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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 1

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Verse 1


Colossians 1:1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.—Here, as in the Ephesian epistle, St. Paul traces his apostolate to the will of God. It does not seem as if any reason could be given why in these two epistles he uses the phrase and omits it in the Philippians. Timotheus our brother.—If Philemon, who was a Colossian Christian, had met St. Paul at Ephesus, probably he had seen Timothy too, and would no doubt say to the Church how the apostle valued him (Philippians 2:19).


Apostolic Salutation.

In this verse we have a description of the office and character of the persons from whom the salutation emanates.

I. An exalted and important office.—“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” An apostle is one sent. Paul was commissioned to declare the grandest truths—truths destined to illumine and upraise mankind. His sphere was the world, his audience the generations of every age. The work of the apostle lives to-day—its vigour is perennial. His was no empty, unmeaning title. It involved incredible thought, overburdening care, incessant toil, unparalleled suffering. It was an office created by the circumstances of the time. That period was the beginning of a gigantic campaign against the consolidated errors and sins of ages. An ordinary officer can keep and govern a garrison; but it requires a gifted general to marshal and direct the militant host in the daring manœuvres of war. In the divine government of the world the occasion calls forth the man.

II. The authority that designates and qualifies.—“By the will of God.” The will of God is the great originating and dynamic moral force of the universe. That will raised Paul to the apostleship, and invested him with all essential qualifications. The miraculous incidents of the journey to Damascus (Acts 9:0) formed a crisis in his career. The startling discovery as to the character of the Being he had madly opposed evoked the utterance of a changed and willing heart: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” That was the sublime moment of his sending. In undertaking the highest work for God, it is not enough that we possess learning, gifts, piety, unless with all there be a consciously divine commission. There are crises when we can gain fresh inspiration for the exigencies of the work only by falling back on the clearest call and appointment of the divine will.

III. A familiar Christian relationship.—“Timotheus, our brother.” Paul was the means of Timothy’s conversion; and in another place he calls him his “own son in the faith.” Here he recognises him on the more equal footing of a brother. Christianity is a brotherhood. Not a low, debasing communism that drags down all to its own common level, but a holy confederacy in which men of all ranks, ages, and talents unite. The equality of Christian brotherhood is based on a moral and spiritual foundation. The minister whose reputation is won and position assured loses nothing by honouring his younger brethren.

IV. Union of sympathy and desire.—“Paul … and Timothy.” The greatest intimacy existed between the two, notwithstanding the disparity in rank and abilities. There were qualities in Timothy that elicited the admiration and love of the great apostle. They were constant companions in travel; and Timothy was often a source of comfort to Paul in captivity. They had a common sympathy in the propagation of the gospel, and with the changing fortunes of the newly founded Churches, and joined in prayer for their welfare. The union of Timothy with himself also strengthened the testimony of the apostle regarding the supernatural character of the truths declared.

Lessons.Christian salutation

1. Takes its value from the character of the sender.

2. Should be pervaded with genuine sympathy.

3. Implies a mutual interest in the success of Christian work.

Verse 2


Colossians 1:2. To the saints and faithful brethren.—We may observe that such a phrase is characteristic of St. Paul’s later epistles; in the earlier it was “to the Church.” It seems better thus to translate than to give the meaning “to the holy and believing brethren” (see on Ephesians 1:1). Grace … and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.—Not “grace” from the Father and “peace” from the Lord Jesus Christ, as the usual benediction shows—“The grace of our Lord Jesus.” “Whatsoever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son” (John 5:19).


Apostolic Estimate of Christian Character.

I. Suggestive phases of Christian character.—“Saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colossæ.”

1. Saints.—This implies union with God and a personal participation in His righteousness. This is the root of the saintly life. Faith in Christ is the point and means of junction. Canonisation cannot make a saint. Must be saintly experience to produce saintly conduct. A holy reputation excites to action consistent with itself. Nehemiah refused to hide from threatened assassination as an act beneath his well-known character for high integrity and bravery (Nehemiah 6:11).

2. Faithful brethren which are at Colossæ.—Implies union with each other. They embraced a common faith, and held steadfastly together amid the agitations of false teachers and the defections of the wavering. Christianity blends the strangest elements. It is a foe to all national enmities and prejudices. Paul, a Jew, Timothy, a Grecian, and the Colossians, a mixture of several races, are here united in a holy and faithful brotherhood. “Here the Gentile met the Jew whom he had been accustomed to regard as an enemy of the human race; the Roman met the lying Greek sophist, the Syrian slave, the gladiator born beside the Danube. In brotherhood they met, the natural birth and kindred of each forgotten, the baptism alone remembered in which they had been born again to God and to each other” (Ecce Homo).

3. The sublime origin of the Christian character.—“In Christ.” Character is the development and crystallisation of a life. The character of the blossom and fruit is decided by the vital energy in the tree. Christ is the unfathomable fount of all spiritual life; the ideal pattern and formative force of a perfect character. He is the centre and bond of all true brotherhood.

II. The salutation supplicates the bestowment of highest divine blessings.

1. Grace. A term of vast significance, inclusive of all the blessings that can flow from the superabundant and free favour of God. Grace is the source of all temporal good—life, health, preservation, success, felicity; and of all spiritual benefactions—pardon, soul-rest, guidance, strength, deliverance, purity, final triumph. The generosity of God is illimitable.

2. Peace.—Grace expresses the spirit and fulness in which divine manifestations come to us; peace the result they accomplish in us. Peace with God. Sin has thrown human nature into a state of discord and enmity. The reception of grace must ever precede the enjoyment of peace. The universal mistake is, in first seeking, through many avenues, the happiness which peace with God alone can bring, instead of accepting humbly, penitently, believingly, the grace of God in Christ. Peace with each other—peace in the Church. How great a blessing is this! One turbulent spirit can ruffle the tranquillity of thousands.

3. The source of the blessings desired.—“From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Father’s love and the Son’s work are the sole source and cause of every blessing to humanity, while the Holy Spirit is the agent of their communication. The Trinity is ever harmonious in acts of beneficence; the divine fountain is inexhaustible.


1. The broad, deep charity of the apostolic spirit.

2. The scope and temper of the prayers we should offer for the race.

Verses 3-5


Colossians 1:3. We give thanks to God.—The apostle here, as usual, gives credit for all that is worthy in his readers, though the tidings from Colossæ had been disquieting.

Colossians 1:4. Having heard of your faith.—This last word might possibly mean “fidelity,” the steadiness of an unwavering loyalty. But it is better to take it as the act of personal trust. Love to all the saints.—This was the distinguishing trait of all Christians—love one for another (John 13:35). How often have we heard the irony, “How these Christians love one another!” We are not warranted in withholding love until men are paragons of spiritual perfection—all in Christ are “saints.”

Colossians 1:5. For the hope.—This word completes the triad, though the order is changed, and hope here is the object—the thing hoped for. Laid up for you in heaven.—It is the same word in Luke 19:20, “laid up in a napkin”; in 2 Timothy 4:8, “henceforth there is laid up”; and in Hebrews 9:27, “it is appointed unto [laid up for] men once to die.” The word of the truth of the gospel.—Not to be interpreted into “the truly evangelic word.” There is an imposing sound in the phrase meant to agree with the thing denoted.


The Causes of Ministerial Thanksgiving.

It is customary with the apostle to begin his epistles with the ardent expression of thanksgiving. This showed the devout habit of his mind, his constant and emphatic recognition of the grand source of good, and his deep interest in the spiritual condition of those to whom he wrote.
I. Thanksgiving an essential element in prayer.—“We give thanks, … praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3). The participle marks the thanksgiving as part of the prayer, and the adverb makes it prominent, indicating that when they prayed for them they always gave thanks. There is no true prayer without thanksgiving. Gratitude intensifies the soul’s sense of dependence on God, and prompts the cry for the needed help; and, on the other hand, earnest prayer naturally glides into fervent thankfulness. As one sin is interlinked with and produced by another, so the use of one grace begets another. The more temporal things are used, the more they wear and waste; but spiritual things are strengthened and increased with exercise. Every spiritual grace has in it the seed of an endless reproductiveness. Underlying every thanksgiving for others is a spirit of tender, disinterested love. Moved by this passion, the apostle, from the midst of imprisonment and sorrow, could soar on the wings of gratitude and prayer to heaven. “Thanksgiving will be the bliss of eternity.”

II. The Being to whom all thanksgiving is due.—“To God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Colossians 1:3). God is the Father of Jesus Christ, not only as God, by an eternal generation and communication of His whole essence unto Him in a method to us mysterious and ineffable, but also as man by virtue of the personal union of the two natures in Christ, and in a special sense exceeding every other way in which He is Father to men or angels. Thus God and the Father of our Lord Jesus are one; the particle “and” being exegetic of the same thing, not copulative of something different. All our blessings have their source in the bosom of the divine Father. Christ is the only revealer of the Father, and the active agent in bestowing the paternal benefits on humanity. The paternal aspect of the divine character as unfolded by Jesus Christ is most fascinating and assuring; and the loving heart delights to trace its blessings up to the Parent of all good, and to render Him devout and grateful praise.

III. This thanksgiving was grounded on the reputation of their faith in the Author of Christianity.—“Since we heard of your faith in Christ” (Colossians 1:4).

1. Christ is the object and foundation of all true faith.—He is so as the divinely consecrated Deliverer of the race. The grandeur of His redeeming work and the dignity and glory of His character are suggested by the titles here given to Him. Man must believe in Christ, not as an abstract truth, not as a poetic conception, not as a dim impersonal force acting in the sphere of ideality, but as a divine-human person—the anointed Saviour.

2. True faith is the root principle of the Christian life.—Without it neither love nor hope could exist. All the graces that strengthen and beautify the Christian character must grow out of faith.

3. True faith is ever manifest.—“Since we heard.” It is seen in the changed disposition and conduct of the individual believer. It is marked by the anxious Christian worker, and becomes known to a wide circle of both friends and foes. Epaphras rejoiced to bear tidings of the fact; and the soul of the apostle, since he heard, glowed with grateful praise. Happy the people whose highest reputation is their faith in Jesus!

IV. This thanksgiving was grounded on their possession of an expansive Christian love.—“And of the love which ye have to all the saints” (Colossians 1:4). Love to Christ is necessarily involved, for love to the saints is really a generous, unselfish affection for Christ’s image in them. Love is all-embracing. Peculiarities, defects, differences of opinion, distance, are no barriers to its penetrating ardour. It is the unanswerable evidence of moral transformation (1 John 3:14). It is the grandest triumph over the natural enmity of the human heart. It is the indissoluble bond of choicest fellowship.

“While we walk with God in light,
God our hearts doth still unite;
Dearest fellowship we prove,
Fellowship in Jesu’s love.”

V. This thanksgiving was further grounded on their enjoyment of a well-sustained hope.—The grace of hope naturally springs out of and is properly associated with the preceding two. Not one member of the holy triad can be divorced from the other without irreparable damage; without, in fact, the loss of that which is the resultant of the three—viz. active religious life. “Faith rests on the past; love works in the present; hope looks to the future. They may be regarded as the efficient, material, and final causes respectively of the spiritual life” (Lightfoot).

1. The character of this hope.—“The hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). It is the prospect of future heavenly felicity. Hope is put for the object hoped for—the hope of possessing a spiritual inheritance whose wealth never diminishes, whose splendours never fade; the hope of seeing Christ in all His regal glory; of being like Him; of dwelling with Him for ever. A prospect like this lifts the soul above the meannesses, disappointments, and sufferings of the present limited life.

2. The security of this hope.—“Laid up.” This priceless inheritance is safely deposited as a precious jewel in God’s secret coffer. There no pilfering hands can touch it, no breath can tarnish, no rust corrode, no moth corrupt. Earthly treasures vanish, and sometimes, to God’s people, nothing but the treasure of hope remains. The saint’s enduring riches are in the future, locked up in the heavenly casket. Where the treasure is there the heart should ever be.

3. The source and foundation of this hope.—“Whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Colossians 1:5). The gospel is based on unchangeable truth, and is therefore worthy of universal credence. It alone unfolds the mysteries and glories of the future. The hope of heaven rests, not on the discoveries of human philosophy, but on the revelations of the true gospel. In vain do men seek it elsewhere. By the preaching of the gospel this hope is made known to man. How dismal the outlook where hope is unknown!


1. We should thank God for others more on account of their spiritual than temporal welfare.

2. Learn what are the essential elements of the Christian character—faith, love, hope.

3. The proclamation of the gospel should be welcomed, and its message pondered.


Colossians 1:3-5. Good News and its Good Effects.

I. The good news, what it was.—That certain at Colossæ had not only the gospel, but had known the grace of God in truth, and were now joined to Christ by faith and to His people by love.

II. What were the results.

1. Abundant thanksgiving to the God of redemption.

2. Constant prayer.

3. This epistle.

III. Application.

1. It is well that ministers should be informed of the success of the gospel, both for their own encouragement and to secure their sympathy, prayers, and counsel for the young converts.

2. Established Christians and especially ministers should assure young converts of the gratitude, joy, and sympathy they feel and the prayers they present on their behalf.

