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Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT Burkitt's Expository Notes
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Colossians 1". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ wbc/ colossians-1.html. 1700-1703.
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Colossians 1". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/
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Observe here, 1. That this epistle to the Colossians contains many of the same things, and often the very same words, with that to the Ephesians, particularly the salutation here is the same with that to the Ephesians;
in which, note, 1. The person saluting, Paul, once a persecutor, now a professor, yea, a zealous preacher of the faith of Christ, dignified with the title and office of an apostle, an apostle of Jesus Christ; that is, called and sent immediately by him to plant and propagate the Christian faith throughout the Heathen world, but by the will of God; Christ, as Head of the church, is intrusted with sending out ministers into his church; but the Father's will, and Christ's will, do both concur and fully agree in sending forth his ministers and edify his church; and woe to such as intrude themselves into any office in the church without their call and commission; let them expect a blow instead of a blessing.
Note, 2. The apostle joins Timothy in the salutation; though Timothy was not an apostle, or a penman of any part of the Scripture, yet because he was well known to the Colossians, and much valued and esteemed by them, and was a person of eminent worth and excellency in himself, and of singular serviceableness to the apostle, he therefore calls him his brother, being his fellow-labourer in the work of the gospel.
Where the great humility of St. Paul is remarkable, and worthy of intimidation; who, though an inspired apostle, extraordinarily and immediately called by Christ himself, an aged person, long engaged in the work of Christ, yet is so far from despising young Timothy, his inferior, greatly his inferior in all respects, that he gives him all fitting respect, and puts honour upon him, in calling him his brother, they being fellow labourers in the work and service of the gospel.
Note, 3. The persons saluted, the, saints and faithful brethren in Christ, which are at Colosse. He calls all the members of this christian church by the name of saints, they all making an outward and visible profession of sanctity and holiness: and many of them, no doubt, were what they professed, not only relative, but real saints; he styles them alco faithful brethren in Christ, that is, implanted into Christ, some by outward profession, others by inward sanctification; or the expression, saints in Christ Jesus, may intimate to us, that all our grace and sanctity must be exercised and acted by strength derived from Christ, and all our holiness be accepted in Christ Jesus.
Note, 4. The salutation itself: Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
By grace, understand the free love and gracious favour of God, together with all the effects and fruits of it: these are wished from God as a father; intimating, that God bestows not his special grace as a Creator, but as a Father in Christ:
next he wishes them peace from our Lord Jesus Christ, he being the purchaser of our peace, upon whom was laid the chastisement of our peace, and by whom God is at peace with us, and reconciled to us.
But why is there no mention of the Holy Ghost, as well as of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ?
Because it is by the Spirit that God the Father and Jesus Christ dwell in us, and do communicate this grace unto us; so that praying for this grace is praying for the communion of the Holy Ghost.
Our apostle, to give the Colossians a full assurance of the firmness of his love unto them, acquaints them, that himself and Timothy, from the time they heard of their conversion, did never to give solemn thanks to God for it, and particularly, for their faith in Christ, and for the love which they bare to all saints, to all their brethren, and fellow members in Christ.
Where note, 1. The person whom St. Paul offers up his prayers and praises, his supplications and thanksgivings to, and that is God; intimating, that religion's invocation and adoration belong only to God; not to any creature, who can neither know, nor is able to supply our wants.
This God whom St. Paul prayed to, is called the Father of our Lord Jesus; so he is, with respect both to his divine and human nature; in respect to his Deity, he is of the same essence with the Father, begotten of him from all eternity; and in respect of his humanity, he is his Father, being, as man, conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Note, 2. The mercies and blessings which St. Paul offers up his thanksgivings to God for, and this on the behalf of the Colossians; in general they are spiritual blessings:
In particular, 1. For their faith in Christ Jesus; Christ alone is the proper object of our affiance and trust; and by faith we repose the entire trust and confidence of our souls upon the sufficiency of his merits.
2. For their love to all the saints.
Where observe, That faith and love ar inseparable companions: There is a necessary connection between them: Faith without love, is no living grace; love without faith, is no saving grace.
Observe also, The proper object of a Christian's love, it is the saints as saints, that is, for their sanctity and personal infirmities be what they will: We have heard of your love to all the saints: Love is that brotherly affection which every true Christian chiefly bears to all his fellow members in Christ, for grace's sake: now the love of grace in another, being so good an evidence of the life of grace in ourselves.
