! the full completion of that which is lacking on my part in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.’ Very naturally his triumphant consciousness, this feeling of the greatness of the matter, led not only to the choice of the highly significant word ἀνταναπληρῶ, but to this description of the Apostle’s own afflictions in the most honorable and sublime manner, as the ‘afflictions of Christ,’ since in their kind and character they are none other than these endured by Christ Himself.”—R.]
[Buttman thus distinguishes θέλω and βσύλομαι: the former expresses “will combined with choice or purpose,” the latter “mere inclinations.” Prof. Hitchcock, however, claims (see his valuable note on τοῦ θελήματος, Ephesians 1:9) that, in the wide range of volition expressed by θέλω, the element of spontaneity is always included, while βούλομαι always implies deliberation. The former can be used of a brute, the latter of a rational being only (Ammonius). This view, if adopted, would lead to a slight modification of Braune’s exegesis, though it would also exclude the limitation to free grace. Perhaps care should be taken in applying the distinction to what is predicated of God.—R.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Colossians 1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent