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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Colossians 1

 

 

Verse 1

1. Observe here the modesty of Luke, the amanuensis, in the omission of his own name, which certainly had a right to appear with that of Paul and Timothy.


Verse 2

2. To the saints in Colosse, and to the faithful brethren in Christ.You see here again a confirmation of the fact patent throughout the Scriptures, that “saint” is the epithet given by the Holy Ghost to the Lord’s people. We should all accept the name, and recognize the standard which God has given us.


Verse 3

3. Always praying for you.We do not pray enough. We ought to pray incessantly for all the saints on the earth.


Verses 4-8

ARGUMENT 1

FAITH AND LOVE

4. Hearing of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the Divine love which you have toward all the saints.Here, again, we see the magnificent globe of human salvation, exhibiting the two distinct hemispheres; i.e., the human and the Divine. We do the believing, and God does the saving. Salvation must be subjective before it can be objective. We must first receive heaven in us, before we are in a fix to go to heaven. This Divine love, the heavenly agapee, constitutes the very atmosphere of heaven. We can not possibly love in the Bible sense, till we have it in our hearts. It is exotic in humanity, and indigenous in God alone. When the sinner meets the condition by an utter and eternal abandonment of sin, and casts himself, in a moment of desperation, on the mercy of God in Christ by simple faith alone, he freely forgives him for Christ’s sake, imputing to him the righteousness of Christ. At that moment the Holy Ghost, the commissioned executive of the new creation, pours out (Romans 5:5) into his heart this Divine love, which is the nature of God (1 John 4:18), thus imparting the Christ-life and nature to the dead soul, resurrecting it into the new life of God and heaven. The popular Churches on this problem are wrapped in an awful delusion, preaching human love as a substitute for the Divine, there being no salvation in it, as illustrated in case of the rich man in hell, who there had it in behalf of his brethren in the superlative degree. Faith is your own act, co-operated by the Holy Ghost, who is always on hand and ready to give you all the help you need to believe God’s Word, and as a sinner to trust him implicitly for a free pardon, and as a Christian to trust him triumphantly for entire sanctification, and as a wholly sanctified servant of the Lord to trust him incessantly to keep you by his power, fill you with his Spirit, and give you momentary and perpetual victory over every foe. All the other graces are resolvable into these two; i.e., faith and love, which focalize at the constituents of the two spiritual hemispheres, and represent the entire plan of salvation. Hence, your faith is positively the measuring line of your experience. When the sinner believes God’s convicting truth, he always gets convicted. When he believes converting truth, he always gets converted. When the Christian believes God’s copious illuminating truth, everywhere revealing inbred sin surviving in the heart of the regenerate, he invariably gets convicted of it. When he walks in the light of that conviction, and believes God’s wonderful truth, revealing entire sanctification in the cleansing blood, he sweeps into Beulah land with a shout.

5-7. From the day in which you heard, and have truly and perfectly known the grace of God.We know the grace of God in regeneration, but truly, perfectly know that grace in sanctification. We reach experimental certainty.

8. Who also revealed to us your Divine love in the Spirit.The Holy Spirit is the only Dispenser of the Divine love, native only in the heart of God, and poured out into our hearts by the Holy Ghost. (Romans 5:5.) Hence, Holy Ghost religion only is characterized by love. All others are carnal and selfish.


Verse 9-10

ARGUMENT 2

THE SCHOOL OF THE SPIRIT

9. That you may be filled with the perfect knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.Man is a trinity like God. His is an immortal spirit, having a mind and body. In the fall the human spirit was utterly bereft of Divine life, and has been dead ever since, till the resurrection of the Holy Spirit raises it into life. Our educational system is radically defective at this point. As a rule, our colleges, under the auspices of the different religious denominations, are minus the school of the Holy Ghost. They educate the mind, but not the heart, sending out semi-infidels to occupy the pulpits. We have a few holiness colleges, and need a thousand more. These schools, like holiness revivals, recognize the Bible as the only authority, and the great Textbook to which all others are subordinated. We can not depend on the dualistic system of theology to educate our young people, if we do not want them to graduate like Samson, shorn of his locks, to go out and grind in the mills of Dagon all of their lives. We must have teachers filled with the Holy Ghost. The holiness movement must take our schools into hand, if we would supply the world with able ministers of the New Testament. Instead of spending four years studying heathen authors as I did, and many others are now doing, we should make out our Latin course in the Latin Bible, and our Greek course in the Greek Bible, and likewise with the Hebrew. It is a shame on the escutcheon of Christianity to educate our young people in the heathen classics. I would rather than a million of dollars today I had spent my four years in the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew Bible, instead of the pagan authors. It is high time we would throw off this semi-paganism which we carried out of the Dark Ages. If we are going to save the world, we must have Spirit-filled teachers as well as preachers. We must wake to the fact that the Bible is the only Book, and let all others be merely subsidiary. The secret of the awful apostasy now so fearfully prevailing in the Churches is, that the pulpits are filled with intellectual giants and spiritual babies (in the same person).

10. That you walk worthily of the Lord in all loyalty.All of this clamor about Church loyalty is heretical and misleading. The Bible says nothing

about it, but teaches us to be loyal to God. If you are loyal to God, you are loyal to everything in Church and State which is in harmony with God, and disloyal to everything which is disharmonious with God. When you let any one but God expound your loyalty, look out! There is danger ahead. There is where all of the martyrs bled. Be loyal to God alone, revealed in his Word, Spirit, and providence. Abide your destiny right there. If God needs a martyr, put in the first bid. If Church and State are loyal to God, I gladly accept of their company. If they are disloyal to God, I am disloyal to them.


Verse 11

ARGUMENT 3

GOD’S DYNAMITE

11. Being dynamited with all dynamite according to the power of his glory.Paul, in Romans 1:6, defines gospel the

“dynamite of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Hence, this power (Greek, dynamite) is the only gospel. The trouble with the pulpit nowadays is the absence of the dynamite, which alone can blow sin out of the soul, and the devil out of the Church. Dynamite is like powder, but infinitely more so. The preachers are afraid to handle it, lest it blow their Churches all to pieces. They need not be afraid, for it can not blow out anything but sin, which is bound to come out, or the devil will get them. Some are willing to take the dynamite of conviction for sinners, and regeneration for penitents, but not willing to take the dynamite of sanctification for Christians. Shall we not walk in the footprints of Paul, and go for the entire bill of fare, and get the people dynamited with all dynamite? God forbid that we should leave out any of heaven’s dynamite! In so doing, we take an awful risk. Let us receive the dynamite of conviction, regeneration, and sanctification, and henceforth be true to our commission, do our utmost to get our people all dynamited with all dynamite.


Verses 13-15

ARGUMENT 4

GOD’S TREE

13. Who delivered us from the power of darkness, and transplanted us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.This transplanting (not translating, as E.V., which takes the body) includes sanctification. We are all born into this world mere seedlings of Adam the First, and utterly incompetent to bear good fruit (a fact well-known to all fruit-growers). Conversion puts us in the Lord’s nursery, and regeneration grafts the Divine nature in us. If we abide in the nursery indefinitely, we will be too much crowded up and encumbered to ever bear fruit. The frugiculturist in due time spades us up by the roots, trims all of our limbs off, and many of the roots; i.e., sanctifies us wholly (on the negative side); then he carries us out into a ‘large place,” where we will have plenty of room, as trees in the orchard are forty feet apart. Then follows the great fruit-bearing period after we are transplanted into the kingdom of the Son of His love. The unsanctified Christians are like the tree, spending its life in the nursery, no place to bear fruit. We must be closely trimmed, put out in the rich soil, unprotected, if we would be truly fruitful.

14,15. First begotten of all creation,as we see from Colossians 1:18; this means the first to enter the transfigured state. A number had been raised from the dead before Christ, but none transfigured. As the transfiguration is the consummation of the resurrection out of mortality, it is referred to in these Scriptures, thus confirming the actual precedence and pre-eminence of Christ.


Verses 16-21

ARGUMENT 5

GOD CREATIVE IN THE SECOND PERSON

16. Because in Him were created all things in the heavens and upon the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All things were made by him and unto him.

18. Himself is the head of the body, the Church; who is the beginning, the first-begotten from the dead, in order that in all things he may be pre- eminent.

19. And in him all fullness was pleased to dwell.

20. And through himself to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, through himself, whether things upon the earth or things in the heavens.We have wonderful and, to the unspiritual, paradoxical revelations in this prolix quotation. The transcendent intellect and liberal culture of Paul well adapted him to the instrumentality of the Holy Ghost in the evolution of these inscrutable mysteries. The singularity of the word heaven in your translation is due to the astronomical incredulity of the translators, as the Greek is uniformly in the plural number, corroborating astronomy in its revelation of an infinite plurality of worlds, constituting the celestial universe. Already one billion and one hundred and seventy millions have been discovered, which in all probability constitute but a fraction of God’s universe, as the telescope rests upon vast fields of nebulae, which are evidently systems of worlds so infinitely distant as to be unindividualizable by the most powerful telescopes. We are here informed that the Son of God, our wonderful Christ, who lay in the Bethlehem manger, and hung on the Cross of Calvary, created all of these stupendous worlds, as many of them are of tremendous magnitude. Saturn, our neighbor, is eleven hundred times as large as this world, and Jupiter, a still nearer neighbor, fourteen hundred times as large as the earth. Hence, after all, we find that our great world is but a speck floating in the ethereal firmament of God’s boundless universe. How glorious it will be when I get my immortal pinions to wing my flight from world to world, exploring with adoring admiration the stupendous works of God, and cultivating an acquaintance with the unfallen intelligences occupying millions of immortal worlds. Yet your Savior and mine, as here we have clearly revealed, created every one of these worlds. Not only did he create the multiplied millions of worlds, flaming suns, and wandering comets, which speed their flight through the void immense, but he created the human race, every angel that shines and shouts, the melodious seraphim, the adoring cherubim, the tall sons of God whose triumphant shout answered the anthem of the morning stars which sang together at creation’s birth, the mighty archangels and the heavenly hierarchies who fill the responsible offices in the perfect organizations, principalities, and powers which characterize the heavenly universe. If the Son executed the stupendous work of all creation, where were the Father and the Holy Ghost? What did they do? You must bear in mind there are not three Gods, but one only. Hence, as we see in the next chapter, In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead.Hence, the Father and the Spirit are in the Son in creation, redemption, and administration. You must not differentiate the Divine persons indefinitely, lest you run into tritheistic heresy of three Gods instead of One, which is the first departure into pagan polytheism. This one God manifests himself to our finite senses, and accommodates himself to the plan of salvation in three distinct persons. How are other worlds besides ours affected by the mediatorial work of Christ? The revolt of this world from the Divine government was calculated to jostle the loyalty, and wield an alienating influence on the inhabitants of other worlds, so many as are still on probation like ours. Hence, all worlds as here revealed are reached by the mediatorial administration, culminating in the complete restoration of this world to its celestial loyalty and the perfect reconciliation of all other worlds, and their final and complete fortification against all liability to apostasy, thus in the grand and triumphant finale sweeping the last probability of defection forever from the celestial universe, and eternally establishing all worlds in their Divine loyalty. It is here said that our Savior is the beginning; i.e., he existed alone in the universe before a solitary star had twinkled, or a sun had shot forth one cheering ray. Doubtless the work of creation is still in progress, omnipotence in his glorious majesty tossing other mighty worlds, and populating them with immortal intelligences. We also have it here stated that “Himself is the head of the body, the Church.” In Ephesians 1:23, we have the climacteric affirmation that the Church is the “fullness of him that filleth all things in all things.” O the unfathomable depths, the immeasurable altitudes, the infinitesimal latitudes and longitudes of the Divine benefactions in behalf of poor, fallen humanity! With adoring wonder we will sing the song of redemption forever! How paradoxical when we contemplate the ineffable glory of the unfallen angels, the inconceivable grandeur and sublimity, splendor and beauty, radiant from the immortal visage of cherubim, seraphim, archangel, and heavenly hierarchies, undimmed by a solitary cloud of sorrow through all the long tread of eternal ages! Lost in unutterable bewilderment while contemplating these matchless splendors, glories, and triumphs characteristic of the mighty unfallen intelligences, who wing their flight through celestial ether! Is it possible that in the wonderful dispensations of grace and glory, the blood-washed, fire-baptized Church of the First- born is destined to stand upon the topmost pinnacle of the universe, and outshout Gabriel and Michael?

Lord, shine on us from heaven, and illuminate us with a glimpse of the glories awaiting the Bridehood of Christ! While all the angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim, and heavenly hierarchies rank as servants of God, the Bride of Christ will certainly enjoy an honorary pre-eminence and a participation of royal favor utterly staggering the loftiest flights of human imagination. If the human intellect could only apprehend these peerless glories, there would be a universal stampede into the kingdom. But, alas! they are only spiritually discerned.


Verse 22-23

ARGUMENT 6

HOLINESS THE ULTIMATUM

22. —To present you holy and blameless and unrebukable in His presence.Here Paul reaches the culmination of his prologue, running into a transcendent climax on holiness, the end of the apostolic ministry. No wonder he reaches this conclusion after the wonderful affirmations on the Christhood, leading human thought up to the highest pinnacle of the created universe, amid the splendors and glories of cherubim and seraphim, to gaze upon the unparalleled beauties of the glorified bridehood. No wonder he reminds us of the absolute necessity that we be holy and blameless and irreproachable in his presence. The slipshod theology that would satisfy carnal people short of entire sanctification will never get in a million miles of the glorified bridehood. It is a wholesale delusion and caprice of the devil.

23. If ye abide, having been grounded in the faith, firm and immovable from the hope of the gospel which ye have heard.The holiness which Paul preaches is no superficial affair; it goes down through all the mud, sand, and slate, and builds its superstructure on the everlasting Rock, destined to stand forever unshaken by cyclones, eternally towering, the admiration of angels and redeemed spirits. This experimental holiness gives you a permanent and abiding settlement in Christ, no longer the sport of the billow, the caprice of the storm. Preached in all creation, which is under heaven;not as E.V. reads, to every creature,as if the gospel had reached all people in Paul’s day; but it is for the whole world.


Verses 24-27

ARGUMENT 7

OUR AFFLICTIONS SUPPLEMENTARY TO THOSE OF CHRIST

24. Now I rejoice in sufferings in your behalf, and fill up the residue of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, in behalf of his body, which is the Church.There is a wonderful significance in the atonement of Christ infinitely transcending all human comprehension. While “he trod the wine-press alone,” and there was none to help, yet the old dispensation is flooded with symbolic blood flowing from the dying animals four thousand years bleeding on Jewish altars. King Solomon slaughtered twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep at the dedication of the temple, all these rivers of blood adumbrating the bleeding Christ on the cross. In the gospel dispensation the pagan emperors of Rome kept the blood of God’s saints flowing three hundred years, whom Romanists and Moslems soon succeeded in the bloody work of martyrdom, till history foots up the paradoxical hosts of two hundred millions of our Lord’s disciples who have followed him in his bloody track to Calvary. Besides, no tongue can tell the sufferings of God’s saints, who have never enjoyed the privilege of sealing their faith with their blood. While we all recognize our wonderful Savior as the Healer of our bodies, yet we read, Romans 8:28,

“God worketh together for good all things to them that love God.”

Hence, we see that, in a manner to us wrapped in mystery, our wonderful Savior makes all the afflictions, troubles, and trials incident to this life a great blessing to his true people; not only to the sufferers, but to others indefinitely. All who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution.There are gracious possibilities and susceptibilities of the

Divine glory revealed through afflictions, which are utterly out of our reach in health and prosperity. Let us remember it is a glorious privilege and a rich source of blessing to suffer in the kingdom and patience of our adorable Savior.

25. Whose minister I became according to the economy of God, which was given unto me for you to verify the Word of God.

26. The mystery which was hidden from ages and from generations, and is now revealed to his saints.This wonderful mystery, whose revealment was postponed four thousand years, is none other than the incarnation of Christ, literally the climax of all mysteries; i.e., the immaculate and incomprehensible Creator of the universe invested in mortal humanity.

The heathen Greeks and Romans had inklings of the incarnation, and often their poets described the Roman gods as visiting the earth in human form. Christ excarnate was on the earth from the days of Eden, saving all who would give him a chance. But the incarnation, the culminating glory of the mediatorial intervention, was in wisdom and mercy postponed till the myths and fables of primitive ages gave way to reliable history, competent to appropriate that greatest of all events, and transmit it securely to all subsequent ages.

27. —Who is Christ in you the hope of glory.The Christ nature is the second Adam created in our hearts by the Holy Ghost in regeneration.

This creation bringing the Christ nature into your heart is the only hope of glory. Hence, without the true regeneration of the Holy Spirit there is no hope beyond this fleeting life. O how radically defective is popular religion on regeneration! A Methodist bishop recently stated in presence of a large audience, “Not more than one Methodist in ten is this day living in the conscious favor of God.” What an awful defection! I remember well fifty years ago when none but class-meeting goers could be Methodists.


Verse 28

ARGUMENT 8

PERFECTION THE ULTIMATUM OF THE PAULINE MINISTRY

28. Whom we preach admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ.

29. For which indeed I labor, agonizing according to his energy, which worketh in me with dynamite.How an immortal man destined quickly to leave his pulpit and stand before the judgment-bar, there to give an account of his ministry, can open his Bible and read these flaming declarations of inspired Paul, and then not only fail to preach Christian perfection, but have the effrontery to antagonize it, is a mystery to me indissoluble. I preached fifteen years before I received the experience of perfection, but I always preached it in the honesty of my heart, and the candor of my convictions, though like a blind dog in a meathouse, smelling the meat and jumping after it, but as apt to jump the wrong way as the right. We live amid the awful fulfillments of the latter-day prophecies, when “men will not endure sound doctrine.” John Wesley advised his people, when a preacher spoke against perfection, quietly to get up and leave. Now, sad to say, his so-called gospel sons speak against it with impunity. Wesley said, that any man who could take the vows of a Methodist preacher, and go back on Christian perfection, was fit for any other place than the pulpit.

No honest person can read the two verses at the head of this argument, and not see beyond the possibility of cavil that Paul and his comrades made Christian perfection the constant burden of their preaching and pastoral labor, doing everything in their power by faithful warning against everything out of harmony with perfection and importunately and indefatigably laboring night and day, teaching the people the Word of the Lord and the way of salvation, thus leading every person into the experience and doing their utmost not only to bring all into the experience, but to establish them there, sedulously fortifying them against apostasy. Hear him certify, for which (perfection) indeed I labor agonizing.Do you not know that agonize is the strongest word in the English language?

It is of Greek origin, and means the awful fight of the gladiators in the Coliseum; where they met and fought for life, the contest ending only in the death of one or both of the gladiators. So Paul certifies that he is striving for the perfection of every person, just like the gladiator struggled with all the power of every nerve and muscle, fists and feet, teeth and toenails, for dear life. Paul says he was thus agonizing, according to His energy, which worketh in me with dynamite.Not only did Paul use all of his own power, physical, intellectual, and spiritual, but he lays under contribution all the Divine energy imparted to him by the Holy Ghost, “working in him with dynamite.” When men of science discovered the wonderful mechanical power called dynamite a few years ago, they found no word in the English vocabulary competent to describe this greatest of all mechanical powers; consequently they went to the old Greek, and took the very word used so frequently by the Holy Ghost in the New Testament to reveal the power that defeats the devil, and explodes sin out of the human heart. Paul declares that the Divine energy wrought in him with dynamite, thus qualifying him for the climactic work of his ministry; i.e., leading “every person” into perfection. Woe unto the man who dares to intrude into the sacred desk, and not only prove delinquent in preaching perfection, but even have the diabolical audacity to oppose it! Infinitely better for that man that he had never been born. The preacher’s hell is, of all, the most terrible. I have been preaching forty-four years in my humble way; if, in the end, hell should be my doom, I would gladly exchange places with the gambler or the saloonist; but, glory to God! I am a long way from hell, and running heavenward at racehorse speed. Yet I am on probation, liable to fall and make my bed in hell. God, help me to be true the little remnant of my pilgrimage!

The controversy on perfection in the modern pulpit is a confirmation of the awful infidelity which has flooded our Churches like avalanches from the bottomless pit. Perfection is the battle-cry of the apostolic ministry, the great salient fact culminating in every epistle, standing out so boldly as to sweep all candid controversy forever from the field. It is like the atonement of Christ, so patent that “he who runs may read.” Good Lord, have mercy on the preacher so blind as not to read Christian perfection from the Alpha to Omega of the New Testament, and pity the man so fraught with demoniacal delusion and Satanic effrontery as to try to explain it away!

1. It had not been the privilege of the beloved apostle in person to meet the saints of Colosse and Laodicea, his ministerial comrades having enjoyed that honor.

2. In order that their hearts may be comforted, being cemented together in Divine love and in all the riches of the full assurance of understanding.The Oriental cement is wonderful, utterly obliterating all seams and consolidating all the fragmentary rocks into a vast monolith. When I ascended to the roof of Simon the tanner in Joppa, that I might kneel on the roof where Peter was praying when the messengers of Cornelius arrived, I observed that the whole house was a solid limestone from the foundation to the roof, including the stone stairway on the outside, the cementation so perfect that I could not recognize a seam anywhere, impressing me as if the whole house had dropped solid from the hand of the Creator. Such is the mystical union of all the members constituting the bride of Christ, “cemented in Divine love.” This is all descriptive of the sanctified experience for which the “full assurance” is but another name. “In the perfect knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ.” The Greek word here, “knowledge,” E.V., is epignosin, from gnosis, knowledge, and epi, perfect. Hence, it means perfect knowledge of the mystery. We receive a knowledge of this wonderful mystery of salvation in regeneration; but it is not free from the liability of interruption ever and anon by the clouds of doubt and fear, prone to rise out of the old bogs of inbred sin still surviving in the deep interior of the spiritual realm. Entire sanctification must come to our relief, expurgating all inbred corruption. Then we will walk in cloudless day, delighted in the victories of experimental certainty.

3. In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.While knowledge is the wonderful insight into Divine truth, imparted by the infallible Revelator, wisdom is that blessed enduement of heavenly gumption which we constantly need to qualify us to make a correct application of this wonderful supernatural knowledge revealed in God’s Word, Spirit, and providence.

4. I say this, that no one may deceive you in a persuasive discourse.This is a solemn warning against Satan’s preachers, whose strong forte is soft palaver, winning words, and genial manners, pandering to the prejudices of all and antagonizing none, so soft and polite that butter will hardly melt in their mouths. An old bishop in his cabinet, surrounded by the elders, receives a petition from a metropolitan Church, “Please send us a round man, who will please all the people.” Pausing a moment, he observes, “There is but one round figure, and that is Zero; the other nine all having sharp points and corners. So I hope I have no such a man in this Conference as this petition calls for; i.e., naught. Tell them I can not supply them, but they can pick such a one almost anywhere.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Colossians 1:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/colossians-1.html.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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