Hence, it was taht St. Paul, hearing of the Colossians' love to all the children of God, ceases not to give thanks unto God for it, as the fruit and evidence of their conversion.
Here, 1. St. Paul discovers the motive which excited the Colossians to such steadiness and constancy in the faith of Christ, and in love one to another; and that was the hope laid up for them in heaven; that is, the great and good things here hoped for, and there to be enjoyed.
As the sinners misery consists not in what he feels, but what he fears; so the believer's happiness lies not in what he has in his hand, but in what he has in hope: the reward which encourages his perseverance in faith and love, is laid up in heaven; that is, safely and plentifully, as a parent lays up his treasures for the use of his children: It is both lawful and laudable then for Christians to have an eye to the promised reward, as an encouragement to duty, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.
Observe, 2. Ther means by which they came to the knowledge of this hope, it was by the word of truth, the preaching of the gospel to them by the ministry of Epaphras; this was so exceedingly blessed by God, that thereby the saving hope of this reward was wrought in them.
Where note, The title given to the gospel, it is eminently the word of truth, having Christ for its main subject, who is the way, the truth, and the life; and being confirmed by Christ the testator's blood.
Note farther, That the preaching of this word of truth, the doctrine of the gospel, is the great instrumental mean, appointed by God for begetting in us a lively hope of the reward laid up for us in heaven; for the hope laid up for you in heaven, whereof you have heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.
Observe, 3. The commendation here given of the gospel, which had begot in these Colossians a lively hope of the heavenly reward:
It is commended, 1. For being one and the same gospel which was preached by the apostles throughout all the world, which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; that is, with incredible swiftness into the most eminent parts and places of the world then known; an infallible proof of the divinity of the gospel, that it was thus owned and blessed of God.
The gospel, at all times, and in all places, is one and the same; and Christ, when he pleases, can swiftly drive the chariot of the gospel round about the world, and bring in not only persons and familiers, but cities, nations, and kingdoms, to the obedience of it.
2. The gospel preached to them is commended for its fruitfulness, it bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you; that is, fruits of piety and holiness towards God, and fruits of righteousness and charity towards man.
Learn hence, That it is matter of praise, and unspeakable thanksgiving, to the ministers of Christ, when the light of the gospel breaks forth among a people, where it never befoe shined, and is accompanied with early and constant fruits of piety, humility, faith and love, in the hearts and lives of those to whom it is preached. The gospel bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day you heard of it, &c.
Observe here, 1. The person who first preached the gospel of Christ to the Colossians, and converted them to the Christian faith, it was Epaphras; As ye learned of Epaphras.
Observe, 2. The commendation given to Epaphras, and his character by St. Paul; he was regularly called to the work, and a diligent fellow-labourer with St. Paul in the work of preaching and dispensing the mysteries of the everlasting gospel to a lost world; who is for you a faithful minister of Christ.
Learn hence, That the knowledge of life and salvation is ordinarily wrought in persons by the preaching of the gospel, by men called of God to that sacred function.
Observe, 3. A particular instance of the faithfulness of Epaphras towards the Colossians, he declared unto St. Paul their love in the Spirit; that is, their spiritual love and fervent affection to him, though they had never seen his face nor heard his voice.
The faithful ministers and members of Jesus Christ do affectionately love one another though they see not the face of each other; there is no such loadstone of love as the grace of God. This will draw forth the heart and affections of a believer to the ends of the earth, to pray for, to mourn over, and to rejoice with such of their brethren as they never saw, but of whose condition they have heard.
Observe, 4. The kind return which St. Paul makes to them, for their love in the Spirit towards him; For this cause we do not cease to pray for you: there is no such way to attain an interest in, and to obtain constant benefit and advantage by the prayers of the ministers of God, as to be expressive of our love and affection both to God and them.
Observe, 5. The especial blessings which he prays for on the Colossians' behalf, namely, that they might be filled with the knowledge of his will, that is, attain to a more perfect and comprehensive knowledge of God's will and their duty, furnished with all divine wisdom and spiritual understanding, to regulate their lives according to their knowledge.
Learn from hence, That there is a fulness of divine knowledge, which is attained by none, but should be aimed at by all, seeing they that know most of God's word and revealed will, come far short of what they should know.
Learn, 2. That the knowledge wisdom, and understanding, which Christians should especially labour after, and attain unto, is of things spiritual: that ye be filled with knowledge and spiritual understanding.
O let divine and spiritual knowledge be our chief care and principal business! It is called here spiritual understanding, because it is from the holy spirit, and conversant about spiritual things, which far exceeds the most refined notions concerning other things; and Christ tells us, that eternal life depends upon it, John 17:3.
Spiritual knowledge fits us for the service of God on earth, for the sight of God in heaven: And Christ has told us, that he will take a second journey from heaven, to render vengeance on them which know not God, and on them which do know ( notionally) but obey not practically the gospel of our Lord Jesus, 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
Here the apostle sets down the end of his prayer in the fore-mentioned manner for the Colossians, why he desired that their knowledge should so exceedingly increase; it was in order to practise, that they might walk worthy of the Lord, unto all pleasing, and be fruitful in every good work; this is the true end of knowledge, practical obedience.
All this is the true end of knowledge, practical obedience. All knowledge without this, makes a man like Nebuchadnezzar's image, with an head of gold, and feet of clay: Some persons study to know, only to know, that is curiosity; others endeavour to know only to make themsleves known, this is vain-glory: But to know, that we may practise what we know, this is gospel duty.
Quest. But how can any person be said to walk worthy of the Lord?
Ans. Not with a worthiness of merit, but with a worthiness of meetness, when we walk as it is meet and fit for persons professing godliness to walk; when we walk as becometh the gospel of Jesus Christ, in obedience to his precepts, in imitation of his pattern, answerable to the helps and supplies of grace which the gospel affords, and answerable to the high and glorious hopes which the raises us to the expectation of, this is to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.
The second branch of the apostle's prayer, on behalf of these Colossians, was, that they might be fruitful in every good work, that is, labour after an universal fruitfulness in good works.
By good works, he undoubtedly means works of piety towards God, works of righteousness towards our neighbours, works of sobriety towards ourselves, works of charity towards all.
By fruitfulness in these good works, he means an unwearied diligence, and persevering constancy in the doing of them, that our fruitfulness be an universal fruitfulness, an humble and self-denying fruitfulness, a proportionable fruitfulness, an abounding and abiding fruitfulness; that is to be fruitful in every good work.
The third request, which in this verse he puts up for them, is, That they may increase in the knowledge of God. As fruitfulness in good works makes much for the increase of knowledge, so increasing in knowledge will contribute very much towards our fruitfulness in good works; the way to grow in grace is to grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 3:18.
In the former verses, prayer was offered up to God by St. Paul, to enable the Colossians to do his will, his whole will, acceptably; in this verse he pleads with God, to strengthen them with an almighty power to bear afflictions, the sharpest and longest afflictions, patiently and joyfully: Strengthened with all might, unto all patience with joyfulness.
Learn hence, 1. That the cross of Christ, or sufferings for Christ are unavoidable, but unsupportable; though they will shock an ordinary patience and constancy of mind, yet might, all might, power, glorious power, which is here prayed for us, and elsewhere promised to us, can and will enable us to stand under them! Glorious power will be victorious power.
Learn, 2. That patience, much patience, very much patience, yea, all patience is needful, nay, absolutely and indispensibly necessary, to enbale a Christian to bear some trials, and to glorify God in an afflicted condition. All patience, I say, is necessary in order to the cheerful bearing of afflictions, that is, patience at all times, patience under all crosses, patience, if possible, without any mixture of impatience; patience that may give a man the possession of himself, and quiet the whole man, the tongue, the hand, and the heart. Such measures and degrees of patience as will keep the heart from sinking, the tongue from complaining, the hend from revenging.
Lord! grant, that whenever any of thine are called forth to suffer either for thee, or for thine, they may be strengthened with all might, according to thy glorious power, unto all patience and long- suffering with joyfulness.
Our apostle having prayed for the Colossians in the foregoing verses, here breaks forth into the duty of thanksgiving on their behalf, Giving thanks unto the Father, &c.
Where note, 1. A description of heaven, or the blessed state of good men in another world: It is an inheritance, an inheritance of saints and an inheritanceof light.
1. It is an inheritance; now that is a possession only proper to children, Hareditas filiis debetur, non servis. It is an unmerited and undeserved possession, and it is the best donative that a father has to give unto his children: Particularly, this inheritance of heaven, which God gives to all, and yet to every one of his children, is the freest inheritance, the surest, the most satisfying, and the most delifhtful, and the most durable inheritance.
2. Heaven is the inheritance of the saints, or of holy persons only; such as is really holy, universally holy, perseveringly holy, to them, and only to them, does it belong, it is purchased for them, it is promised to them, it is given to them, they have already the first fruits of it in the Spirit's inhabitation, which is given to them as an earnest of heaven; it is prepared for them, and they are prepared for them, and they are prepared for that; and it shall be finally adjudged to them at the great and last day.
3. It is an inheritance in light, that is, an inheritance with God,; an inheritance in joy, an inheritance in glory, and a common inheritance for all the saints: As the light of the sun is a common blessing to all that have eyes to see it, and every person in a room has the benefit of the light of the candle, as if he enjoyed it by himself alone; so is the inheritance of heaven, it is fully and intirely enjoyed by all the saints, as if there was but one to possess and enjoy it.
In these words our apostle declares how God makes his children and people meet for the inheritance of heaven and eternal glory, namely, by bringing them out of that dark state of heathenism, sin and misery, in which they lay, and translating them into a state of grace, called here the kingdom of God's dear Son.
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness: Here we have the deliverer, God the Father,
Colossians 1:12 he delivered us; all that are made meet for the inheritance in light, were once under the power of spiritual darkness:
The deliverance itself, and the manner of the deliverance; he hath rescued us by a strong hand, as the word imports, as Lot was delivered out of Sodom.
Note, 1. That the state which every soul is in by nature, is a state of darkness: sin originally springs from darkness, it naturally delights in darkness, it ultimately leads to eternal darkness.
Note, 2. That it is God, and God alone, that can deliver a soul from the power of spiritual darkness.
3. That no power, short of Almighty power in God, is able to deliver a sinner from the dominion of sin, and the power of spiritual darkness; such is the ignorance and blindness of the understanding, such is the rebellion that is found in the sinner's will, so great the irregularity and disorder of the affections, and indeed of the whole soul, that the sinner is not only unable to deliver himself, but stands in a direct opposition to the grace of God, which offers to work deliverance for him, till, of unwilling, he is made willing, in the day of Christ's power, And translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son Psalms 110:3; that is, brought us into a gospel state, made us members and subjects of his kingdom of grace and heirs of his kingdom of glory.
Learn, 1. That Christ was God's Son, his dear and only Son, the Son of himself, and the Son of his bosom-love: He is called his Son, being so by an eternal and ineffable generation; not upon the account of his miraculous conception only, nor in regard of his sanctification and mission only, nor in regard of his resurrection chiefly, nor in regard of the dignity of his person, nor in regard of the dearness of his person; but he is very God of very God, begotten of his Father, by whom all things were made; and accordingly he is, for nature, co-essential, for dignity, co-equal, and for duration, co-eternal with the Father, and consequently truly and really God; and he that denieth the divinity of the Son, in God's account, denieth the Father also.
Learn, 2. That Christ, as God's dear Son, is a Spiritual King, and exercises a kingly power in and over the souls of those whom he hath delivered from the power of darkness.
Learn, 3. That such as are subjects of his kingdom of grace, shall certainly be translated into his kingdom of glory.
Here our apostle further declares how we are made meet for the inheritance of heaven, and delivered from the power of darkness, namely, by our redemption in Christ from sin, Satan, death and wrath; by a price paid by the Mediator, to the justice of God his Father. In whom we have redemption, that is, the fruit and benefit of Christ's redemption, which eminently consists in remission of sin.
Note here, 1. The deplorable state into which the whole race of mankind was brought by sin, namely, a state of slavery, and spiritual captivity unto sin; redemption supposes this; slaves and captives need a Redeemer, none else.
2. That there was no delivery from this slavery, but by a price paid down to the justice of God: Redemption is a delivery by ransom and price.
3. That no other price did, or could redeem us from our miserable captivity, but the blood of Christ; we have redemption through his blood.
4. That although Christ did pay this ransom unto God, and not to Satan, whose enslaved captives we are, yet, by virtue of the ransom paid, we are delivered from Satan's slavery, and sin's dominion; when God the judge was once satisfied, Satan and the gaoler had nothing to do to detain and keep us any longer in prison.
5. That forgiveness of sin, or a full and final discharge from sin's guilt, and from all obnoxiousness to God's wrath, was one special fruit of Christ's redemption; he died to deliver us from the wrath of God, and from the rage of our lusts too, otherwise he had but sealed us a patent to sin with impunity.
The apostle having mentioned our redemption in the former verse, describes the person of our Redeemer in this and the following verses, in such lofty characters, as evidently bespeak him to be a divine person, truly and really God, and consequently the fittest person to undertake so great and glorious a work, as the redemption and salvation of a lost and perishing world.
Note here, 1. The Redeemer described by his eternal relation to God, he is the image of the invisible God, that is, his natural and essential image; thus he is, in respect of his eternal generation as God; as a child whom we call the express image of the father, is of the same nature with his father, so is Christ of the same essence and nature with God; his nature is the same, his attributes are the same, his works the same, the worship given him the same; faith and affiance in him the same: Ye believe in God, believe also in me John 14:1.
Again, Christ is the image of the invisible God, as God-man; by him, as a lively image, did God the Father set forth unto us his glorious attributes of wisdom, mercy, righteousness, and power. The first person in the God-head is called invisible to the patriarchs; but the Son frequently apperared, as a preludium to his incarnation, in which he appeared visibly to all.
Note, 2. Christ is here described, as by his eternal relation to God, so by his eternal relation to the creatures; He is the first born of every creature; that is,
1. He was before every creature, and therefore he himself cannot be a creature: The apostle says expressly, That he is before all things, Colossians 1:17 that is, Christ had a being before there was any created; he was before all creature, both in point of dignity, and in point of duration.
Thus, Chirst calls himself the beginning of the creation of God, Revelation 3:14 that is, the principal and efficient cause of the creation, and so could not be a creature himself, but consequently must of necessity have been God from all eternity with the Father:
Or else, 2. By the first-born of every creature, may be understood, that he was the Lord and heir of all the creatures; in allusion to the first born among the Jews of old, who were Lords over their brethren, Behold I have made him thy Lord Genesis 27:37; the first-born is natural heir, and heir did anciently signify Lord.
Now Christ is said in to be Lord of all Acts 10:36, and He is called heir of all things Romans 4:14: Now, how well may Christ be said to be the Lord and heir of all things, when all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made!
Learn hence, That the Socinians have no ground from this text to reckon Christ amongst the number of creatures, he having a being antecedent to all creatures; yea, being Lord of the whole creation; and accordingly the apostle styling him here the first born of every creature, never designed to insinuate, that the Son of God is a creature, as most evidently appears by the next verses.
Mark the connection: The apostle affirms Christ to be the first-born of every creature, namely, because by him were all things created, and by him all things consist: Now if all things were created by him, surely he himself cannot be a creature.
And thus the sense of the apostle's words runs easy; Christ is the image of the invisible God, the Heir and Lord of the whole creation, for by him all things were created; he that created all creatures, cannot himself be a creature; for it is impossible that any creature should create himself.
Mark futher, Christ is here represented as Creator of the universe; all things were created by him in heaven and in earth, all the angels in their several orders, degrees and dignities.
2. As he is represented the Creator, so likewise the upholder of every creature: as by him were all things created,, so by him do all things consist.
3. He is set forth as the last end of all the creatures; all things were created for him, as well as by him, for the manifestation of his own glory, as God; he that was the first cause, must be the last end: And accordingly, all the creatures throughout the whole creation do give glory unto Christ, some in an active way, as angels and saints; some in a passive way, as damned men and devils; some in an objective way, as sun, moon, and stars, giving us occasion to glorify the power and wisdom of their great Creator.
Learn, 3. That seeing the whole creation was at first made, and is still upheld by the power of Christ, it proves him to be evidently and undeniably God: He that created all things, and upholdeth all things by the word of his power, is and must be God.
Vain here is the Socinian evasion, who, by creation, understand a renovation of the mind, and a reformation of the manners of men by the gospel; for Christ is here said to create all things in heaven, that is, particularly the angels in heaven; but they having, kept their first station, wanted no renovation, so that it must be understood of the first creation of the natural world, and not of the renovation of the moral world.
God forgive these men's perverting and bold practising upon the scriptures. Can any sensible man persuade himself, that when St. Paul says, that all things were created by Christ in heaven and earth, thrones, dominions, principalitites, and powers, that the apostle should mean no more than the moral renovation of the world below by the preaching of the gospel, in which the angels were not concerned? For though Christ was an Head of confirmation to them, yet had they no need of a renovation, or being made new, having always kept their first station.
Our apostle having, in the former verses, described what Christ is in himself, comes next to describe him with relation to his church; shewing,
1. That he is her Head, he is the Head of the body, the church; as the head and the members make one body, so Christ and his people constitute one church; he is of the same nature (as man) with his church, he poureth forth the same Spirit upon his church, he is both an Head of authority, and a Head of influence to his church, he sympathizes with her in all her sufferings on earth, and longs for the full fruition and final enjoyment of her in heaven.
2. He is the beginning of the Christian church, the root, the fountain and foundation of it, the active beginning, or the first principle and author of it, and of all those influences of grace and spiritual life which do animate and enlive it.
3. He is called the first-born from the dead.
1. Because he was the first that arose to an immortal life, never to die more; all others that were raised to life, besides him, died again, but death had no more dominion over him.
Again, 2. Because he was the principal and efficient cause of their resurrection; all that were raised before him, were raised by him, by a power derived from him:
And, 3. Because he is the pattern and exemplary cause of the resurrection; his members are not only raised by him, but like unto him. Fashioned like unto his glorious body Php_3:21 .
Was his body raised sustantially the same? So shall ours be.
Was his body wonderfully improved by the resurrection? So shall ours, in point of purity and spirituality, in point of power and activity, in point of immortality and incorruptibility.
Was his holy body raised to be eternally glorified? So shall ours.
How fitly then is our Lord here called the first-born from the dead? Even herein he had the pre-eminence.
Still our apostle proceeds in describing the person of our Redeemer, and the admirable qualificatons found in him for the work and service of our redemption; he declares here, that there was a perfect and complete fulness of all divine graces and excellencies dwelling in the Mediator, and that by the pleasure and appointment of God the Father; there is in him a fulness of merit for our justification, a fulness of grace for our sanctification, a fulness of wisdom for our direction, a fulness of power for our preservation, a fulness of mercy, pity, and compassion, to relieve and succour us in all our distresses.
And this fulness which is in Christ, is an original and independent fulness, and it is an infinite and inexhaustible fulness; it is a complete and comprehensive fulness, and it is a ministerial fulness; the fulness that is in him of grace and comfort, is on purpose to communicate unto us, to be dispersed and given forth to all his members. No sooner had our apostle said, that he is the Head of the body, the church; but he instantly subjoins, that it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell, namely, for his church's benefit and advantage.
Learn hence, That for anyone to be, or to pretend to be the church's head, it is necessary that he be endued with all the fulness of the God head, and of all ministerial graces; and therefore it is the highest degree of blasphemy in the Pope, and vain sinful man, to assume this title to himself, being destitute of this divine fulness; full indeed he is, but full of pride, full of sin, full of himself; and without repentance for this and his other blasphemies, will, at length be full of wrath.
Here one special reason is assigned why all fulness dwelt in our Lord the Redeemer, namely, to fit him for the great work and office of a Mediator or Reconciler, that so he might happily make up that breach which sin had made between God and the world, having removed the enmity which was betwixt them by his death and sufferings, called here the blood of his cross, that is the blood which he freely and voluntarily shed upon the cross.
Note here, 1. That God and man were once friends, though soon by sin made enemies; reconciliation doth suppose an antecedent friendship.
Note, 2. That though man was first in the breach yet God was first in the offer of reconciliation; It pleased the Father by him to reconcile all things to himself.
Note, 3. That as there was no possibility of ever making up this breach, but by a Mediator; so no person in heaven or earth was or could be found, in all things fitted or furnished for the work of a Mediator, but only Christ; By him to reconcile all things to himself.
Note, 4. The universality of the subject reconciled, all things both in heaven and in earth: By things in heaven,
1. Some understand the blessed angels; but there being no breach between God and them, Christ was not the author of reconciliation, though he was an head of confirmation to them. Others understand it of a reconciliation between the angels and man, thus: Whilst man continued in his obedience to God, angels and men were in a state of perfect friendship one with another; but when man rebelled against God, the angels became averse to man for that rebellion; but God being reconciled to man by the death of his son, the angels are become friends and ministering spirits to us, and both they and we constitute one church under Christ the head thereof; thus Christ reconciled all things in heaven and earth, that is, the angels in heaven he has reconciled to man on earth.
2. Other, by things in heaven, do not understand the angels, but the saints departed; the patriarchs, prophets, and all the faithful now in heaven, or here on earth, they were all reconciled, in order to their being saved; intimating, that the blood of Christ did expiate the guilt of those persons who lived before him, as well as of those that died after him: He reonciled all things in heaven and earth, capable of reconciliation, appointed to it, and that stood in need of it.
Note, lastly, The instrumental means by which all this was effected, namely, by the blood of the cross; to make up the breach betwixt God and the fallen creature, cost the Mediator no less than his precious blood.
Lord! Who can look upon sin as any other than an infinite and immense evil, which cost the Son of God his life to expiate the guilt of it? How can a little sin be committed against a great God?
St. Paul having treated of Christ's work of reconciliation in general, in the preceding verse, in this he applies it ot the Colosssians in particular:
Where 1. He describes to them the miserable state and deplorable condition they were in before they were converted to the Christian faith; they were strangers, nay, enemies unto God: Enemies in their minds, which implies a deep rooted enmity, advancing so high as to hate God, not as a Creator, but as a lawgiver; not as a Benefactor, but as a judge and revenger of sin.
O deplorable degradation, to be at enmity in our minds against him who is the author of our being, and the fountain of our happiness!
Observe, 2. The gracious change wrought in their condition by virtue of Christ's mediation, you hath he reconciled; not only laid own his life to purchase reconciliation for them, but by the ministry of his word, accompanied with the operation of his holy Spirit, working upon their hearts, even then when they had a strong aversion from God, to accept of terms of peace and reconciliation with him: You, who were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, now hath he reconciled.
Observe, 3. The way and means by which Christ effected this work of reconciliation for them and us, namely, by taking upon him a true body, subject to fleshly infirmities, though without sin; and in that body suffering death for us, that we might be presented at the last day, perfectly holy unto god.
In order to our reconciliation with God, it pleased Christ, the second Person in the ever-glorious Trinity, to assume a body of flesh, that he might be of the same nature with us, and in that body of flesh to die for sin; that the same nature which had sinned, might give satisfaction for sin.
And further, to make us completely happy, he has not only taken away the legal enmity on God's part, but the natural anmity on our part; for he sanctifies those whom he reconciles initially in this life, but perfectly and completely in the next, and where and when they shall be presented holy, unblameable, and unreproveable, to his heavenly Father.
Here our apostle declares to the Colossians, how they may know whether they were indeed of the number of those who were actually reconciled to God by the blood of his Son, namely, if they persevered in the faith, and continued grounded fast in their holy religion; If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled; implying, that it is the great duty of Christians, who have sat under the preaching of the gospel, to be well settled in the doctrine of faith, which they have heard and received, and that the best way to be settled, is to be well grounded; if we are not settled in religion, we can never grow in religion; an ungrounded Christian can never be a growing Christian; and if we are not well grounded in the faith, we can never suffer for the faith; for such as are sceptics in religion, will never prove martyrs for the sake of religion.
Observe, 2. The universality of that tender, which by the preaching of the gospel is made unto all sorts of sinners, of reconciliation with God, and acceptance through Christ; which gospel was preached to every creature under heaven; that is to lost mankind, to some of all sorts; not in Judea only, but amongst the Gentiles also; to every human creature, no person, no nation being refused or passed by; plainly intimating, that an indefinite and universal tender of reconciliation with God, and salvation by Jesus Christ, is made unto all person, by the preaching of the gospel.
Happy they, whose hearts are inclined and disposed to accept of, and comply with them, who in the day of the gospel's visitation, do know the things of their peace.
As if the apostle had said, "I am not only contented with, but I greatly rejoice in, my sufferings for you converted Gentiles, and help, as much as in me lies, to fill up some part of that which is, by God's decree, behind, unfulfilled of the sufferings of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake which is the church."
Note here, 1. That Almighty God has decreed such a measure of sufferings to his church, whereof Christ, as the head, underwent a considerable part and proportion, when he was here upon earth, in his poverty, in his labours, in his sufferings, both in life, and at his death.
Note, 2. That there is yet a remainder of sufferings, assigned over by Christ unto his members, which must be filled up by them, whreof St. Paul had a great share, and every believer must have some share; for, as long as Christ has a member upon the earth, there will be something for that member to suffer.
Note, 3. That those sufferings which Christ's members suffer, are the sufferings of Christ; the sufferings of the members are the sufferings of the Head, being undergone for the sake of the Head. Christ, in his natural body considered, can suffer no more; but in his mystical body, in his members, he daily suffers, and will suffer, till the measure of sufferings is filled up which God hath determined.
Quest. But why are Christ's sufferings in and by his members thus to be prolonged, yea, perpetuated?
Ans. Not by way of satisfaction for sin, not in order to reconciliation with God, but in order to the conversion of the world, for example to others, for perfecting of their own graces, and for increasing of their glory.
Our apostle in these words, seems to assign a reason why he underwent the sufferings mentioned in the former verse so cheerfully, as even to rejoice in them; namely, because he was a minister of the church, by the special dispensation of God, to preach the mysteries of the gospel to the Gentile world.
Learn hence, That such as are eminent in the church, and, as ministers of the gospel, do lay out themselves more abundantly in the church's service, they must expect to meet with a measure, and a full measure of sufferings beyond others. There are no such enemies to the devil's kingdom, as the zealous and faithful ministers of Jesus Christ; therefore he will be sure to revenge the ruins of his own kingdom.
Observe farther, What it was that St. Paul was appointed by God to preach to the Gentiles, namely, that great mystery of their vocation and calling; this he calls here a mystery, a rich mystery, a glorious mystery, a mystery bid from ages but now made manifest.
Learn hence, That the doctrine of salvation by Jesus Christ, as a Redeemer, was long hid from the knowledge of the Gentiles; and that at last they were brought to the knowledge of Christ, and the participation of gospel privileges was a great mystery awfully to be admired, and a glorious mercy with all thankfulness to be acknowledged, 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, which gospel, preached amongst you, and received and entertained by you, is an earnest and ground of your hope of glory.
Note here, 1. That Christ is in, and among believers; he is among them by the preaching of the gospel, he is in them by the inhabitation of his holy Spirit.
Note, 2. That all true believers, whilst here on earth, have an hope of glory.
Note, 3. That Christ's indwelling presence in the souls of believers by his holy Spirit, is an earnest of that glory, and an evident demonstration of their hope of it: Believers have in them a glorious hope, they have before them a glory hoped for; Christ is the ground of both, by him we obtain the end of our hope, even the salvation of our souls.
Observe here, 1. What was the principal subject of the apostle's preaching, it was Christ; whom we preach; Christ was the matter of his preaching, and the great end of his preaching.
Observe, 2. The manner of St. Paul's preaching; it was by informing the understanding and judgment, and of the danger of continuing in it.
Observe, 3. The end of his preaching, it was to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus; that is, to render them complete both in knowledge and obedience.
Observe, 4. The indefatigable pains and diligence used by the apostle in that work of preaching, intimated in the words labouring and striving, whereunto I also labour, striving.
Observe, 5. The gracious help and blessed success which he had in his preaching, humbly and thankfully acknowledged, and ascribed unto God, according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
From the whole, learn, 1. What was the sum of St. Paul's preaching, and ought to be of ours also, to bring men to repentance and faith in Christ, to advance them towards a perfection in knowledge and obedience, by informing their judgments, and directing their practice.
Learn, 2. That the faithful ministers of Christ do judge no labour and pains too great, no strivings or sufferings too much, no contending with the errors and sins of men sufficient, in order to the bringing of them unto God by conversion and repentance.
Learn, 3. That such ministers as thus indefatigably labour and strive for the good of souls, shall not labour and strive alone, they shall be accompanied with divine assistance: Christ will strive with them, and work with them: Striving according to his working.
4. That when ministers have met with success in their striving, by Christ's working with them, they must ascribe nothing of praise to themselves, to their own piety, parts, or pains, but ascribe all to him that striveth by them, and worketh in them mightily.