3. If our hearts are right, we shall rejoice at the success of the gospel.—Preacher’s Magazine.

Colossians 1:5. Hope a Stimulus to Christian Perseverance—

I. In gaining the heavenly reward.

II. Because the heavenly reward is secure.—“Laid up for you.”

III. Is based on truth already known.—“Whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.”

Verses 6-8


Colossians 1:6. In all the world.—A hyperbolic expression, by which the apostle at the world’s centre, Rome, seems to say the messengers of the gospel, go forth to the utmost bounds of the empire. The faith you have received is no local cult, nor is it an ephemeral excitement. And bringeth forth fruit.—The R.V. adds to “bearing fruit,” “and increasing.” It is not a gospel that is decadent, on which a few fruits may be found, but with too evident traces that soon fruitfulness will be past.

Colossians 1:7. As ye learned of Epaphras.—Short for Epaphroditus, but not he of Philippians 2:25. He is one of the Colossians; beyond that and his prayerful zeal for them we know nothing of the only one whom St. Paul calls “a fellow-servant.”


The True Gospel universally the Same.

Wherever the gospel comes it carries with it the ineffaceable impress of its divine origin, and of its universal adaptability to the condition of humanity. There are certain truths that are self-evident to the understanding, and are not susceptible of proof. They are axiomatic, and must be admitted as such before any satisfactory system can be constructed upon them. Of this character are the fundamental truths of the gospel. Their authority is supreme, and their evidential force irresistible. But a truth may be universally self-evident, and not be universally adopted. It is at this point the guilt of the unbeliever is incurred. The gospel comes to mankind with ever-accumulating evidences of its divine truthfulness; but men resist it. This is the condemnation. “He that believeth on the Son is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18). The false teachers, against whom the apostle warns the Colossians, sought to spoil the gospel by the intermixture of ideas from Jew and Gentile.

I. The true gospel is universally the same in its adaptation and enterprise.—“Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world” (Colossians 1:6). The gospel, though first proclaimed to the Jews, was not confined to them. It reached, penetrated, and changed the Colossians. In them all races were represented. Their conversion was typical of the possibilities of the gospel for all. The world’s greatest blessings are not indigenous, are not even sought; they are sent from above. There is not a human being the gospel cannot benefit; it adapts itself to the wants of all. The gospel started from Judea with a world-wide mission, and was eager to fulfil it. Its enterprise was irresistible. It soon spread throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa—the regions embracing the Roman empire, which was then virtually the whole world. Its marvellous propagation proved its universal adaptability. The celebrated systems of philosophy among the Grecians lived only in the soil that produced them. Heresies are at best ethnic; truth is essentially catholic. In less than a quarter of a century Christianity was diffused through the entire world. The success of Mahometanism was of a different character and effected by different means. It depended more on the scimitar than the Koran. Alexander, Sesostris, and others achieved similar conquests, and as rapidly, by the force of arms. The victories of the gospel were won by moral weapons. It is the greatest privilege of any nation to possess the gospel, and its most solemn duty to make it known to the world.

II. The true gospel is universally the same in its results.—“Bringeth forth fruit, and increaseth” (as the most valuable MSS. read) “as it doth also in you” (Colossians 1:6). The effects produced on the Colossians by their reception of the gospel were a sample of the results in other parts of the world. The fruit-bearing denotes its inward and subjective influence on the soul and life; the increasing refers to its outward and diffusive influence as it makes progress in the world. The metaphor used by the apostle suggests that the gospel, as a tree, not only bears fruit, but grows, sending forth its roots more firmly and widely, and extending its branches in the air. Thus it bears fruit and makes advancement (Spence). There are some plants which exhaust themselves in bearing fruit and then wither. The gospel is a plant whose seed is in itself, and its external growth keeps pace with its reproductive energy. We cannot monopolise the benefits of the gospel to ourselves; it is intended for the world, and wherever it comes it brings forth fruit. It is intensely practical, and aims at results, corresponding with its character, purpose, and power.

III. The true gospel is universally the same in the manner of its reception.—“Since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth” (Colossians 1:6). Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The mode of receiving the gospel is the same to all. It is apprehended by the understanding, approved by the judgment, and embraced by the affections. It is not enough that it falls on the ear like the strain of a seraphic melody, not enough that it enters the understanding as a clearly conceived, full-orbed truth, not enough that it ripples through the sphere of the emotions as an unspeakable ecstasy, unless, aided by the divine Spirit, it be cordially embraced by the heart and conscience as the whole truth—the only truth that saves and regenerates. It is in the gospel only that we “hear of the grace of God”—the good news that He has provided redemption and restoration for the race. Nature, with all her revelations of beauty, wisdom, and power, is dumb on this subject. Providence, with its vast repertory of mingled mystery and bounty, unfolds it not. It is only by believing the gospel that, like the Colossians, we can “know the grace of God in truth.”

IV. The true gospel is universally the same in the method of its propagation.

1. It is propagated by preaching. “As ye also learned” (Colossians 1:7)—more correctly, “Even as ye were instructed” in the truth mentioned in the preceding verse. It is believed Epaphras first preached the gospel at Colossæ, and, under the direction of Paul, he was probably also evangelist to the neighbouring cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea. Preaching is the divinely instituted means of disseminating the gospel. It cannot be superseded by any other agency. Its success has been marvellous.

2. It is propagated by men thoroughly qualified for the work.—

(1) The apostle recognised Epaphras as a co-labourer with himself. “Our dear fellow-servant” (Colossians 1:7). The preacher must labour as belonging to Christ, as entirely dependent on Him, and as deeply attached to Him. He is not a servant of the Church; he is a servant for the Church, in doctrine, supplication to God, and varied endeavours among men. With all frankness, affection, and modesty, the great apostle acknowledges Epaphras as “a dear fellow-labourer.” Envy and jealousy of the gifts and reputation of others are pernicious and unjustifiable.

(2) The apostle recognised Epaphras as a faithful minister of Christ. It was a great honour to be a fellow-servant with Paul, but greater still to be a minister of Christ, the Lord of glory, the Head of the Church, the Monarch of men and angels; commissioned by Him to proclaim the most vital truths and promote the best interests of the people. Moreover, he is called a faithful minister: the appellation of minister he had in common with many others; the praise of faithfulness is confined to few. “The great secret lies in these three things—Christ, immortal souls, self-humiliation” (Bishop Wilson).

(3) The apostle recognised Epaphras as a man of deep spiritual insight. “Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit” (Colossians 1:8). Love is the leading characteristic of the gospel. It is announced as a message of God’s love to man, and its object is to produce love in every believing heart. Epaphras apprehended this prominent feature in the message itself, discerned its origin in the work of the Spirit, and rejoiced in declaring its exercise towards the apostle, towards God, and towards all men.


1. The universality of the gospel a strong evidence of its divine authorship.

2. Though all the world were to reject the gospel it would still be true.

3. To whomsoever the gospel comes the imperative duty is to believe it.


Colossians 1:6. The Gospel manifests Itself.

I. It spreads its good news in all possible places.—“Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world.”

II. Produces unmistakable spiritual results.—“And bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you.”

III. Is a revelation of divine grace.—“The grace of God in truth.”

IV. To be an evident blessing it must be heard and thoroughly believed as the only truth.—“Since the day ye heard of and knew.”

Colossians 1:7-8. A Successful Preacher—

I. Is affectionately recognised as a faithful minister of Christ (Colossians 1:7).

II. Attributes his success to the work of the Spirit (Colossians 1:8).

III. Regards the exercise of love in his hearers as a prominent feature of success (Colossians 1:8).

Verses 9-12


Colossians 1:9. Do not cease to pray for you, and to desire.—R.V. “pray and make request.” The general notion comes first, then the particulars; so in Mark 11:24. In the Lord’s Prayer there are several “petitions” or “requests.” Knowledge.—Here represents the advanced knowledge of the initiated. “Spiritual understanding” is the use in the realm of things spiritual of the faculty which, as employed in physical research, makes the difference between the man of scientific method and the empiric. Compare the union of “wisdom” and “spiritual understanding” with our Lord’s words, “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent.

Colossians 1:10. Walk worthy.—“The end of all knowledge, the apostle would say, is conduct” (Lightfoot). The previous verse taken with this gives the “theory and practice” of religion. Unto all pleasing.—With the end ever before you of being approved by God. For the same combination, see 1 Thessalonians 4:1. Being fruitful … and increasing.—Like the gospel itself see Colossians 1:6).

Colossians 1:11. Strengthened with all might according to His glorious power.—Lit. “with all power made powerful,” etc. The two words representing “might” and “power” have become familiar in “dynamite” and the termination of “auto-crat”; the one indicates stored-up energy, the other victorious or ruling force. Patience and longsuffering.—The first word indicates the attitude of an unfainting mind when things go wrong; the second the quiet endurance under irritation from others, the being “not soon angry.”

Colossians 1:12. Made us meet.—Duly qualified us, gave us competence. Just as a man needs to be a qualified practitioner of medicine or the law, so these Colossians are recognised as fit and proper persons for participation in the kingdom of light.


A Comprehensive Apostolic Prayer.

I. It was a prayer expressive of deep spiritual interest.

1. It was suggested by the report of their active Christian virtues. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray” (Colossians 1:9). They had believed in Christ, they had shown a genuine love to the brethren, they hoped for the glory of the future, they brought forth the fruits of the Spirit. All this excites the grateful heart of the apostle to pray that they may enjoy yet higher spiritual blessings, may increase in knowledge and wisdom, and rise to the highest standard of moral perfection. We best show our love to others by praying for them. Prayer is always needed, since the most excellent Christian graces are imperfect, liable to decay, and may be abused.

2. It was constant and fervent.—“Do not cease to pray for you and to desire” (Colossians 1:9). The apostle had unbounded faith in the efficacy of prayer. Many in these days limit the advantage of prayer to its reflex influence on the individual who prays—expanding the thoughts, spiritualising the mind, and sanctifying the heart; and maintain that it is powerless to affect God, whose purposes must advance by the irresistible operation of unchanging law, irrespective of human supplication. Above this partial philosophy of the modern scientist we have the authority and practice of an inspired apostle. If God did not hear and answer prayer—answer it, not in violation of, but in harmony with, the highest law—then the frequent intercessions of the apostle are reduced to a solemn mockery, are unjustifiable and inexplicable. The apostle prayed with the utmost assiduity—night and day, as opportunity permitted—and with the utmost ardency, desiring that the blessings sought might be liberally and at once bestowed. As Augustine puts it, our desires being prayers, these are continual when our desires are continual.

II. It was a prayer for amplest knowledge.

1. The main subject of the knowledge desired. “The knowledge of His will” (Colossians 1:9). Man thirsts for knowledge. He is eager to become acquainted with himself and the wonders around him. In his unwearied search after knowledge he has conquered colossal difficulties; has penetrated the starry spaces with the telescope; revealed the smallest visual atom with the microscope; and, with the deep-sea dredge, has made us familiar with the long-hidden treasures of the ocean. But the highest knowledge is the knowledge of God—not simply of His nature, majesty, perfections, works, but the knowledge of His will. So far as we are concerned, that will comprehends all that God wishes us to be, believe, and do. We must know His will in order to salvation, and as the supreme rule and guide of every action. Man may be ignorant of many things; but he cannot be ignorant of God’s will and be saved. The knowledge of that will is the first great urgent duty of life.

2. The measure in which the knowledge may be possessed.—“Filled with knowledge.” The word “knowledge” is full and emphatic, indicating a living, comprehensive, complete knowledge of the divine will. They already possessed some knowledge of that will; and the apostle prays that it may be deeper, clearer, and increasingly potent within them, that they may be filled. The soul is not only to possess this knowledge, but it is to possess the soul—informing, animating, and impelling it onwards to higher attainments in the things of God. Knowledge is a power for good only as it acquaints with the divine will, and as it pervades and actuates the whole spiritual being. We may seek great things from God. He gives largely, according to His infinite bounty. There is no limit to our increase in divine knowledge but our own capacity, diligence, and faith.

3. The practical form in which the knowledge should be exercised.—“In all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9). The word “spiritual” applies to both wisdom and understanding. The false teachers offered a wisdom which they highly extolled, but it had only a show of wisdom; it was an empty counterfeit, calling itself philosophy; the offspring of vanity, nurtured by the flesh: it was unspiritual. The true gospel is spiritual in its origin, characteristics, and effects. The wisdom and understanding it imparts are the work of the Holy Spirit. Without His presence and operation in the soul both the knowledge of the divine will and advancement in it would be impossible. The two terms are similar in meaning, but there is a distinction. Wisdom refers to the God-given organ by which truth is selected and stored up; understanding to the faculty by which truth is practically and prudently used: the one is comprehensive and accumulative, the other discriminative and practical. True spiritual insight is the work of the Holy Spirit. No amount of mental or moral culture, of human wisdom and sagacity, can supply it. This was the power lacked by the Galatians when they were so soon seduced from the gospel; and to prevent a similar result among the Colossians the apostle prays they may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that they may discern between the false and the true, the carnal and spiritual, the human and the divine.

III. It was a prayer for the loftiest Christian career.

1. The standard of Christian conduct. “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10). Life is a journey; death is the common goal and resting-place where all meet. Our conduct is the pathway on which we travel. The walk therefore describes the general course of life, the actions, habits, and deportment of the man in his relations to God and to the race. This walk is to “be worthy of the Lord”—worthy of His holy and dignified character; worthy of His law, of His kingdom, of His glory, of the high destiny He has designed for us. When a certain prince, on being captured, was asked how he should be treated, his prompt reply was, “As a king.” We should ever remember the high vocation wherewith we are called, and the exalted pattern after which our behaviour should be modelled (Ephesians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:12). Our life is to be worthy of the Lord—in its spirit, motive, active outgoing, development, scope, and aim. For this purpose we are filled with the knowledge of His will. The end of knowledge is practice; its value consists in what it enables us to do. He is not an architect who simply theorises about buildings, but he who has the art to erect them. To speak eloquently of war does not constitute a general; he only deserves that distinction who can skilfully manage an army in the field, whether in attacking or defending.

2. The rule by which that standard is maintained.—“Unto all pleasing” (Colossians 1:10). We are to please the Lord in all things; to attempt and sanction nothing that will not be acceptable to Him. We are not to please ourselves—we are not to please others—as the ultimate object of life. If our conduct please others—our parents, our friends, our country—it is well; but though all others are displeased and estranged, we must strive in all things to please God. This is the simplest as well as the highest and grandest rule of life. Attention to this will settle many perplexing questions concerning human duty. The will of God must be studied as our supreme rule, and to it all our thoughts, words, and actions must be conformed. Thus the life on earth becomes a preparation and discipline for heaven, and blends the present with a future of immortal blessedness. It is well with us when we obey the Lord (Jeremiah 42:6).

3. The productiveness of Christian consistency.—“Being fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10). One result of a worthy walk is fertility in Christian activity. In order to fruitfulness there must be life. The believer’s life is hid with Christ in God, and the existence of the hidden life is manifest in the fruits. Fruitfulness also involves culture. Neglect the vine, and instead of the pendent clusters of glossy, luscious fruit there will be barrenness and decay—withered branches fit only for the consuming fire. God disciplines His people for fruitful and abundant service by painful but loving exercises of His providence (John 15:2). It is not enough to bear one kind of fruit; there must be fertility “in every good work.” The Christian is in sympathy with every good enterprise that aims at the physical, social, or moral welfare of man, and will heartily contribute his influence and effort in its promotion.

4. Progress in divine knowledge.—“And increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). The knowledge of God is the real instrument of enlargement, in soul and life, of the believer (Alford). We can reach no stage in Christian experience and practice in which additional knowledge is unnecessary. Activity in goodness sharpens the knowing faculty and adds to the stores of wisdom. On the other hand, increased knowledge reacts and stimulates the worker (John 7:17; Matthew 25:29). Divine knowledge is the great necessity of the soul, and the real means of fruitfulness and growth in goodness. It appeals to, elevates, and expands the whole man.

IV. It was a prayer for supernatural strength.

1. The appropriateness and fulness of the blessing desired. “Strengthened with all might” (Colossians 1:11). Man is morally weak. Sin has enfeebled and debased the soul; it has tyrannised over humanity for ages. “When we were yet without strength” Christ came and introduced another force which counteracts sin and will ultimately effect its overthrow. All who believe in Christ receive strength to struggle against and conquer sin. This imparted strength is especially necessary in realising the blessings for which the apostle prays—complete knowledge of the divine will; a life worthy of the Lord; spiritual fertility and advancement in heavenly wisdom. “Strengthened with all might.” Our enemies are numerous, violent, and obstinate, and our infirmities are many. We therefore need strength of every kind. As it is necessary to overcome all our enemies, so it is necessary to be endued with all might—might to endure the most furious assault, might to resist the most bewitching solicitation to evil.

2. The supernatural source of the blessing.—“According to His glorious power” (Colossians 1:11)—or, more correctly, “according to the power of His glory.” Moral power is not native to the Christian; it has its source in God. He imparts it to the believing heart. The motive and measure of our strength is in the might of His glory. Power is an essential attribute of the divine glory; it is manifested in the splendid works of creation, in the inscrutable ways of providence, and preeminently in the marvels of human redemption. God’s revelation of Himself to us, in whatever form, is the one source of our highest strength. The power of His glory reveals itself more and more to him who walks worthy of the Lord. Armed with this supernatural energy, the weakest saint becomes invincible.

3. The great practical purpose contemplated by the blessing.—“Unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Colossians 1:11). Patience is the temper which does not easily succumb under trial; longsuffering, or longmindedness, is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong. Patience respects the weight of the affliction, longsuffering its duration. The former is exercised in relation to God, in the endurance of trial, or in waiting for promised blessing; the latter in relation to man, in long-continued forbearance under irritating wrongs. The true strength of the believer consists, not so much in what he can do, as in what he can endure (Isaiah 30:15). The quiet, uncomplaining sufferer is greater than the most vigorous athlete. The characteristic of both patience and longsuffering is expressed in the phrase “with joyfulness.” To suffer with joyfulness is the great distinction and triumph of the Christian spirit. The endurance of the Stoic was often the effect of pride or insensibility. But the Christian, though keenly sensitive to pain, is enabled by the Holy Spirit to rejoice in the assurance of God’s presence, in the certain victory of his cause, and in the prospect of reward both here and hereafter.


1. How sublime are the topics of genuine prayer.

2. Deep experimental acquaintance with the things of God is essential to a lofty and useful career.

3. Knowledge, wisdom, spiritual fertility, and strength are the gifts of God.


Colossians 1:9-11. Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians

I. For knowledge.—Fulness of knowledge both extensively and intensively is the burden of his desire. “In all wisdom”—as a practical guide, not as mere theory. “And spiritual understanding”—the spirit of the believer receiving the Spirit of God to lead him inwardly to understand, realise, and delight in the divine will.

II. For fruitfulness.

1. A life worthy of the Christian as it is well pleasing unto his Lord.

2. Good works of every kind.

3. Substantial growth.

III. For strength.—In order to this fruitfulness all might is required of body, mind, and spirit, but especially that of the Spirit within. The measure—“according to His glorious power”; so as to suffer patiently the constant trials of the Christian life, and exercise all longsuffering towards persecutors and enemies of the truth, and this with joyfulness. It is not what we can do, but what He can do in us, and we through Him.—Preacher’s Magazine.

Colossians 1:11. Divine Strength—

I. Is spiritual strength, the source and sustenance of all might.

II. May be realised in increasing measure.

III. Arms the soul with invincible power.—Power to endure with patience the trials of life; power to bear with the opposition and cruelty of others.

IV. Enables the soul to rejoice in the midst of suffering.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Colossians 1:12

Meetness for the Saintly Inheritance.

The epistle has been hitherto occupied with prefatory observations. In this verse the writer enters upon his principal theme relating to the person and redemption of Jesus Christ. He offers thanks to God the Father as the primal source of that grace which constitutes the meetness for the saintly heritage. Observe:—

I. The opulent inheritance provided for the good.

1. It is a present and prospective possession. “The inheritance of the saints in light.” Light is symbolic of knowledge, purity, and joy. The saints even now are called out of darkness into God’s kingdom of marvellous light. “They walk in the light as He is in the light.” They have a measure of knowledge, but it is dimmed by many earthly obscurities; of purity, but it is surrounded with imperfections; of joy, but it is moderated by life’s sorrows. In the prospective heavenly inheritance, of which the earthly portion is a preparation and pledge, knowledge shall be unclouded and complete, purity unsullied, joy uninterrupted. “The life for eternity is already begun: we are at and from the very hour of our regeneration introduced into the spiritual world—a world which, though mysterious and invisible, is as real as the world of sense around us: the Christian’s life of heavenliness is the first stage of heaven itself! There is a power now within the believer in the germ, of which his celestial immortality shall be the proper fruit. The dawn of heaven hath already begun in all who are yet to rejoice in its noontide glory” (Archer Butler).

2. It is a possession provided for the good.—“The saints.” Not for the unholy, the impenitent, the unbelieving, the worldly. It is an inheritance where only the pure in heart can dwell. There is a world of significance in that pithy saying of an old divine: “Every one will get to heaven who could live there.” Only the saints who have made the Lord their light and their salvation can bear the splendour of His presence.

3. It is a possession freely given.—The legal heir has no need to work for his inheritance; he enters in possession by right of succession or testatorial bequest. The saint enters upon his inheritance of righteousness, not by natural descent or by any self-constituted right, but on the ground of a free, divine gift. The believer has a title to the inheritance; but it is not earned by his own efforts: it is bestowed by Christ who won the inheritance by suffering and dying. Thus all idea of merit is excluded; we can do nothing to deserve such a heritage of blessing. The word “inheritance” really means “the parcel of the lot”—an expression borrowed from the Old Testament (Psalms 16:5). The promised Canaan suggests an analogy between it and the higher hopes and wealthier possessions of the new dispensation. As each Israelite, through the grace of God, obtained his allotment, so the Christian obtains his portion in the kingdom of God. The present and future possession of the saints infinitely surpasses the earthly inheritance.

II. The special meetness necessary to a participation in the inheritance.—“Hath made us meet to be partakers.”

1. This meetness is absolutely necessary.—Naturally we are unmeet. A monarch may raise the basest slave to a dukedom, but he cannot give him fitness to discharge the duties of the exalted position; he may change his state, but he cannot change his nature. To obtain a moral fitness for the saintly inheritance our nature must be changed. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

2. This meetness consists in the loving conformity of the human will to the divine.—The future life of heaven is the object and pattern of our present heavenly life: “there is the mighty model on which we are to reconstruct our nature; there dwells that central form of moral and spiritual beauty of which our life is to be the transcript.” The celestial spirits find their highest glory and blessedness in the complete submission of their whole nature to God; in cheerful, willing, loving obedience to His will. The heavenly life is the test and standard of our life on earth—of every motive, word, and deed. The Church of Christ is a training-school for a more exalted career. An ancient sage once said, “Boys ought most to learn what most they shall need when they become men.” So men ought to learn in this life what they shall need most as glorified beings in the future. Only as our whole soul is conformed in loving obedience to the will of God are we “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” We are thus brought into sympathy with the good in all realms, and fitted to participate in the most exalted fellowships of the future!

3. This meetness is a divine work.—It is God “the Father who hath made us meet.” He provides the inheritance; He gives the title to it; He confers the moral fitness by which the soul enters into its possession and enjoyment. None but God, the fountain of holiness, goodness, and power, could accomplish this work. “He worketh in us to will and to do.” In the meetening process He hath dealt with us as a FATHER, instructing our ignorance, correcting and chastising our faults, and comforting and strengthening us in trouble.

III. The great duty we owe to the generous donor of the inheritance.—“Giving thanks.” Gratitude is the easiest and commonest duty of a dependent creature; yet is the duty most frequently and grossly neglected. Our hearts should ever glow with an unquenchable flame of grateful praise to the bountiful Author of all our blessings.


1. We owe thanks to God as the Provider of the inheritance.

2. We owe thanks to God as the active Agent in producing the special meetness to participate in the enjoyments of the inheritance.

3. Our thanks to God should be expressed in active obedience to His uill.

4. Our thanks to God should be joyful, fervent, and constant.


Colossians 1:12. Qualification for Heaven.

I. The state contemplated.—It is “an inheritance”; not a purchased property, but the common heritage of the children of God. “Of the saints,” holy persons. “In light,” knowledge, holiness, happiness.

II. The meetness required.—Adaptations in the natural world. In social arrangement. In regard to the heavenly state. A change of heart is necessary. Without it heaven would not be heaven to us. It must be sought and obtained in the present world. It is here ascribed to the Father.

III. The thanks to be rendered.—We thank our fellow-men for their gifts. We thank God for His other gifts. We should thank Him for meetness for heaven. This thanksgiving prepares us for heaven.—G. Brooks.

Meetness for the Inheritance of the Saints in Light.—Life for eternity is already begun. The business and the beatitude of heaven must consist in conformity of the will to the will of God: this is equally the law of earth.

I. Faith is the realising power of this meetness.

II. Hope is the consoling and fortifying power.

III. Love is the uniting power, the consummation, and the perfection of all.A. Butler.

The Inheritance of the Saints.

I. An interesting view of the future world as it is inherited by believers.

1. The saints are in light in respect to the place.

2. As it respects purity.

3. In respect of the permanency of their felicity.

4. As it respects knowledge.

II. The meetness which is wrought by God in the hearts of all who are raised to the enjoyment of this inheritance.

1. The relative meetness is expressed by the word inheritance. It is assigned to heirs.

2. The personal meetness is indicated by the term saints.


1. Give thanks to God for those who are made meet.

2. Give thanks to God if the work be begun in yourselves.—R. Watson.

Verses 13-14


Colossians 1:13. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness.—The metaphor commenced in the previous verse is carried on here. The settlement in the land flowing with milk and honey is preceded by deliverance with a high hand from the house of bondage—the land of thick darkness. And hath translated us.—The same word by which the Jewish historian describes the carrying over of the Israelites to Assyria by Tiglath-Pileser. The apostle regards the deliverance, so far as the Deliverer is concerned, as a thing accomplished. His dear Son.—The A.V. margin has become the R.V. text, “The Son of His love.” We do not again find this expression; but as there is “no darkness at all” in God, who “is love,” so His Son, into whose kingdom we come, reveals the love of the Father.

