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The Apostle, after his usual Salutation, opens his Epistle, with giving Praises to God, for the Account he had heard of the Church, concerning their Faith in Christ. He prays for Grace for them, that they might know Christ, in the Glories of his Person. And he describes the Lord most blessedly, in his Person, Offices, and Character.
(1) Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, (2) To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, (4) Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints. (5) For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; (6) Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: (7) As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; (8) Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
I do not think it necessary to dwell particularly on the several things contained in these verses, very blessed as they are, and full of instruction; having noticed much to the same purpose, in the Apostle's former Epistles, at their opening. I would only once again beg the Reader not to overlook, that here, as in all others of Paul's inspired writings, they are directed to the Church of God, and to that Church only. Had this grand point been all along attended to, in all ages of the Church, we should not have heard so many arguments brought forward of exhortations from those writings, to the ungodly, and carnal world. Offers of Christ, and invitations to come to Christ, instead of simply preaching Christ, and leaving God the Spirit to persuade sinners to accept Christ, would not have been so common as they are. Paul's Epistles on this point, are plain enough. They are sent to the saints, and faithful brethren; as this Epistle to the Colossians is. Paul knew how high they stand in the value of Christ He calls them the excellent of the earth, in whom is all his delight. Psalms 16:3 . And it is of such only it is said, that the Lord hath pleasure in his people: and that he will beautify the meek with salvation, Psalms 149:4 . And the thanks which Paul gives to God on their account, of this Church of the Colossians, is on the same ground; for their faith in Christ Jesus, and the love to all the saints.
(9) For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; (10) That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; (11) Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; (12) Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (13) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
It is blessed to observe, how uniformly the Apostle joins prayer with all his spiritual employments. And, as it relates to the Church, it is blessed to observe also what are the chief objects of his prayers for the people, namely, that they might be filled with the knowledge of God's will in Christ; and strengthened with all might in the apprehension of it. Reader! it is a most important discovery, for our direction in going to the throne, to have it always in remembrance, what to pray for; and never to lose sight, at the same time, that it is God the Spirit, who alone can shew, what we should desire; and help us in our infirmities, how to plead for the supply. Romans 7:25 . The great evil of the present day is, that few, comparatively speaking, of God's people, have their spirits suitably exercised to apprehend, what will make most for their happiness. The great mass, even of those whom the Lord hath regenerated, and in some measure brought acquainted with the plague of their own heart, are forever looking for a work, supposed to he wrought in them; and are not simply looking to, and depending upon, a work wrought for them. And, though every day's disappointment, shews them the error; yet, it is a long time before that they are fully weaned from it. Reader! mark Paul's prayer for the Church, Strengthened with all might according to his glorious power: not according to our supposed attainments; but the glorious power of Christ, in his finished work, and glory. It is blessed to be thus living upon him, in whom all salvation is found; and in whose Person, the whole Church is beheld complete.
I admire what the Apostle saith, of giving thanks to the Father, both for his original choice of the Church to an inheritance in, and with Christ; and for the translation of the Church as children of his adoption, from the power of darkness, into the kingdom of his dear Son. Depend upon it, the beginnings of the triumphs of faith are found in these things. For, though by regeneration our eyes are opened, to see, and feel sin; and the first joy of the newly awakened soul, is the consciousness, when we are delivered, from darkness to light by Christ; yet, when God the Spirit hath brought us on to see further, and that it was God the Father who by his original choice of the Church in Christ, made us meet to be partakers of an inheritance of the saints in light; here we trace our mercies to the fountain-head, and we cry out with the Apostle: Thanks be unto God, who always ceaseth us to triumph in Christ, 2 Corinthians 2:17 .
(14) In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (15) Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (16) For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (17) And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (18) And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (19) For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; (20) And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
At this verse we enter upon one of the most sublime subjects which God the Holy Ghost hath thought proper to bring before the Church, in his whole inspired writings. And I pray for grace to enter upon it with the most humble and profound reverence. The Apostle saith, that it refers to the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints. Reader! pause at the very entrance on it; and contemplate the distinguishing grace of God the Holy Ghost, in this infinite condescension. Think of his vast grace in the revelation. And then ponder his distinguishing love, in making this revelation known to his saints! And, if you and I can personally add, in our own instance! Oh! the grace of God!
When we consider how infinitely glorious the self-existing, and incomprehensible Jehovah is, in his threefold character of Person, dwelling eternally in his own glory; and, that that glory could receive no addition from the praises of his creatures, for all his divine perfections must have been the same; though man, or angel, never had been; but yet, for their happiness, in the contemplation of his glory, he was pleased to go forth, in the manifestation of himself, in those various acts, whereby the Lord might be known, in the several departments of nature, providence, grace; and glory: I say, when we consider Jehovah in this view, and stand impressed with this conviction no less on our minds, that the making some manifestation of this his glory to his Church, which he chose in Christ before the world began, is the sole cause, for which that Church is called into being, and all the after acts of creation took place; what an holy awe, and profound reverence, do such thoughts beget in the soul? From hence, it plainly appears, that this Great, and Almighty Lord, being infinitely blessed in himself, and in the Personalities of his own nature and essence, raised up the magnificent structure of creation, in all its departments, to make the Church in Christ blessed in the knowledge of Himself. John 17:3 . So that, in the Person of God's dear Son, he might unbosom himself, and come forth, as it were, from the invisibility of his Being: not to add to his glory, for that can receive no accession; but to make the Church happy in the suitable apprehension of Him! John 1:18 . What a subject is here opened to the contemplation? A child, of God, when regenerated in spirit, and raised from the Adam-fall of spiritual death, may, and can, in some measure, begin in this life the contemplation; but a. whole eternity will not be enough to fill in the infinite boundless subject!
The wonders of creation, in all its vast extent, led to the view; and the infinite holiness of the divine nature, in the forming our first Parents in a state of innocency, and holiness, opened the first volume in the wonderful decree. But, when the Church of God had read somewhat of the gracious pages herein, the Lord turned over to the vast mystery, which He, who alone was found worthy to open the book and loose the seals, came to disclose; Revelation 5:1 - Revelation 10:1 ; Psalms 2:7 , and the Church began to learn, what angels had never been taught, of the mysterious union, of God and man in one Person, with all the vast concerns involved therein, in the unsearchable riches of Christ!
In this Chapter, and at the opening of those verses, God the Spirit graciously directed the mind of his servant the Apostle, to give the Church some of the great outlines of this subject. Not to gratify curiosity, but to awaken the most humble and godly reverence; not to pry into mysteries which are unfathomable, but to beget holy faith, and love. And, under the Lord the Holy Ghost, the Apostle hath given to the Church, some of the several parts of this deep, and mysterious subject, one by one, as are enough, when God the Spirit gives his enlightening blessing with them, to raise up in the soul of the faithful, a joy unspeakable, and full of glory. The best service I can propose in this Poor Man's Commentary, will be to follow the footsteps of the Apostle, in the several features which he hath here marked, in those verses, of the Person of Christ, and of the office-characters in which he hath drawn him; from whence, if the Lord be graciously pleased to bless the review, both Writer, and Reader, may be benefited together.
And first. He describes his Person. He stiles him the Image of the invisible God. Not as God only, far there can be nothing visible in God. And his express character is, the King eternal, immortal, invisible, 1 Timothy 1:17 . And He is said, to dwell in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, or can see, 1 Timothy 6:16 . So that, when the Holy Scriptures at any time speak of God in his threefold character of Person, they invariably speak of Him in this invisibility of essence. The mode of their existence is perfectly inconceivable. It never can be attained by any created faculties. The very nature of God would cease to be incomprehensible (which is his distinguishing property,) if brought any way down to the comprehension of anything finite. When, therefore, Christ is said, as in this blessed Scripture, to be the image of the invisible God; it is not spoken of him, as God only: for God cannot be visible. In all his substance as God, he is invisible. Neither can it be said of Christ as man only. For the human nature alone, could never represent the Godhead. But, if the Son of God will condescend to take into union with himself an holy portion of human nature, (which to his eternal praise, and his Church's everlasting happiness, he hath done,) then in both he becomes the image of the invisible God, subsisting in this twofold nature, as that blessed Scripture expresses it: For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Colossians 2:9 . The Apostle goes on, and calls him the first born of every creature. And this throws a light upon what went before. The first born, that is, in this vast plan, of Jehovah's mind. Indeed, both the first, and last, in all God's thoughts; and hence called the Alpha, and Omega. So Jesus called himself; Revelation 1:17; Revelation 1:17 , compared with Revelation 22:13 . Not in the open manifestation of himself, when he tabernacled in substance of our flesh, in what is called the fulness of time; Galatians 4:4 , but as subsisting in Covenant engagements, he became the first born to represent the invisible God; and the models or pattern, of all to be represented, in the after circumstances of the creation of man. Hence, at the creation of Adam, in the Council of Jehovah, it was said; Let us make man in our image after our likeness: Genesis 1:26 , that is, after the likeness of Him who is the image of the invisible God; namely, Man subsisting in covenant-characters in the Son of God. And thus, God and man, in one Mediator, possessed of Jehovah in the beginning of his ways, set up from everlasting, Proverbs 8:22-23 .
Thirdly. From hence, the Apostle proceeds to enumerate some of the actions of Christ, in this God-man representation, as the image of the invisible God. By him mere all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth: visible, and invisible; whither they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him. Pause! - What a manifest display here is, of everything which can demonstrate supreme power? As God, He in whom this Image of the invisible God subsisted, was, and is, one in the essence of the Godhead, with the Father and the Holy Ghost; and, therefore, in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost, is the Creator of all things. And as Man, taken into Covenant engagements, became the Image, or Pattern, of whom the creation in human nature, was to be made like. This secret One was thus, in representation, the Image of the invisible God, and subsisting secretly in Covenant engagements for this express purpose. Hence it is said, that God created all things by Jesus Christ. Ephesians 3:9 .
Fourthly, The Apostle adds, that not only all things were created by him, but for him. Here opens another striking particularity of the greatness of Christ's Person. And, this is not spoken of him as God only; for in that case, the observation would have been unnecessary. Neither can it be in allusion to his manhood only. For in this sense, it would not have been correct. But, if we view it in reference to both natures, God and man, Mediator; it is both scriptural, and truly blessed. For Jehovah hath given him all things as God-Man-Mediator; John 3:35 , and given him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Ephesians 1:22-23 .
Fifthly. He is said to be before all things, and by him all things consist. The observations going before, plainly prove his priority to all things as Creator. So that, on this we need not enlarge, But, when it is also said, that by him all things consist; there is a beauty, and a blessedness in this expression, which demands somewhat more particularly to be remarked. By him all things consist: that is, as God-Man-Mediator. A somewhat to mediate, to come between the Creator, and the created. For the union of those natures rendered it necessary, in order for the works of creation to hang upon, or to consist in. Very certain it must be, to common sense, that nothing which is of creature-being, and no more, can have union with the Godhead. It cannot stand in connection with the Godhead. And very certain it is, that nothing of mere creature-being, and no more, can stand in being alone, independent of God. Hence, in the Person of the GOD-Man Christ Jesus, in this twofold nature, there is found in him, and in him only, an adequate foundation to rest upon, and to have union with. And hence it is most blessedly said, that Christ is not only before all things, but by him all things consist.
Reader! I detain you for one short moment over this view of Christ, by whom all things consist, to consider, how eternally safe and secure, and how eternally blessed, and happy, must every individual member of his mystical body be, while all hang upon him, and all consist by him. Precious Jesus! how can the body perish, while the Head lives? How can Jesus's members be otherwise than blessed, while living in, and living upon Jesus?
Sixthly. Paul cannot give over. He speaks again of Christ; and now in his headship. He is the Head of the body the Church. He hath married our nature, our persons, hath come into the tenderest alliances with us, made us members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. All communications from him, are in, and from, the human nature of our Lord: so that, while his Godhead gives a fulness and a blessedness, to every token shewn; his manhood gives it an human sweetness, to make all the blessings also of the man, the God-man Christ Jesus.
And lastly: (for I must not trespass to add more,) Paul puts a blessed emphasis on the whole, in declaring, that he is the firstborn from the dead also, as well as the first born of every creature: that as, in his Mediator-character, he is the first, in all Jehovah's designs; so he must be the last in all his appointments. None shall come before. None shall remain after. As Jesus saith himself: I am Alpha, and Omega; the beginning, and the ending, saith the Lord which is, which was, and which is to come. Revelation 1:8 . Reader! contemplate the glories of his Person, of whom such glorious things are said! Jesus! to thee, shall every knee bow, and every tongue confess, that thou art Lord, to the glory of God the Father! Philippians 2:10-11 .
Having now, in as expeditious a manner as possible, followed the footsteps of the Apostle, in his description of Christ's Person; I would next, as I proposed, prosecute what he hath marked of those office-characters, in which he hath drawn him.
And first. Let us take notice of Christ's fulness. For it pleased the Father that in him .should all fulness dwell. The Reader will observe, that the words the Father, are in italics. By which is meant, that they are not in the original. But our Translators have very properly introduced them; because, though all the Persons of the Godhead are engaged in Covenant purposes, in all things relating to Christ, and his Church; yet, it is among the special and personal offices of the Father, as appears from other pans of Scripture, the giving all things into the hands of Christ. His is to give both the Church and all spiritual blessings for the Church to Christ. John 17:6; John 17:6 .
In regard to the fulness here spoken of, as dwelling in Christ; care must always be had, to consider it in relation wholly to his Person, and office-character, as Mediator. For, as God, in his divine nature, and essence; all fulness, yea, all divine perfections, are his, in common with the Father, and the Holy Ghost. Nothing can be said to be given to him in this sense, for they are his own eternally. But the Mediator-fulness, is given to him for the Church, which is his body; and in this character of headship, his is the fulness, that filleth all in all. Ephesians 1:17 , to the end. Reader! pause over the contemplation, for it is most blessed. A fulness in himself, as God-Man-Mediator. A fulness of temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings, to impart to his body the Church. A mediator-fulness, as the everlasting Lord of all creation, to rule over, and direct, in all the departments of nature, providence, grace, and glory. So that, while the Lord Jesus is in a special, and personal manner, the Head of his body the Church, for grace here, and glory forever; he is the head of all principality, and power: Ephesians 1:22 , and, as the Prophet described him, his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom, that which shall be forever. Daniel 4:34-35; Daniel 4:34-35 ; Revelation 5:13 .
The Reader will not expect me to enter into a description of this all fulness, which it hath pleased the Father, to invest his dear Son as Mediator with. This exceeds all the powers of the imagination, to conceive. And no pen, or tongue, or angel, could describe, or make up the vast arithmetic, in calculation. But every child of God, in the circumstances of his own life, should be forever, like the Prophet on his watch-tower, observing the unceasing tendencies of the Lord's manifestation to himself. And if he were, what an huge volume might a short life record, of the continual love-tokens, which Jesus sends his redeemed, when receiving out of his fulness, and grace for grace. Habakkuk 2:1 ; John 1:16 .
Secondly. Paul speaks of another office of Christ, namely, redemption; the great purpose which brought him from heaven. The Apostle, indeed, began his account of Christ's Person with this, in the opening of this paragraph, when he said: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. And here again, in the close of the sentence, he dwells upon the same soul-reviving subject most blessedly, when saying: And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself: by him, I say, whether they be things on earth, or things, in heaven. I must entreat the Reader to observe with me, with what emphasis the Holy Ghost holds forth to the Church, this vast work of the Lord Jesus. Redemption is Christ's own personal labors, and sufferings. It is to his own personal glory, and honor. The work is all his own. The glory his. And God the Holy Ghost is unceasingly-impressing the sense of it upon the Church. It was taught the Prophet in a vision, ages before Christ became incarnate, when he saw him coining up as a mighty conqueror from the war; and yet, as a servant, treading the wine-press. It was Christ alone, which trod the wine-press of the wrath of God. And of the people there was none with him, Isaiah 63:1-6 ; Revelation 19:15-16 .
And, I beg the Reader to observe yet further, how strong an emphasis is laid on the word him, by him I say, saith the Apostle. We have a similar expression, Ephesians 1:10 . And the design is to shew, the special, peculiar, and personal fitness of Christ, as God-Man-Mediator, to this work of redemption. For, if it could be supposed possible, that any other but the Son of God in our nature, could have accomplished redemption; by so much would it have lessened the greatness of his love, and ability, in doing that, which another could do. So that, it forms a special feature in the Person of our adorable Emanuel, that in Him alone, we find One mighty to save, Acts 4:12 . If the Reader will turn to Hebrews 1:3 , he will find a similar precious testimony, to this most blessed truth, that Christ, by himself, purged our sins. And, as in the redemption of his people; so in the destruction of his, and their enemies, it is his triumphs over them in it, or as it should have been rendered, (and is indeed, in the margin of the Bible,) in himself; meaning, his own personal triumphs over them, Colossians 2:13 . Oh! what wonders are found, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ! Oh! the triumphs of his offices, and grace!
(21) And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled (22) In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight: (23) If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
The Apostle, under GOD the Spirit, having so blessedly held forth Christ, in his Person, and offices; now proceeds to shew, the gracious effects of the whole, on the persons of his members. The Church of GOD, being born in the common nature of the Adam-fall, and involved in the same ruin by sin, as the world at large; the first blessed consequences of the Father's electing love, and the Son's redeeming grace, which the Church, in every individual member is made sensible of, is, when by the regenerating work of God the Spirit, they that were some time alienated, and enemies in their mind, by wicked works, are now reconciled in the, body of Christ's flesh; and brought from darkness to light, and from the power of sin, and Satan, , to the living God. I pray the Reader to observe, the beautiful harmony observed in those Covenant transactions, between the Persons of the Godhead. Each glorious Person concurs, and co-operates in the great design. God the Father chose the Church in Christ, that it should be holy, and without blame before him in love; before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4 . God the SON, having betrothed his Church to himself forever, undertook, and hath accomplished his merciful purpose in the same, to redeem her from the ruins of the fall, and preserve her in himself forever, Galatians 1:4 . And God the Holy Ghost, by regeneration, quicken the Church, when dead in trespasses and sins, to a new, and spiritual life, in Christ Jesus; whereby she is presented, holy, and unblameable, and unreprovable in his sight. And thus the purposes of Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, are accomplished, to the Redeemer's glory, and the Church's happiness; and all terminates as God's first, and original design, had all along in view, that the whole shall be, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. See Ephesians 1:3-10 and Commentary.
Having fully established this blessed truth, we come next to observe, what the Apostle hath said of the child of God, continuing in the faith, and being grounded, and settled, and not moved away from the Hope of the Gospel. The Apostle begins the verse with an If. If (saith he) ye continue in the faith. I beg the Reader to observe with me, that this if, is not in a way of condition; as if God's grace depended upon the will of man. This would be, if true, a sad concern; and make the promises of God, which are now in Christ Jesus, all yea, and Amen, a doubtful thing; and reduce the whole of the believer's hope, to a mere yea and nay gospel. Blessed be God! this is not the case. If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself, 2 Timothy 2:13 . If the Reader will attend to one or two considerations on this subject, it will not only serve to put what the Apostle hath here said in a clear point of view; but explain similar passages, which we meet with in the word of God, of a like nature.
And first. The if here introduced, cannot be intended as anything of condition, for obtaining those rich blessings just before spoken of; because the whole, and every part of them, are the result of God's original purposes, which he purposed in himself, before the world began. They were not proposed, as depending for anything upon human merit, or human improvement; but wholly the consequence of divine will, and pleasure. God's Covenant love in Christ, and not the Church's stedfastness of faith in Christ, being the bottom, and foundation of security, Deuteronomy 7:9 ; Jeremiah 32:40 .
Secondly. The blessings which the Church is here said to be brought into, in being presented holy, and unblamable, and, irreproachable, in the Lord's sight; have been produced by the joint pleasure, and operations of the whole Persons of the Godhead. God the Father's choice, God the Son's redemption-work, God the Spirit's regenerating grace, have taken place. And the whole hath been unaccompanied by any act of faith, or love, or works, or obedience, on the part of the highly favored objects of the Lord's bounty. The if, therefore, of the Apostle, in this verse, could have no reference to the blessed things spoken of; but must have another, and a very different meaning.
Thirdly. Let the Reader yet further observe, that what the Apostle had just before taught the Church, of their being presented holy, and unblameable, and unreprovable, he speaks as of a thing done and accomplished, and not now to be done. By virtue of God the Father's love, in having chosen the Church, and Christ having redeemed it, and the Holy Ghost having quickened it, the vast mercy was now bestowed. Therefore, as the Church is brought into a blessed participation of those things, from her interest in Christ, and union with Christ, in his justifying righteousness, and all the glorious consequences arising out of his redemption; her continuing stedfast in the faith cannot be made a party cause, but is simply an effect. Hence, therefore, it must immediately follow, that what is here said of continuing in the faith, hath not the smallest reference to anything like a condition, either for the first appointment of God's original and eternal purposes, or in the accomplishment of those purposes in time by the high contracting powers; neither in the Church's being brought into the actual possession of this unspeakable mercy, in being presented holy, and unblameable, and unreprovable in God's sight.
It is time now to enquire what may be supposed, according to the general analogy of Scripture, to have been the Apostle's meaning, by the expression, if ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled. Scripture is best explained by Scripture. In the third chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 3:14 , the same Apostle useth similar words. He had been speaking on much the same subject, of our oneness with Christ. And he saith, Whose house are we, if we holdfast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope, firm unto the end. So again. We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of the confidence stedfast unto the end. Now here, in both these instances, as in the former, the things proposed are not for future possession, for they are actually obtained. Hence, there is nothing of a condition here, no more than in the former. Very plainly, therefore, the continuing in the one instance, and the holding fast in the other, are meant but as evidences and effects, that those whose faith is so blessed, do truly live in the enjoyment of the mercies. And the child of God who is a partaker of Christ, and presented holy and unblameable as such in God's sight, will feel all the blessedness of this adoption-character, if, through grace, he continues firm in the faith and persuasion of his interest therein, and is not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.
(24) Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:
I beg the Reader to consider this verse by itself. It is, in my esteem, a very sweet one. And the question arising out of it immediately strikes the mind, what afflictions of Christ were behind, in which Jesus became concerned for his body's sake, which is the Church? It is impossible Paul could mean that any afflictions remained for the Son of God to sustain, in a way of finishing redemption. All had been fully accomplished, when with a loud voice on the cross, Jesus said, It is finished, John 19:30 . The Holy Ghost is express to the same, in his blessed testimony of Christ, that when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3 . Never would the grave have delivered up such a prisoner as Christ by his death was, had sin not been done away. Neither heaven have admitted Christ to the right hand of the Majesty on high, had redemption-work not been finished! See Romans 6:9-10 ; Hebrews 10:11-25 .