Colossians 1:14. In whom we have redemption.—A release effected in consideration of a ransom. See on the verse Ephesians 1:7. The forgiveness of our sins—lit. “the dismissal of our sins.”


The Great Moral Translation.

These words amplify the truth unfolded in the preceding verse, and describe the great change that must take place in order to obtain a meetness for the saintly inheritance—the translation of the soul from the powerful dominion of darkness into the glorious kingdom of the Son of God.

I. This translation involves our enfranchisement from a state of dark captivity.—“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness” (Colossians 1:13).

1. The unrenewed are in a realm of moral darkness.—This was the condition of the Colossians and of the whole Gentile world before the times of the gospel. “Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.” Darkness denotes ignorance, moral blindness. Man is in darkness about the great mysteries of being, the mystery of sin and suffering, the deep significance of life, the distressing question of human duty, the destiny of the universe, the character and operations of God, and His relation to the race. It is possible to know much about religion, to hold religious ideas at second-hand as a group of poetic conceptions—fancy pictures from the book of Revelation, like the pictures of the poets from the book of Nature—and yet be totally in the dark as to the religious experience of those ideas. May be intellectually light, and spiritually dark. Darkness denotes danger and misery. Like a traveller in a strange country overtaken by the night, stumbling along in uncertainty and fear, until one fatal step—and he lies helpless in the rocky abyss, into the bottom of which he falls.

2. In this realm of moral darkness the unrenewed are held in captivity.—They are slaves in the land of darkness, tyrannised over by an arbitrary and capricious ruler. Slavery distorts and defaces the illustrious image in which man was originally created, darkens the understanding, paralyses the intellect, and stunts the growth of intelligence; it robs him of his self-respect, poisons his sense of rectitude and honour, blunts his sensibilities, imbrutes his entire nature, and brands him with unutterable infamy. The “power of darkness” is that tyranny which sin exercises over its captives, filling their minds with deadly errors or brutish ignorance, their consciences with terror or indifference, and dragging them onwards under its dismal yoke into all the horrors of eternal darkness. The tyrant of this gloomy realm is Satan; and his domination is founded and conducted on imposture, error, ignorance, and cruelty. He is the arch-deceiver.

3. From this realm of moral darkness God graciously liberates.—“Who hath delivered us.” For the slaves of sin there is no help but in God. It is the nature of sin to incapacitate its victim for making efforts after self-enfranchisement. He is unwilling to be free. To snap the fetters from a nation of slaves yearning for liberty is a great and noble act. Our deliverance is mightier than that. The word “deliver” in the text means to snatch or rescue from danger, even though the person seized may at first be unwilling to escape, as Lot from Sodom. God does not force the human will. The method of deliverance was devised and executed independent of our will; its personal benefits cannot be enjoyed without our will.

II. This translation places us in a condition of highest moral freedom and privilege.

1. We are transferred, to a kingdom. “Hath translated us into the kingdom” (Colossians 1:13). Power detains captives; a kingdom fosters willing citizens. Tyranny has no law but the capricious will of a despot; a kingdom implies good government, based on universally recognised and authoritative law. “The image is presented of the wholesale transportation of a conquered people, of which the history of Oriental monarchies furnishes many examples” (Josephus, Ant., IX. xi.). They were translated from a bad to a better ruling power. So the believer is moved from the realm and power of darkness and bondage to the kingdom of light and freedom. The laws of this kingdom are prescribed by Christ, its honours and privileges granted by Him, and its future history and triumphs will ever be identified with His own transcendent glory.

2. We are placed under the rule of a beneficent and glorious King.—“The kingdom of God’s dear Son,” more accurately “the Son of His love.” As love is the essence of the Father, so is it also of the Son. The manifestation of the Son to the world is a manifestation by Him of divine love (1 John 4:9). The kingdom into which believers are translated is founded on love; its entire government is carried on under the same beneficent principle. The acts of suffering and death, by which Christ won His kingly dignity and power, were revelations of love in its most heroic and self-sacrificing forms. When we believe in Christ, we are translated from the tyranny and darkness of sin into the kingdom of which the Son of God—the Son infinitely beloved of the Father—is King. As willing subjects we share with Him the Father’s love, and are being prepared for more exalted service and sublimer experiences in the endless kingdom of the future.

III. The divine method by which the translation is effected.—It is effected by redemption.

1. The means of redemption.—“Through His blood” (Colossians 1:14). The image of a captive and enslaved people is still continued. But the metaphor is changed from the victor who rescues the captive by force of arms to the philanthropist who releases him by the payment of a ransom (Lightfoot). All men are under the condemnation of a violated law, and sink in the bondage of sin. There is no release but by paying a ransom; this is involved in the idea of redemption. The ransom-price paid for the enfranchisement of enslaved humanity was “not corruptible things, as silver and gold, but the precious blood of Christ.” The mode of redemption is to us a deep mystery; the reasons influencing the divine Mind in its adoption we cannot fathom. But the fact is plainly revealed (1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 2:24; Galatians 3:13). This was God’s method of translating from bondage to liberty.

2. The effect of redemption.—“Even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14). The ransom-price is paid, and the slave is free. The first blessing of redemption is pardon. It is this the penitent soul most urgently needs; it does not exclude all other redemptive blessings, but opens and prepares the soul for their reception. Sin is the great obstacle between the soul and God; the monster sluice that shuts off the flow of divine blessing. Redemption lifts the sluice, and the stream of divine goodness pours its tide of benediction into the enraptured soul. An earthly king may forgive the felon, but he cannot give him a better disposition. God never forgives without at the same time giving a new heart. Pardon involves every other blessing—peace, purity, glory; it is the pledge and foundation for the bestowal of all we can need in time or in eternity.

3. The Author of redemption.—“In whom we have redemption” (Colossians 1:14). Christ, the Son of God’s love, by the sacrifice of Himself, accomplished our redemption; and it is only as we are in Him by faith that we actually partake of the freedom He purchased for us. His blood is not merely the ransom paid for our deliverance, but He is Himself the personal, living source of redemption. The deliverance of humanity is not simply in the work of Christ, through what He did and suffered, but in Himself.—“the strong Son of God,” the crucified, risen, and living Saviour. It is not only a rescue from condemnation and punishment, but a deliverance from the power and bondage of evil. The words “in whom we have redemption” teach much and imply more. They describe a continuous gift enjoyed, a continuous process realised by all who have been translated into the kingdom of the Saviour. In them the power of redemption is being carried on, so that they die unto sin, and live unto God, and experience a growing meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light (Spence). Christ only could be the Redeemer of men; He combined in one person the divine and human natures: He could therefore meet the demands of God and the necessities of man.


1. Sin is a dark, enslaving power.

2. The kingdom of the Redeemer is one of light and freedom.

3. Moral translation by redemption is a divine work.

4. The forgiveness of sin can be obtained only by faith in the Son of God.


Colossians 1:13. From Darkness to Light.

I. Man is naturally in a state of darkness, held captive by sin and Satan.

II. A kingdom of freedom and light is provided by the intervention of the Son of God.

III. The translation from darkness to light is a divine act.

Colossians 1:14. The Great Blessing of Redemption—

I. Is the forgiveness of sins.

II. The blessing of forgiveness is through the agency of Christ.

III. Redemption is purchased at a great cost and sacrifice.—“Through His blood.”

Verses 15-17


Colossians 1:15. Who is the image of the invisible God.—In 2 Corinthians 4:4 St. Paul had so named Christ. “Beyond the very obvious notion of likeness, the word for image involves the idea of representation and manifestation” (Lightfoot). Man is said to be the image of God (1 Corinthians 11:7), and to have been created in the image of God, as an image on a coin may represent Cæsar, even though unrecognisable almost. Christ is “the very image” (Hebrews 1:3) of God, able to say, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” Firstborn of every creature.—“Not that He is included as part of the creation, but that the relation of the whole creation to Him is determined by the fact that He is the ‘firstborn of all creation’ (R.V.), so that without Him creation could not be” (Cremer). The main ideas involved in the word are

(1) priority to all creation;
(2) sovereignty over all creation (Lightfoot).

Colossians 1:16. Thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers.—That Paul believed in a heavenly hierarchy can scarcely be doubted; but this letter shows that in Colossæ it had become an elaborate superstition.


The Relation of Christ to God and to all Greated Things.

Having spoken of our redemption, the apostle, in terms of the highest significance and grandeur, dwells upon the dignity and absolute supremacy of the Redeemer.
I. The relation of Christ to God.—“Who is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). God is an infinite and eternal Spirit, incomprehensible and invisible. “No man hath seen God at any time;” yet humanity yearns for some visible embodiment of Deity. Christ reflects and reveals the Father. “He is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.” It is believed that the idea of the Logos underlies the whole of this passage, though the term is not mentioned. The heretical teachers at Colossæ had introduced a perverted view as to the nature of the mediation between God and creation, and the apostle aims to rectify it. The word λόγος, denoting both reason and speech, was a philosophical term adopted by Alexandrian Judaism to express the manifestation of the unseen God—the absolute Being—in the creation and government of the world. It included all modes by which God makes Himself known to man. As His reason, it denoted His purpose or design; as His speech, it implied His revelation. When Christian teachers adopted this term, they exalted and fixed its meaning by attaching to it two precise and definite ideas—that the Word is a divine person, and that the Word became incarnate in Jesus Christ (Lightfoot). Christ as the eternal Word is the perfect image, the visible representation, of the unseen God. In addition to the idea of similitude, which is capable of a wide and general use, the word “image” involves two others.

1. Representation.—It implies an archetype of which the image is a copy. Man is said to be in the image of God; but there is a difference between the image of God in man and the image of God in Christ. In Christ it is as Cæsar’s image in his son; in man it is as Cæsar’s image on his coin. In the God-man Christ Jesus we have a visible, living, perfect, and reliable representation of the invisible God.

2. Manifestation.—The general idea of the Logos is the manifestation of the hidden. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:18, compared with John 14:9-10, John 6:46). The incarnate Word, in His nature, attributes, and actions, is the true epiphany of the unseen Deity, setting forth, like distinct rays of one and the same glorious light, His infinite wisdom, mercy, righteousness, and power. Our obligations to Christ for His wondrous revelations are unspeakably great.

II. The relation of Christ to all created things.

1. Christ existed prior to the creation. He is “the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15). It is not said He was the first formed or first created of every creature, but the firstborn—the first begotten. It is plainly intimated that Christ, the Son of God’s love, was begotten before any created thing existed. There is therefore no ground in this passage for the Arians and Socinians to build up their theory of the creatureship of Christ. In relation to all created things, intelligent or unintelligent, terrene or celestial, Christ was the firstborn. In an ineffably mysterious sense He was begotten; they were created. The two ideas involved in the phrase are:

(1) Priority to all creation—the absolute pre-existence of the Son. The term “first begotten” was frequently used among the Jews as a term of precedence and dignity. As applied to the Son of God, it implies priority in rank in relation to all created things. Time is an accident of the creature. Therefore the origin of the Son of God precedes all time.

(2) Sovereignty over all creation. God’s firstborn is the natural Ruler, the acknowledged Head of God’s household. He is “Heir of all things.” He is creation’s supreme and absolute Lord. He brought all creatures out of nothing, and by His own will graduated the degree of being each should possess; and it is fitting He should have unlimited empire over all. As if to prevent the possibility of any misconception regarding the relation of Christ to the universe, and to show that He could not be a part of creation however exalted in degree, but was essentially distinct from it, the apostle sets forth the Son of God as the first cause, the active agent, and the grand end of all created things.

2. Christ is Himself the Creator of all things.—

(1) The conception of creation originated in Christ. “For by Him [or in Him] were all things created” (Colossians 1:16). He was the great first cause; the being, forms, limitations, energies of all things to be were bound up in Him. It rested with Himself to create or not to create. It is thought by some the Platonic idea is here shadowed forth: that the archetypes, the original patterns of all things, were in Christ before they were created outwardly. This is simply a philosophic speculation, and is readily suggested by the universal method of the mind first forming a mental conception within itself of any object it desires to body-forth to the outward eye. It is in Christ we trace the great work of creation in its beginning, progress, and end.

(2) The powers of creation were distributed by Christ. “All things that are in heaven, and that are in earth” (Colossians 1:16). He created the heavens also; but those things which are in the heavens are rather named because the inhabitants are more noble than their dwellings. “Visible,” things that are evident to the outward senses; and “invisible,” things that may be conceived by the understanding. “With a view to meet some peculiar doctrine of the false teachers at Colossæ, who seem to have alleged that Christ was but one of the heavenly powers, St. Paul breaks up the things invisible, and distributes them by the words “thrones,” “dominions,” “principalities,” or “powers.” It may be difficult, and indeed impossible, for us now fully to know what the terms severally convey in connection with the several hierarchies of heaven; they seem to point to gradations of being and to distinctions of official glory. Yet all these invisible beings, so illustrious as to be seated on thrones, so great as to be styled dominions, so elevated as to be considered principalities, so mighty as to merit the designation of powers, were created by the Son of God; and they all acknowledge His supremacy and glory. The highest position in creation is infinitely below Him, and there is neither majesty nor renown that equals His. All created beings occupying the loftiest thrones throughout the vastness of immensity and amidst the mystery of life do homage and service to Christ Jesus as the firstborn, the only begotten Son of God” (Spence).

(3) Christ is Himself the great end of creation. “All things were created for Him” (Colossians 1:16). As all creation emanated from Him, so does it all converge again towards Him. “The eternal Word is the goal of the universe, as He was the starting-point. It must end in unity, as it proceeded from unity; and the centre of this unity is Christ.” The most elaborate and majestic machinery of the universe and the most highly gifted intelligence alike exist only to serve the ultimate purpose of creation’s Lord. All created things gather their significance, dignity, and glory by their connection with Him. Christ must be more than a creature, as the loftiest creature could not be the end of all created things. It is a narrow philosophy that teaches that all things were made for man. The grand end of all our endeavours should ever be the glory of Christ.

3. The unchanging eternity of Christ.—“He is before all things” (Colossians 1:17). Not only is He before Moses and before Abraham, as He declared to the Jews (John 8:0), but He is before all things. The words refer not so much to His eminence in rank as to duration. The terms HE IS, in the Greek, are most emphatic, the one declaring His personality, the other that His pre-existence is absolute existence. Christ existed before any created thing—even before time itself; therefore, from eternity. Knowing the tendency of men to entertain inferior notions of the person of Christ, and of the redemption He has provided, the apostle multiplies conceptions to represent His divine worth and excellency. He should be preferred before all.

4. The continued existence of creation depends on Christ.—“And by [rather in] Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17)—hold together, cohere. He is the principle of cohesion in the universe. He impresses upon creation that unity and solidarity which makes it a cosmos instead of a chaos. Thus, to take one instance, the action of gravitation, which keeps in their places things fixed and regulates the motion of things moving, is an expression of His mind (Lightfoot). The universe found its completion in Him, and is sustained and preserved every moment by the continuous exercise of His almighty power. All things hang on Christ; in Him they live and move and have their being. If He withdrew His upholding hand, everything would run into confusion and ruin. “Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled: Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.” In Him all things consist. He is the centre of life, force, motion, and rest; round Him all things revolve. He imposes their limits, gives to them their law, strikes the keynote of their harmonies, blends and controls their diverse operations. He is the All-perfect in the midst of imperfection, the Unchanged in the midst of change. He is the Author of human redemption; became incarnate, suffered, died, and rose again, and now reigns with the Father in glory everlasting. He is worthy of our loftiest adoration, our humblest submission, our strongest confidence, our most ardent love.


1. The supremacy of the Creator and Preserver of all things is absolute and universal.—

2. Human redemption is grounded on the divinity of the Son of God.

3. Personal trust in the Redeemer brings the soul into direct personal relation to the Father.


Colossians 1:15. Christ a Revelation because He is the Equal of the Father


In His nature.—The incarnation.


In His attributes.


In His will.—The character of Christ and His moral system.


In His works.—His miracles, His death as a sacrifice for sin, His resurrection.

1. How ungrateful and unbelieving have we been!
2. How zealous and devoted should we be!—G. Brooks.

Colossians 1:16. Christ the Author and the End of Creation.

I. The Author.

1. The extent. “All things.” The universe, natural and moral.

2. The variety.—“Visible and invisible.” The near and the distant, the vast and the minute, the material and the spiritual.

3. The orders.—“Whether they be.” Scale of being. Gradations in all classes.

II. The end.

1. Heaven was created for Him. As the place of His special residence and as the home of His people.

2. Angels were created for Him.—Messengers of His mercy, executioners of His vengeance.

3. Hell was created for Him.—The prison of His justice.

4. The earth was created for Him.—The scene of His incarnation and atoning death. His mediatorial kingdom.

5. The human race was created for Him.—Man created, preserved, redeemed.

(1) How exalted should be our ideas of Christ!
(2) How carefully should we learn to view everything in connection with Christ!
3. What ground for confidence, gratitude, and fear!—Ibid.

Verse 18


Colossians 1:18. And He is the head of the body, the Church.—As He held priority of all creation, so also His is the name above every name in the new creation. The firstborn from the dead.—The cardinal point of the apostle’s faith.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Colossians 1:18

The Relation of Christ to the Moral Creation.

After showing that Christ holds the position of absolute priority and sovereignty over the whole universe, the apostle now proceeds to point out His relation to the principal part of that whole—the Church, as the symbol and embodiment of the new, moral creation. From this verse we learn that Christ is the supreme Head, and primal life-giving Source of the Church, and as such is invested with universal pre-eminence.

I. Christ is the supreme Head of the Church—the new moral creation.

1. The Church is the body of Christ. “The body, the Church.” Much controversy has prevailed as to what constitutes the Church; and the more worldly the Church became, the more confused the definition, the more bitter the controversy. The New Testament idea of the Church is easily comprehended. It is the whole body of the faithful in Christ Jesus, who are redeemed and regenerated by His grace—the aggregate multitude of those in heaven and on earth who love, adore, and serve the Son of God as their Redeemer and Lord. The word ἐκκλησία contains two leading ideas: the ordained unity, and the calling or separating out from the world. Three grand features ever distinguish the true Church—unbroken unity, essential purity, and genuine catholicity. (Cf. Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 4:15-16; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

2. Christ is the Head of the Church.—“And He is the Head of the body, the Church.” That the world might not be considered this body, the word “Church” is added; and the materialistic conception of a Church organism thus refuted. As the Head of the Church—

(1) Christ inspires it with spiritual life and activity.
(2) He impresses and moulds its character.
(3) He prescribes and enforces its laws.
(4) He governs and controls its destinies.
(5) He is the centre of its unity.

II. Christ is the originating, fontal Source of the organic life of the Church.—In respect to the state of grace, He is the beginning; in respect to the state of glory, He is the firstborn from the dead. He gives to the Church its entity, form, history, and glory; except in and through Him, the Church could have no existence.

1. He is the Author of the moral creation.—“The beginning.” Christ has been before described as the Author of the old material creation. Here He is announced as the beginning of the new spiritual creation. The moral creation supplies the basis and constituent elements of the Church. In the production, progress, and final triumph of the new creation, He will redress all the wreck and ruin occasioned by the wrong-doing of the old creation. Of this new moral creation Christ is the source, the principle, the beginning; the fountain of life, purity, goodness, and joy to the souls of men.

2. He is the Author of the moral creation as the Conqueror of Death.—“The firstborn from the dead.” Sin introduced death into the old creation, and the insatiable monster still revels and riots amid the corruptions he perpetually generates. The Son of God, in fulfilment of the divine plan of redemption, became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He descended into Hades, and placed Himself among the dead. On the third day He rose again, “the firstfruits of them that slept.” He was “the firstborn from the dead”; the first who had risen by His own power; the first who had risen to die no more. By dying He conquered death for Himself and all His followers. He can therefore give life to all that constitute that Church of which He is fittingly the Head, assure them of a resurrection from the dead, of which His own was a pattern and pledge, and of transcendent and unfading glory with Himself in the endless future.

III. The relation of Christ to the Church invests Him with absolute pre-eminence.—“That in all things He might have the pre-eminence.”

1. He is pre-eminent in His relation to the Father.—He is “the image of the invisible God”; the Son of His love, joined by a bond to us mysterious and ineffable, and related in a sense in which no other can be. He is the first and the last; the only divine Son.

2. He is pre-eminent in the universe of created beings.—He existed before any being was created, and was Himself the omnipotent Author of all created things. The whole hierarchy of heaven obey and adore Him. He is alone in His complex nature as our Emmanuel. Mystery of mysteries; in Him Deity and humanity unite!

3. He is pre-eminent in His rule over the realm of the dead.—He entered the gloomy territory of the grave, wrestled with and vanquished the King of Terrors, rose triumphantly from the dismal battle-field, and is now Lord both of the dead and of the living. “I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore; and have the keys of Hades and of death” (Revelation 1:18).

4. He is pre-eminent in His relation to the Church.—The Church from beginning to end is purely His own creation. He sketched its first rough outline, projected its design, constructed its organism, informed it with life, dowered it with spiritual riches; and He will continue to watch over and direct its future until He shall “present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing”!

5. He is pre-eminent in the estimation and homage of a ransomed world.—He is the central figure of all history; around Him all events group themselves, and by Him are stamped with their true character, significance, and worth. The dream of the ages, the teaching of figures and symbols, the shadows and forecastings of coming events, are all dismissed in the effulgent presence of Him to whom they all point, like so many quivering index-fingers. Christ has to-day the strongest hold upon the heart of humanity. His perplexed enemies admire while they reject Him; the ever-increasing multitude of His friends reverence and adore Him; and the era is rapidly advancing when to Him a universe of worshippers shall bow the knee and acknowledge that “in all things He has the pre-eminence.”


1. The pre-eminence of Christ entitles Him to universal obedience.

2. The highest blessedness is found in union with the Church of Christ.


Colossians 1:18. The Church the Body of Christ.

I. As the body of Christ the Church is one with Him.

1. One in covenant dealing with God.

2. One in respect of the principle of life.

3. One in history.

4. How Christ may be served or persecuted.

II. As the body of Christ the Church is one in itself.

1. Identity of principle.

2. Substantial agreement in faith.

3. A visible association through sympathy.

III. As the body of Christ the Church has many co-operating and mutually dependent members.

1. The members are as numerous as are believers or as are offices.

2. Their mutual dependence and co-operation illustrated in the work of spreading the gospel.

3. Let each one know his own place and duties.

IV. As the body of Christ the Church must grow up to completeness and maturity.

1. Each believer is first a babe in Christ, and advances to the measure of the stature of a man in Christ.

2. As a whole the Church is gradually augmented and increased—from Abel onwards.

3. To gather in and perfect the elect is the peculiar work of time.

V. As the body of Christ the Church must be restored to perfect soundness and health.

1. Christ receives the Church—dead.

2. The first step towards perfect soundness is a resurrection.

3. Hence each believer is quickened with Christ in order to be healed.

4. The bodies of the saints shall likewise be perfect.—The Physician.

5. In heaven no one shall say, “I am sick.”

VI. As the body of Christ the Church is the object of His unremitting care.

1. To provide for the wants of his body is man’s unceasing care.

2. Christ has made ample provision.

3. He now ministers to His Church’s wants—clothing, food, defence, habitation.

VII. As the body of Christ the Church is the instrument through which He accomplishes His purposes.

1. The body the instrument of the heart or soul.

2. The Church the instrument of Christ.

3. The Church but the instrument.—Stewart.

Christ the Firstborn from the Dead—

I. In the dignity of His person.

II. Because He rose by His own power.

III. Because He is the only one who rose never to die again.

IV. Because He has taken precedence of His people who all shall rise from their graves to glory.

Verses 19-20


Colossians 1:19. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.—The great question on this verse is—seeing that “the Father” has been added—what is the nominative to the word rendered “it pleased”? At least three are possible:

(1)“the Father,” as A.V., R.V., and many commentators;
(2) “all the fulness,” etc.; and
(3) “the Son was pleased.” Lightfoot urges that, as
(2) would be an anachronism, and
(3) a hopeless confusion of the theology, “the Father was well pleased” seems to be the best rendering.

Colossians 1:20. To reconcile all things unto Himself—The word “reconcile” is meant to indicate the restoration of a lost friendship; the re-establishment of peaceful relations. It is a good specimen of the care with which St. Paul’s advanced expressions are selected.


The Reconciling Work of the Great Mediator.

After showing the grand pre-eminence of Christ in both the natural and moral creation, and thus declaring the inferior and subordinate position of those angelic powers whose nature and office the false teachers in Colossæ unduly extolled, the apostle here proceeds to point out the special fitness of the great Mediator for that lofty relationship. It is grounded on the fact that in Him all fulness dwells. Observe:—

I. The unique qualification of the great Mediator.

1. In Him, all fulness dwells. The heretical teachers would reduce Christ to the level of an angelic mediator, a simple evolution from the divine nature, and one of the links that bind the finite to the infinite. They admitted there was the manifestation of divine power and glory, but that this was only occasional, and not inherent. The apostle, in refuting this, asserts that the plenitude—the grand totality of Deity—resided in Christ, not as a transient guest, but as a permanent and abiding presence. “All fulness.” Well might the profound and devout Bengel exclaim, “Who can fathom the depth of this subject?” In the marvellous person of Jesus there is combined all the fulness of humanity as well as the fulness of divinity—all the beauty, dignity, and excellency that replenish heaven and earth, and adorn the nature of God and of men. It is a fulness that stands related to all the interests of the universe, and can supply the moral necessities of all. There is a fulness of wisdom to keep us from error, fulness of grace to preserve from apostasy, fulness of joy to keep us from despair, and fulness of power to protect from all evil. It penetrates and fills the vast universe of intelligent beings, and girds it with a radiant circle of glory and felicity.

2. It is the good pleasure of the Father that this fulness should reside in the Son.—“For it pleased the Father” (Colossians 1:19). It was the will and purpose of God the Father that Christ, as the Mediator, should, in order to accomplish the great work of reconciliation, be filled with the plenitude of all divine and human excellencies; that He should be the grand, living, unfailing reservoir of blessing to the whole intelligent universe. The Father is not only in harmony with the reconciling work of the Son, but the whole merciful arrangement was from the first suggested, planned, and appointed by Him. The moving cause and foundation of all saving grace through the Son is the good pleasure of the Father. It is not His good pleasure that any other than Christ should be the Mediator of the universe. We should never seek or acknowledge any other.

II. The reconciling work of the great Mediator.

1. The nature of the reconciliation. “To reconcile unto Himself” (Colossians 1:20). The word “reconcile” imports to restore one to a state of amity and friendship, to change the relations of two parties separated either by one-sided or mutual enmity. Sin places man at enmity with God, and exposes him to the divine opposition and anger. The cross of Christ, by removing the cause of estrangement, opens the way of reconciliation; and the penitent, believing soul is thus restored to the divine favour and friendship. But the word “reconcile” does not always presuppose the existence of open enmity; and, from the general drift of the verse, the term should be interpreted in the most liberal sense, yet with the utmost caution and reverence.

2. The extent of the reconciliation.—“To reconcile all things unto Himself, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20). It was on the earth where the enmities first arose; therefore it is put first. The humanity of Christ 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. In Christ, the great Reconciler, meet and merge the discordant elements which sin had introduced (see Bengel and Eadie). The false teachers aimed at effecting a partial reconciliation between God and man, through the interposition of angelic mediators. The apostle speaks of an absolute and complete reconciliation of universal nature to God, effected through the mediation of the incarnate Word. Their mediators were ineffective because they were neither human nor divine. The true Mediator must be both human and divine. The whole universe of things material, as well as spiritual, shall be restored to harmony with God. How far this restoration of universal nature may be subjective, as involved in the changed perceptions of man thus brought into harmony with God, and how far it may have an objective and independent existence, it were vain to speculate (Lightfoot). With regard to this reconciliation, we may safely say it includes, with much more that is too high for us to understand, the following truths:

(1) Sinful creatures on earth are reconciled to God in Christ. For the degenerate and guilty children of men there is a Reconciler and a way of reconciliation, so that wrath is turned aside and friendship restored.
(2) Sinful and sinless or unfallen creatures are reconciled to each other, and brought together again in Christ. Bengel says: “It is certain that the angels, the friends of God, were the enemies of men when they were in a state of hostility against God.” The discord and disunion introduced into the moral universe by sin are overcome by the Lord Jesus.
(3) Sinless and unfallen creatures are brought nearer to God in Christ, and, through His reconciling work and His infinite fulness of grace, are confirmed for ever in their loyalty and love. In Christ, the Redeemer and Reconciler, they have views of the divine nature, character, and glory they never had before, and which they can nowhere else obtain (Spence). It needed such a Mediator as Jesus, gifted with the highest divine and human powers, to restore the tone and harmony of a discordant universe, and tune every created spirit to the keynote of sweetest celestial music. The true melody of acceptable praise is learned only in the ardent, loving adoration of the Son of God.

III. The means by which the reconciliation is effected.—“And having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20). To make peace is the same thing as to reconcile; and the death of Christ—the shedding of His blood on the cross—was the method by which, in the infinite wisdom of God, the peace-producing reconciliation is secured. It was the voluntary self-sacrifice of Himself on the cross that constituted Jesus the grand reconciling Mediator of the universe. “All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Only by suffering could suffering be assuaged; only by dying could death itself be conquered. The cross is therefore the symbol of peace, of power, of triumph. There the law was fulfilled and magnified, the integrity of the divine perfections vindicated, justice was satisfied, mercy found its most bounteous outlet, and love its crowning joy. The cross is the source of every blessing to the fallen; the centre round which a disordered universe again revolves in beauteous order and rejoicing harmony; the loadstone that draws the trembling sinner to the needed and unutterable repose.


1. The great Mediator has every qualification for His stupendous work.

2. The reconciliation of a disorganised universe is beyond the power of any subordinate agent.

3. Rebellious man can be restored to peace with God only as he yields himself up to the great Mediator.


Colossians 1:19. The Fulness of Christ

I. Endowed with all divine and human excellencies.

II. Necessary to accomplish His reconciling work.

III. Was required and approved by God the Father.

Colossians 1:20. Christ the Reconciler—

I. Restored the friendship between God and man broken by sin.

II. Accomplished His work by the voluntary sacrifice of His life.

III. Introduces harmony into a disrupted universe.

Verses 21-22


Colossians 1:21. You, that were sometime alienated.—Does not mean, of course, occasionally alienated, but as the R.V. gives it, “being in time past alienated”—up to the time of the reconciliation always estranged. Enemies in your mind by wicked works.—The most interesting question here is whether God is reconciled to the sinner or only the sinner to God. Is “enemies” to mean “hostile” or “hateful”? Lightfoot says, “It is the mind of man, not the mind of God, which must undergo a change that a reunion may be effected.”

Colossians 1:22. In the body of His flesh through death.—When a teacher has to be explicit it may seem to those familiar with the subject as if he were verbose or tautological. So here the body is no phantasm, but fleshly and mortal. To present you holy.—They were professedly holy “saints” (Colossians 1:2), and the final purpose of their reconciliation is reproachless saintship (on this word, and “unblamable,” see Ephesians 1:4). Unreprovable in His sight.—It is a lofty eminence to which the holy apostle invites us to look in this word. The light in which we walk—fierce indeed towards sin—reveals no evil, so that the most captious critic has no objection (Titus 2:8).


The Personal Blessings of Reconciliation.

Having shown the relation of Christ to God, to the whole creation, and to the Church, and His connection with all moral beings, the writer now proceeds to point out the relation of Christ to individual man in delivering him from the fetters of sin, and opening up the way of reconciliation with an outraged but loving Deity. In this passage we have a description of the attitude of sinful man towards God and the method of His restoration. We learn that:—

I. Sin has placed man in antagonism to God.

1. Man is estranged from God. “And you that were sometime alienated” (Colossians 1:21). Sin severs the soul from God. The principle of cohesion—the consciousness of rectitude which God implanted in man in his sinless state—is weakened, and the sinner, breaking away from the centre of all goodness, drifts into an ever-widening and ever-darkening wilderness of alienation and evil. Sin places man at an infinite distance from God, leads him to shun the divine presence and disregard the divine overtures. A state of alienation is a state of danger; it is a state of spiritual death; and yet it is painful to observe how few in this state are conscious of their awful peril.

2. Man is hostile to God.—“Enemies in your mind” (Colossians 1:21). The enmity follows from the estrangement, and both have their seat in the mind—“in the original and inmost force of the mind which draws after it the other faculties.” The mind of man opposes the mind of God, sets up a rival kingdom, and organises an active rebellion against the divine Ruler. “The carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). If the hostility is not always flagrantly open, it is in the mind; the fountain of all sin is there. To be a stranger to God is to be an enemy of God: “He that is not with Me is against Me.” The sinner is his own greatest enemy. It is a vain thing to fight against God; terrible will be the vengeance He will ere long wreak upon His enemies.

3. Man’s estrangement and hostility are evident in his actions.—“By wicked works” (Colossians 1:21). Man is stimulated by his sinful mind to perpetrate the most outrageous acts of rebellion against God, and to indulge in the most fiendish cruelty towards his fellow-man. But there are “wicked works” that may not figure in the criminal columns of the newspapers, nor be detected by the most vigilant watcher. To cherish envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness is equally heinous in the sight of God, and an unmistakable evidence of hostility towards Him. Sin conceived in the mind will, sooner or later, manifest itself in action.

II. Man is reconciled to God in Christ.

1. The distinguished blessing. “Yet now hath He reconciled” (Colossians 1:21). To effect this all that is necessary is to persuade the sinner to cease his rebellion and submit to God. In Christ God is reconciled to the sinner; there is no need to persuade Him. He is love; the sinner is enmity. He is light; the sinner is darkness. He is nigh unto the sinner, but the sinner is afar off. The great object is to destroy the sinner’s enmity, that he may have divine love; bring him from darkness into divine light, bring him from his evil works nigh unto God, and reconciliation is the result (Biblical Museum). The amity existing between the soul and God, and which sin had interrupted, is now restored. Dear as are the friendships of earth, none can equal friendship with God.

“He calls a worm His friend,
He calls Himself my God;

And He shall save me to the end

Through Jesu’s blood.”

The loftiest communion of the soul with God is renewed. In this the soul finds its strength, consolation, life, rapture. How much does that man lose whose heart is not reconciled to God?

2. The gracious medium of the blessing.—“In the body of His flesh through death” (Colossians 1:22). The apostle here refers in the most explicit terms to the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, and shows that the great work of reconciliation was effected in His body, and through death, for that body was crucified and actually died. The apostle perhaps aimed at correcting certain pseudo-spiritualistic notions regarding the person of Christ, busily propagated by the false teachers; some of whom held that Christ was an angelic emanation which animated the man Jesus for a time and withdrew from Him before He suffered. While maintaining the proper deity and glory of Christ’s nature, the apostle plainly indicates that the divine method of reconciliation was by the incarnation and sacrificial death of Christ. He thus exalts the significance and value of the death of Christ. Reconciliation was not accomplished by the faultless example of Christ’s life or the supernal wisdom of His teaching, but by His crucifixion and death. The cross, with its unfathomable mystery, is to them that perish foolishness; but to them that believe it is still the power and wisdom of God.

III. The divine purpose in reconciliation is to promote man’s highest blessedness.—The magnificence of the believer’s future career will be in marked contrast with the obscurity and imperfection of the present; but even in this life he is lifted by the reconciling grace of God to a high standard of moral excellence. The terms here employed, while referring to the same spiritual state, delineate its different aspects.

1. The highest blessedness of man consists in his moral purity.—“To present you holy” (Colossians 1:22). This shows the condition of the soul in relation to God; it is freely offered to Him as a living sacrifice; the inward consciousness is wholly consecrated to the permanent indwelling of the Holy One; every thought, affection, and aspiration of the soul is hallowed; the whole man is enriched, ennobled, and radiant with a holy character.

2. The highest blessedness of man consists in his personal blamelessness.—“Unblamable” (Colossians 1:22). This aspect of character has reference to one’s self; it is the development in the outward life of the purity and consecration of the heart; it is a sacrificial term, and means without blemish. The soul is inspired with a sense of integrity, and of always acting for the best. When Socrates was asked, just before his trial, why he did not prepare himself for his defence, he calmly answered, “I have been doing nothing else all my life.” A noble, blameless life is its own defence.

3. The highest blessedness of man consists in his freedom from censure.—“Unreprovable in His sight” (Colossians 1:22). This feature of a holy character has reference to others. If man thus purified and blessed can bear the piercing glance of Him whose scrutiny no defect can escape, his character is unchallengeable. To be accepted and approved of God places him beyond the accusations of man or demon; the subtle insinuations of the Great Accuser are powerless to hurt. “It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?” To be holy, unblamable, and unreprovable in the sight of God is to enjoy the highest honour and completest bliss. This is the ultimate result of reconciliation in Christ.


1. Sin is the great foe of God and man.

2. The death of Christ is the means of reconciling sinful man to God.

3. The aim of reconciliation is to produce an irreproachable character.


Colossians 1:21. Reconciliation by Christ.

I. Estrangement.

1. The cause—by wicked works.

2. The result—not merely that God is angry, but we have become enemies to God.

II. Reconciliation.

1. Christ has reconciled man to God.

2. He hath reconciled man to man.

3. He hath reconciled man to himself.

4. He hath reconciled man to duty.—Robertson.

Colossians 1:22. Holiness the Supreme End of Reconciliation.

I. Holiness an inward state and an outward result.—“Holy, unblamable and unreprovable.”

II. Holiness alone can satisfy God.—“In His sight.”

III. Holiness is the final completion of the soul.—“To present you.”

Verse 23


Colossians 1:23. Grounded and settled, and not moved away.—In that land of volcanic agency the readers would perceive only too readily the graphic force of this metaphor. Where stone buildings tumbled over like a house of cards, the figure of a faith, proof against all shocks, was effective (see Hebrews 12:28). Every creature under heaven.—The same rhetorical form of expression as in Colossians 1:6, affirming the universal fitness of the gospel as well as its wide dissemination. Whereof I Paul am made a minister.—Wonder that increases and unceasing gratitude are in these words—that the persecutor should serve the faith he once destroyed.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Colossians 1:23

The Condition of Man’s Final Blessedness.

The ripest fruits can only be produced and gathered by careful and unremitting culture; so the enjoyment of the final blessings of reconciliation is conditioned upon continued allegiance to the gospel and the diligent practice of its precepts. We are taught in this verse that the ultimate presentation to God of a perfectly holy and blameless character depends upon the believer’s firm and persevering attachment to the gospel. Observe:—

I. Man’s final blessedness depends upon his unswerving continuance in the faith.—The faith is a comprehensive term; it is inclusive of all the great saving truths of the gospel, and of man’s many-sided relation to them. There is implied:

1. A continuance in the doctrines of the faith.—What a man believes has a powerful influence in moulding his character. The truths submitted to our faith shed light upon matters of transcendent import and worth. The baffled and inquiring mind, straining with painful eagerness after light, finds its satisfaction and rest amid the soothing radiance of revealed truth. “In returning and rest shall ye be saved” (Isaiah 30:15). Unbelief lures the soul from its restful confidence, sets it adrift amidst the cross currents of bewilderment and doubt, and exposes it to moral shipwreck and irrevocable loss. The soul’s eternal safety is ensured, not by an infatuated devotion to mere opinions about certain dogmas, but by an intelligent, firm, and constant faith in divine verities.

2. A continuance in the profession of the faith.—The believer is a witness for the truth; and it is an imperative duty to bear testimony for Christ before the world (Romans 10:9-10). This is done when we unite in fellowship and service with the external Church of Christ on earth. The Church, as the representative of Christ, witnesses for Him in the life and conduct of its individual members. There is nothing binding as to the special form this witness-bearing should take in each particular case; nor is any man compelled, for the sake of profession, to wed himself to any particular branch of the Church catholic. There may be reasons that render it justifiable, and even necessary, for a man to sever himself from any given religious community and join another; but on no conceivable ground can he be liberated from the duty of an open profession of his faith in Christ; his future acceptability to God hinges on his fidelity in this duty (Matthew 10:32).

3. A continuance in the practice of the faith.—Faith supplies the motive and rule of all right conduct. The test of all preceptive enactment and profession is in the life. The Christian character is developed and perfected, not by believing or professing, but by doing the will of God. The rewards of the future will be distributed according to our deeds (Romans 2:6-10).

4. Continuance in the faith must be permanent.—“Grounded and settled.” The edifice, to be durable, must be well founded, that it may settle into a state of firmness and solidity; so faith, in order to survive the storms and temptations of this world, and participate in the promised good of the future, must be securely grounded and settled in the truth. In order to permanency in the faith, the truth must be—

(1) Apprehended intelligently.

(2) Embraced cordially.

(3) Maintained courageously.

II. Man’s final blessedness depends upon his unchanging adherence to the gospel hope.

1. The gospel reveals a bright future. It inspires the hope of the resurrection of the body, and of the glorification of it and the soul together in the eternal life of the future. Faith and hope are inseparably linked together; they mutually succour and sustain each other; they rise or fall together. Hope is the unquestioning expectation of the fruition of those things which we steadily believe. It is compared to an anchor, which, cast within the veil, fastened and grounded in heaven, holds our vessel firm and steady amid the agitations and storms of life’s tempestuous sea. The gospel is the only source of genuine, deathless hope; all hopes grounded elsewhere wither and perish.

2. The gospel to be effectual must come in contact with the individual mind.—“Which ye have heard.” Epaphras had declared to them the divine message. It had been brought to them; they had not sought it. Having heard and received the gospel, to relinquish its blessings would be inexcusable and ungrateful. In some way, either by direct preaching or otherwise, the gospel must come to man. There is no power of moral reformation in the human heart itself; the germinant principle of a better life must come from without; it is conveyed in the gospel word.

3. The gospel is adapted to universal man.—“Which was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” Already it had spread into every part of the then known world, and its power was felt in every province of the Roman empire. The fine prophetic instinct of the apostle saw the universal tendency of the gospel, and, in spirit, anticipated the fulfilment of its generous mission. His motive is to emphasise the universality of the unchangeable gospel which is offered without reserve to all alike, and to appeal to its publicity and progress as the credential and guarantee of its truth. It is adapted to all men; it proclaims its message in all lands, and is destined to win the world to Christ. The faith and hope of the believer are based, not upon the uncertain declarations of false teachers, but upon that gospel, which is unchangeable in its character and universal in its appeal and adaptability to humanity; a strong reason is thus furnished for personal steadfastness.

4. The gospel invested the apostle with an office of high authority.—“Whereof I Paul am made a minister.” Paul participated in the blessings of the gospel; he had felt its transforming power, and from his personal experience of its preciousness could, with the greater assurance and force, exhort the Colossians to continue in the faith. But in addition to this the gospel was committed to the apostle as a sacred trust and for faithful ministration; and while dwelling on the broad charity of the gospel as involving the offer of grace to the Gentiles, he is impressed with the dignity and responsibility of his office as he interjects, somewhat abruptly, but with exquisite modesty, the words, “Whereof I Paul am made a minister.” It has been said of man that he is the priest and interpreter of nature; that it is his function to observe and test phenomena, and interpret the laws that govern the material world. Another writer has said that “man is the organ of revelation for the Godhead.” God can find no adequate form of revelation for Himself in the impersonal forces of nature; only through a being in His own image can He unfold to the universe His adorable character. But the highest office to which man can be elevated is to be a ministrant of gospel light and grace to his fellow-men.

5. There is an implied possibility of relinquishing our hold of the gospel hope.—“Be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” The words do not necessarily imply doubt, but suggest the necessity for constant circumspection, vigilance, and care. The multiplicity and fulness of our blessings may prove a snare to us; prosperity tempts us to relax watchfulness, and we are in danger of becoming a prey to the wiles of the wicked one. Our retention of the gospel hope is rendered immovable by constant waiting upon God in fervent prayer, by a growing acquaintance with the word of promise, by continually anticipating in thought the bliss of the future.


1. The gospel provides the surest basis for faith and hope.

2. Man’s ultimate blessedness depends on his continued fidelity.

Verse 24


Colossians 1:24. Fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ.—R.V. “and fill up on my part that which is lacking.” How we seem to hear through these words the cry of the Head of the Church, “Why persecutest thou Me?” And now the persecutor shares the pain of Christ and those to whom it is granted as a favour to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Colossians 1:24

The Joy of Suffering for the Church.

A stolid indifference to suffering and a heroic endurance of the same were not unknown to the ancient pagans; but it is Christianity alone that has taught us to rejoice in afflictions; it supplies an ecstasy of emotion that renders us oblivious for the time being of encompassing trials. The apostle, as he pondered over the mighty work of reconciliation, and as he caught a glimpse of the amazing extent of divine mercy, could not but rejoice even in his sufferings. In this verse he expresses his joy that, in suffering for the Church, he supplements that which was lacking in the afflictions of Christ. Observe:—

I. The representative character of the apostle’s sufferings.

1. The apostle represented the suffering Saviour. “The afflictions of Christ.” We are not to suppose that the sufferings of Christ were incomplete in themselves or in their value as constituting a sufficient atonement. The passion of Christ was the one full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. In this sense there could be no deficiency in Christ’s sufferings, for Christ’s sufferings being different in kind from those of His servants, the two are incommensurable. Neither the apostle nor any other could represent the expiatory and sacrificial aspect of the Redeemer’s sufferings. But while His personal sufferings are over, His afflictions in His people still continue. He so thoroughly identifies Himself with them that their trials, sorrows, persecutions, and afflictions become His own. The apostle represented the suffering Saviour in what he endured for Christ and the Church. Thus he declared to the Corinthians, “The sufferings of Christ abound in us.” The Church to-day is the representative of the suffering Saviour, and so completely is He identified with His people that He endures in them the pangs of hunger and thirst, shares their sickness and imprisonment, and reckons every act of kindness done to them as done to Himself (Matthew 25:0).

2. The sufferings of the apostle supplemented what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ.—“And fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh.” In harmony with the representative character of the Church, we can understand how the afflictions of every saint and martyr do supplement the afflictions of Christ. Every age of the Church has its measure of suffering. The Church is built up by repeated acts of self-denial in successive individuals and successive generations. They continue the work which Christ began. They bear their part, and supplement what is deficient in the sufferings of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:10). As an apostle, Paul was a representative man, and his share in filling up what was wanting in these afflictions was considerable. In his own flesh he bore unexampled hardship, indignities, and distress. “In labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prison more frequent, in deaths oft.” The great Head of the Church was made perfect through suffering; so must the body be in all its relations and development. Through tribulation, more or less evident and intense, we must enter the kingdom. Suffering in itself has no virtue to elevate moral character; it is effective to this end only as it tends to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, only as it is borne for Christ, and in the Spirit of Christ. The great Mediator suffered to effect our salvation; and His people, on their part, fill up the suffering needed for the perfection of their spiritual life and for the full display of the divine glory.

II. The vicarious character of the apostle’s sufferings.—“For His body’s sake, which is the Church.” The greater part of the suffering of the believer in this world is vicarious—is endured on behalf of others. It is thus we most nearly approach the spirit and example of Christ. St. Paul, as the pioneer missionary, the wise and edifying instructor, the diligent and anxious overseer, occupied a prominent and important position among the Churches, and his sufferings on their behalf would benefit them in many ways.

1. The apostle’s sufferings for the Church confirmed the faith of her converts.—Thousands are shy in embracing Christianity, because they shrink from the suffering it seems to involve; thousands more retire from the Christian profession for the same reason. An example like that of Paul’s—a man profoundly sincere, intensely earnest, calm and unmoved by the stoutest opposition, and triumphant amid acutest sufferings—encourages the timid and strengthens and confirms the tempted and wavering.

2. The apostle’s sufferings were for the consolation of the Church.—Writing to the Corinthians, he says: “Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation.” Suffering makes us more capable of sympathising with others. “Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for the water of consolation.” The richest anointing of divine comfort is bestowed in the moment of severest suffering, and the consolation of one is the consolation of many. When Mr. James Bainham, who suffered under the reign of Henry VIII., was in the midst of the flames which had half consumed his arms and legs, he said aloud: “Oh, ye Papists, ye look for miracles, and here now you may see a miracle; for in this fire I feel no more pain than if I were in a bed of down, but it is to me a bed of roses!”

3. The apostle’s sufferings for the Church tended to promote her increase.—The more the Egyptians afflicted the Hebrews the more they multiplied and grew. The devil’s way of extinguishing goodness is God’s way of advancing it. The apostle could testify, in the midst of his sufferings, that “the things which have happened to me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” Suffering seals the word spoken with a sacred and impressive significance. Many a convert has been won to the truth by the irresistible example of a suffering life.

III. The high-toned spirit of the apostle’s sufferings.—“Who now rejoice in my suffering for you.” Nature shrinks from suffering. It is altogether above nature to triumph in suffering. It is Christianity alone that lifts the spirit into the tranquil region of patient endurance and inspires us with joy in tribulation. It is not a love of suffering for its own sake—not a mad, morbid craving for the ghastly honours of a self-sought martyrdom; but there is a nameless charm about the truths of Christianity that exalts the mind, thrills the soul, and transmutes sorrow into joy. Paul was imprisoned at Rome, bound in a chain for the gospel, when he wrote this epistle; but as the thoughts suggested by his theme grew in full-orbed magnificence before his mental vision—as he contemplated the lavish wealth of God’s mercy in the call of the Gentiles who constituted the greater portion of the world’s population—and as he saw all the glory of being allowed to share, and even to supplement, the sufferings of Christ, he rose above the consideration of his own personal trials, and in a sudden outburst of thanksgiving could exclaim, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you.” Let us not repine at our afflictions. Not only is our own soul chastened and purified; but every pang, every tear, every trial in our lot, is a contribution to the filling up of that which is still behind in the afflictions of Christ. It baptises suffering with a new meaning, and arrays it in a new dignity, when it is viewed as a grand means of promoting the perfection, the purity, and unfading glory of the whole Church.


1. It is an unspeakable honour to suffer for the Church of Christ.

2. The personal experience of the grace of Christ renders suffering for Him a joy.

3. The glory of the future will outweigh all we have suffered for the Church below.

Verses 25-27


Colossians 1:25-27. See notes on Ephesians 3:7 ff.


The Pre-eminent Honour and Sublime Theme of the Christian Ministry.

The highest dignity and most solemn responsibility are conferred on man when he is entrusted with the ministration of God’s word. It is the infinite condescension of God that we have this treasure in earthen vessels. He who, in the exercise of His unchallengeable wisdom, calls man to this work, can alone inspire and endow him with the necessary intellectual and moral fitness for the awful charge. In these verses we learn that the apostle was appointed a minister of the Church—a steward in God’s household—charged to preach without reserve the whole gospel of God, to dispense to the Gentiles the stores which His bountiful grace provided. Note:—
I. The Christian ministry is a divine institution.

1. The true minister is divinely commissioned. “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you” (Colossians 1:25). The word “dispensation” involves the idea of stewardship. God governs His Church, not as a tyrant, who rules what is not his own, not as a monarch, who knows not a thousandth part of his subjects; but as a father, who knows, loves, and provides for his own children. The apostle was entrusted with a stewardship in God’s household; he was “a steward of the mysteries of God.” He received the office from God. This invested it with the highest dignity; yet he was the minister of the Church, and it was his joy to serve it, whatever might be the labour, sacrifice, or suffering entailed. The Christian ministry is not a lordship, but a stewardship; the minister is solemnly commissioned of God to maintain, defend, and dispense the truth that saves and edifies. There are moments when the minister can derive stimulus and courage for his work only by falling back upon the irrefutable fact of his divine call.

2. The true minister is charged with the most complete proclamation of the divine word.—“To fulfil the word of God” (Colossians 1:25)—to preach fully, to give its most complete development to. The apostle had declared the gospel in all its depth and breadth of meaning, its wealth of blessing, and amplitude of revelation. He had proclaimed it in every direction, in harmony with his insight into its universal fitness and sufficiency. Fulfil implies the figure of a measure to be filled. The true minister is empowered to preach the word of God in all the fulness of its internal import, and in accord with the universality of its outward purpose. Whether palatable or unpalatable, he must not shun to declare everywhere the whole counsel of God. The fulness there is in Christ and the urgent needs of humanity alike demand this.