Neither could Paul have any one meaning whatever in relation to any sufferings of his. One of the great features of Christ's redemption-work is, that in the accomplishment of it, His own arm brought salvation, and of the people there was none with him. Isaiah 63:3-5 . Paul himself is out of the question. So that on neither of those accounts can we accept the words of this verse. There is, however, a sense, and a very sweet one, according to my view it is, in which the Apostle's words may be accepted in relation to the afflictions of Christ, which Paul calls behind. I mean in what hath respect wholly to his body the Church. And which, even now in heaven, Jesus, in his human nature, may be said to enter into a certain concern for. And in a way, though without the smallest decrease of his glory, but rather to his praise, he may be said to take part in the afflictions of his people. If the Reader will bear with me, I will endeavor to explain myself.
And, first. The Son of God, in our nature, having finished redemption-work, and returned to heaven, he wears that nature in an everlasting union with his Godhead. So that as God and man in one Person, he hath a perfect sense and apprehension of what constitutes the nature of both. He knows as God. He feels as man. Hence, it follows, that his consciousness of what our nature is by his own, cannot but make him enter into an intimate concern and fellow feeling, in all that belongs to his Church. He knows all, enters into the concerns of all, and feels for all. So that the foot of any of his redeemed ones upon earth cannot be crushed, but the head knows it, and feels it in heaven. In proof of this, Jesus preached it to Paul at the time he was persecuting his little ones. He called to him from heaven, Acts 9:5 .
Secondly. The very reason for which Christ took upon him our nature was, for the express purpose, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest; the Holy Ghost gives this as the motive. In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren. And the reason is added, for in that he himself hath suffered being tempted: he is able to succour them that are tempted, Hebrews 2:17-18 . What a sweet relief it is, to every tempted child of God, in his seasons of trial, to call this to mind. And as this high priestly office of the Lord Jesus, is the peculiar and special employment of Christ now in heaven; must it not form the very quality of his office, be a part to feel for those he pleads; and to sympathize in those exercises of theirs, as though they were his own? And is it not in this sense Paul meant the afflictions of Christ, which are behind, for his body's sake, which is the Church?
If it be demanded, how these feelings operate on his holy nature, and how the heart of Jesus is affected with pity, in participating with his suffering members upon earth? I presume not to answer. These subjects are not the province of man. It is the fact itself, and not the mode of operation, that the Church is concerned to know. Every attempt to investigate these mysteries is presumptuous. From all unsuitable, and unbecoming enquiries, I would wish to retire with the most profound humility. But to know, that Jesus is, from his own feelings, intimately acquainted with ours, not only knows them, as God, but feels for them as man; and takes part with all that concerns his redeemed: surely these are among the highest consolations of faith! Reader! I pray God to make the review profitable. And may God the Holy Ghost, as the remembrancer of Christ Jesus, bring the thought continually home to the affections of the Lord's people: that in all their afflictions he is afflicted, and takes part for his body's sake, which is the Church.
(25) Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; (26) Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: (27) To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (28) Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: (29) Whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
I do not think it necessary to swell the pages of the Poor Man's Commentary on those things which are too plain to need observation. Neither in a work of this kind to lead the Reader into the investigation of what is here said, concerning the length of time in which the mystery of the Gospel was hidden from ages, and from generations. I stop the Reader only to observe, that when Paul speaks, as he doth here, of Christ in his people, the hope of glory, the expression means, such a revelation of the Lord, in the glories of his Person, and the compleatness of his salvation, as make him indeed, to every regenerated believer, known, and enjoyed, the hope of Israel, and the Savior thereof. Paul very properly here, and elsewhere, calls it, Christ revealed in me, Galatians 1:16 . For it becomes an inward manifestation of an outward work. Not a work in me, but for me. Not inherent holiness in the sinner; but derived holiness from the Savior. Not a supposed improvement in ourselves by the whole procuring benefit from Christ: yea Christ altogether, the Lord our righteousness! The blessedness of a life of faith lies in this. Yea, the blessedness of a life of glory can only be in the same. And while men, who are unacquainted with the plague of their own heart, are looking for holiness within, and taking comfort from their supposed progressive sanctification; looking to Christ to make up, if any, their deficiency: Paul calls off the Church from everything of self and self-attainments, to fix the soul wholly upon Christ. Paul himself trusted no more upon inward sanctification, as some men call it, but none ever knew, than he would upon a law righteousness in himself, to recommend him to God. To Christ he looked wholly, desiring to win Christ, and to be found in him. And the first, and last, consolation of this great Apostle was, that Christ was made of God, unto all his Church, wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, that he which gloried might glory in the Lord, 1 Corinthians 1:30 .
I admire the very sweet way, and manner, in which Paul closeth this chapter, in addressing the Church. It is to the Church Paul is preaching: and to that Church he preacheth Christ. Warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom (saith the Apostle) that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. What every man was it Paul warned and taught? Surely the Church. For who but the Church could be presented perfect in Christ Jesus? None but the members of Christ can be perfect in Christ. And what wisdom, yea, all wisdom was it, that he warned every man in? Surely Christ himself, who, in his comprehensive name, includes everything contained in that wisdom which maketh wise unto salvation. Who therefore doth not see, that all this refers to the Church, not to the world; to Christ's members, and not to those who have no interest in him. But how did Paul know how to warn every man, and teach every man of the Lord's people, and not they that are without? Simply by preaching Christ, and Christ only. For Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God, for salvation to everyone that believeth. Therefore, as faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, whenever the Lord opened the eyes of any, Paul warned every one, and taught everyone only of Christ. And he found, that as many as were ordained to eternal life believed, Acts 13:48 . And here exhortation becomes most blessed, because they are warned and taught, and God the Spirit is their teacher that they can be presented perfect only in Christ Jesus!
Everlasting praise to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the gracious discoveries made to the Church in this blessed chapter of divine love, and for all the manifestations of Covenant grace and mercy, in the Person, work, and offices of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Head and Husband of his Church from one eternity to another. Oh! what a glorious view is here given of Christ in this Chapter! Lord! be it my study, night and day, under divine teaching, to learn and know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent!
And, oh! thou blessed Emmanuel, God and Man in One Person! Oh! may I unceasingly meditate on the glories of thy nature and essence, One with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, God over all, blessed forever. Amen. May I behold thee in thy Mediator glory, the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature! And, oh! what glories do I here behold and contemplate in thy person, before that a single act of redemption-work was Wrought out by my LORD for his Church, in the time-state of her fallen nature; when as I here read, by thee all things are created that are in heaven and earth; all things were created not only by thee, but for thee, and thou art before all things, and by thee all things consist! Oh! the glories of my Lord, in creation, providence, grace, and glory! And when I call to mind thy wonders of love to the Church in time, thine incarnation, baptisms, temptations, sorrows, miracles, life, death, resurrection, ascension, return to glory, and the wonders of thine unchanging priesthood! When I behold thee now still carrying on the same design, wearing our nature, appearing in our stead, taking up the Persons and causes of all thy people, feeling with them, and feeling for them, and wilt never cease, until thou hast brought thy blood-bought sons and daughters, with all thy royal family round thy throne, to be with thee forever? Oh! for grace, until this great day of my God shall come, to love thee, and to live to thee, and to hail thy wonderous name! Lord! be thou my portion day by day, that by faith in this blessed hope, I may now live, and at length, in the full assurance of glory, die, and be one with thee forever!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Colossians 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18