II. The Christian ministry deals with a theme of profound significance and ineffable worth.

1. It is designated a mystery. “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations” (Colossians 1:26). Mystery in the Scripture sense does not mean something actually incomprehensible, but something concealed or unknown until it please God to reveal it; something beyond the human mind to discover for itself, and which can only be attained by divine aid. The mystery comprehended two leading features—the divine purpose in saving man through a suffering and crucified Saviour, and the free admission of the Gentiles on equal terms with the Jews to the privileges of the covenant. Unlike the heathen mysteries, which were confined to a narrow circle, the Christian mystery is freely communicated to all. The mystery was concealed from the ages, which may be referred to the angels; and from the generations, which may be referred to men. Though faintly shadowed in types and figures, the truth would never have been discovered by man. In the revelation of the mystery the apostle applauded the lavish wealth of the divine goodness. The gospel is still a mystery to the unconverted.

2. It is a mystery unveiled to those who are morally fitted to understand it.—“But now is made manifest to His saints” (Colossians 1:26). God chose His own time for making known the mystery of the gospel. Like all the divine procedures, the development was gradual, increasing in clearness and completeness as the fulness of time approached; that time embraced the advent of the incarnate Son of God, His ascension and enthronement in heaven, and the descent of the revealing Spirit. It is an axiom in optics that the eye only sees what it brings with it the power to see; and it is equally true in spiritual things that the soul comprehends the revelation of God only as it is prepared and fitted by the good Spirit. The holier the organ of divine revelation, the clearer the vision. It was not to the dignitaries of imperial Rome or the ruling powers of Judea, but to humble shepherds that the tidings of the Saviour’s advent were first announced; not to the aristocracy of Pharisaic or Sadducean intellect, but to the plain, unlettered, believing fishermen of Galilee that the full glory of salvation by Christ was disclosed. Augustine has said, “Illiterate men rise and seize heaven, while we, with all our learning, are rolling in the filth of sin.”

3. The revelation of the mystery was an act of the divine will.—“To whom God would make known” (Colossians 1:27). There was nothing impelling Him to unfold this mystery but His own good pleasure. It was His sovereign will to disclose to the humble and devout, rather than to the proud and self-sufficient, the wondrous grace and glory of the gospel. The most sincere seeker after holiness could not of himself discover the mystery. But though made known in its richer spiritual developments only to the good, the good pleasure of God has put the knowledge of it within the reach of all.

4. The revelation of the mystery endowed humanity with a vast inheritance of moral wealth.—“What is the riches of the glory of this mystery” (Colossians 1:27). The terms employed seem inadequate to convey the meaning intended. It is impossible fully to explain or illustrate the sublime truths they indicate. The gospel is a mystery full of glory—a glory unique, resplendent, unsurpassable; and this glory is dowered with riches, abundant, inexhaustible, and divine. The riches of the glory appear in the manifestation of the nature and attributes of God which the mystery supplies, and also in the moral wealth that has descended upon man. Here is the most lavish provision for the salvation of sinful and perishing humanity—an inheritance of imperishable bliss.

(1) This inheritance enriched the most needy. It was exhibited “among the Gentiles” (Colossians 1:27). The Jews were the children of promise and possessed every religious privilege; the Gentiles were the children of mercy, and had never dared to dream of enjoying the blessings of the gospel. In the revelation of the mystery to them, the dispensation of grace achieved its greatest triumphs and displayed its transcendent glory. Here, too, was its wealth, for it overflowed all barriers of caste or race. Judaism was “beggarly” in comparison, since its treasures sufficed only for a few. The glory of the gospel was never so brilliant as in the moral transformations it effected among the degraded Gentiles.

(2) This inheritance includes the hope inspired by the indwelling Christ. “Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). The mystery of the gospel begins and ends in Christ, and Christ is in every believer the hope of glory. Only in Christ can we hope for the highest glory, and in Him we infallibly find all the blessedness we can enjoy in this world or expect in the future. In Him we have here as seed what we shall have in Him there as harvest. “Even now we sit there in Him, and shall sit with Him in the end.”


1. The Christian ministry involves solemn responsibilities.

2. The transcendent theme of the Christian ministry is divinely revealed.

3. Personal experience of the grace of God endows man with the clearest insight into its mystery, and the most satisfying possession of its spiritual riches.


Colossians 1:25-27. The Glory of the Gospel—

I. A mystery once hidden, but now revealed (Colossians 1:26-27).

II. Enriches all nations with moral blessings.

III. Is entrusted to divinely authorised messengers to make known (Colossians 1:25; Colossians 1:27).

Colossians 1:27. Christ in you the Hope of Glory.

I. What it implies of present experience.

1. Generally—Christ among you.

2. Personally—Christ in you.

II. What it presages.—“The hope of glory.”

1. Personal glory—in the perfection of being where the servant is like his Lord.

2. Relative glory—sharing the throne with Jesus, and sharing in His triumph and glory.—Preacher’s Magazine.

Verses 28-29


Colossians 1:28. Whom we preach.—What a glorious comprehensiveness there is in preaching Him in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead! Here is nothing narrow. Warning every man.—R.V. “admonishing.” It is a direction of the reflective faculty—a reproof administered with intent to amend the conduct. It corresponds to “Repent ye!” And teaching every man.—The positive side of which the warning is the negative. It is not enough to tell a man he is wrong—the right must be indicated; so the heralds of the gospel followed up “Repent ye” with “Believe the gospel.” Note the repeated “every man.” Exclusiveness which shuts the door in the face of any “weak brother for whom Christ died” is utterly strange to the teaching of St. Paul. That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.—St. Paul, and every true successor, labours for this end; and, as Colossians 1:22 shows, in so doing all are “workers together with God.” We have the idea of presentation elsewhere in St. Paul, as where he speaks of presenting his converts as a chaste virgin to Christ. The risk of offering a tainted animal for sacrifice is as nothing in comparison of offering a hypocrite as a trophy of the gospel.

Colossians 1:29. I also labour.—The word implies strenuous effort. “The racer who takes care to slack his speed whenever he is in danger of breaking into a perspiration will not win the prize” (Maclaren). Striving.—Lit. “agonising,” as in Luke 13:24. Like a stripped gymnast, every encumbrance cast off. The same word in 1 Timothy 6:12. “Fight the good fight.”


The Secret of Effective Preaching.

Much has been written concerning the inefficiency of the modern pulpit; and it has been argued that the press is now the great and successful rival of the preacher, and must ere long render his office nugatory. This prediction might possibly be fulfilled if the preaching of the gospel was simply a human institution and depended only on man for its permanency. But when we remember that preaching is a divine ordinance, and is adapted to reach and stir the heart as no other agency can, the preacher’s function can never cease while human nature remains what it is, or while God honours His own institution with His blessing. Only as the pulpit is faithful to its grand theme and lofty mission will it be effective. The deepest want of the age is Christ; and that preaching will be irresistibly potent that most adequately represents Him. These verses reveal to us the secret of effective preaching.

I. In order to effectiveness in preaching Christ must be the changeless theme.—“Whom we preach” (Colossians 1:28).

1. Preach Christ as to the special characteristic and unrivalled excellencies of His person.—The greatest men who ever lived, however brilliant and capacious their genius or stupendous their labours, never made so profound and widespread an impression upon humanity as Christ has done and is now doing. Their influence operated for only a limited period; His pervades all time—past, present, and future; theirs was confined to a narrow locality, His is diffused through the universe. The person of Christ is unique in this—that it combines two natures, the divine and the human. It was necessary He should be both God and man in order to fully accomplish the work He voluntarily undertook. As God, He met and satisfied all the requirements of Deity; and as man—putting Himself in our place—He realised and reached the extremities of our need, and thus fairly laying hold of us, gathering up and grasping the roots of our corrupt nature, He raised from sin to holiness, from earth to heaven. He is Emmanuel—God with us.

2. Preach Christ in His mediatorial character.—As the Prophet who testified of the truth of God; as the Priest who, by His one offering of Himself on the cross, has atoned for sin and made reconciliation possible; and as the King who has vanquished all our spiritual enemies and demands our absolute allegiance to His rule.

3. Preach Christ as the Saviour of every man, and as the only Saviour.—The threefold repetition of the phrase “every man” has a special significance, and emphasises the universality of the gospel. This great truth, a truth which the apostle sacrificed his life in establishing, had been endangered by the doctrine of a ceremonial exclusiveness taught by the Judaizers in several places, and was now endangered by the doctrine of an intellectual exclusiveness taught by the Gnosticizers at Colossæ. Christ must be proclaimed as the Saviour of men of every class, community, and country. He is the only Saviour, for “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” The preaching of Christ is no narrow theme, but stands essentially related to all the noblest truths of the universe.

II. In order to effectiveness variety of method must be adopted.—The declaration of the truth must be:—

1. Authoritative.—“Whom we preach” (Colossians 1:28). The New Testament idea of preaching involves three elements—the announcement of joyful tidings; the proclamation of truth as by a herald, urgently and authoritatively; and the conviction and persuasion of men to belief by means of arguments. The preacher is the ambassador of God, and the message must be delivered as coming from Him, in His name, and by His authority.

2. Admonitory.—“Warning every man.” Sin has placed man in imminent peril, and its tendency is to deaden his sensibilities and render him oblivious of his danger. Hence he must be roused to concern and repentance by faithful remonstrance, by earnest exhortation, by solemn admonition, by impassioned appeal.

3. Instructive.—“Teaching every man” (Colossians 1:28). Not only must the emotions be swayed, but the understanding enlightened. It is not enough to convince the unbeliever of his error, not enough to bring home to the lover of sin the vileness and enormity of his transgressions, but by clear and forcible exposition and persuasion the will of the individual offender must be seized, and with firm, yet loving pressure biassed to seek after the light, truth, and purity that once were shunned.

4. With shrewd insight as to its adaptability.—“In all wisdom” (Colossians 1:28). The ancients spoke of a blind faith in their mysteries which belonged to the many, and of a higher knowledge that was confined to the few. The apostle, while declaring that in the gospel the fullest wisdom was offered to all alike, without restriction, exercised discretion as to the method in which he presented it to the individual. The style of his address at Athens would be different from that adopted at Jerusalem. This involves a study of character, and of what goes to make it—habits, customs, opinions, sympathies, and the general circumstances of life-culture.

III. In order to effectiveness man must be aided in realising the highest ideal of the Christian character.—“That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28). The gospel is a mirror in which is glassed the portrait of the character after which each believer is to model his own. That character is not simply a development of one’s own natural manhood, so much as it is something added to and thrown around that manhood, lifting it into dignity and transfiguring it with a glorious beauty. The gospel reveals the ideal of the Christian character after which the soul is continually to aspire. That ideal, in all its loveliness and witchery, is projected before the soul’s inmost vision in the Spirit and life of the man Christ Jesus. He who approximates nearest to the Christly character attains the highest moral perfection. It is the sublime mission of the preacher not to gratify the intellect, charm the imagination, or expand the mind by propagating the ideas of a transcendental philosophy; but to strengthen the soul in the great contest with evil, to supply it with holiest motives, to promote its spiritual progress, to present it “perfect in Christ Jesus.”

IV. In order to effectiveness there must be self-denying toil and the vigorous forth-putting of divinely inspired energy.—“Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working which worketh in me mightily” (Colossians 1:29). All great ideas have cost the solitary and individual thinker unspeakable labour, and not a little suffering in the endeavour to elaborate and make them known and set them in their due relation before the world. The world is ruled by ideas; but the revolution they occasion is a slow and painful process. The apostle was the custodian of a great idea—that the gospel was intended for all, and must be fully preached to all. The idea is familiar to us; but it was new to that age, and revolutionised the whole realm of human thought. If the apostle had been content to preach an exclusive gospel, he might have saved himself more than half the troubles of his life. But he saw the magnitude of the issues at stake; he espoused the God-given truth with all the strength of his great nature; he confronted the colossal prejudices of the ages; he trained himself in the discipline of self-denying toil; he suffered as only the true martyr-soul can suffer; he strove with an agony of earnestness to make known the whole truth; and, aided by the mighty working of the divine power within him, he triumphed signally. Preaching is always effective when it is the consentaneous outworking of the divinely imparted energy within the man. The preacher alone, however strenuous his efforts, is powerless; but inspired and strengthened by the divine Spirit, and acting in harmony with His promptness and help, he is mighty to prevail.


1. Every sermon should be full of Christ.

2. The preacher should be master of every method that will ensure success.

3. That sermon will be most effective that is prepared and preached under the most direct influence of the divine Spirit.


Colossians 1:28. Apostolic Preaching.

I. They preached Christ as the only foundation of a sinner’s hope of salvation.

II. As the object of supreme love.

III. As the source of our supplies.

IV. As the model of our lives.W. Antliff, D.D.

Colossians 1:29. The Christian Ministry—

I. Involves strenuous labour and patient suffering.

II. Is dependent on divine help.

III. Ascribes all its success to God.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Colossians 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/colossians-1.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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