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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary
Colossians 1

 

 

Verses 1-29

THE DOCTRINAL PART

The chapter divides itself into a salutation (Colossians 1:1-2); a thanksgiving (Colossians 1:3-8); a prayer (Colossians 1:9-14), and a threefold declaration concerning Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-29). This declaration sets forth his Godhead (Colossians 1:15-17); His reconciling work (Colossians 1:18-23), and the mystery of His indwelling in the believer, and hence in the church which is his body.

The salutation is scarcely distinguishable from those considered in the preceding epistles.

The thanksgiving is for the faith of the church, their love to the saints, and the hope laid up for them in heaven (Colossians 1:4-5). “In all the world,” (Colossians 1:6), does not mean literally in every place, but is used simply as expressing the proper area of the preached Gospel, in which sense it was the whole world. The reference to Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) leads some to think that he, rather than Paul, had planted this church, but if so, he was doubtless a fruit of Paul’s labors at Ephesus.

The prayer is a single petition, but it has a great scope, “that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9). This knowledge of God’s will as revealed in His Word, applied to them by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, would enable them to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Colossians 1:10). And this walk would show itself in four ways: fruitfulness, growth, patience and thankfulness (Colossians 1:10-12). The thankfulness would be expressed for their share of “the inheritance of the saints in light.” They were sufficiently assured of it to give thanks for it because they had been delivered “from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Colossians 1:13). This was something that they knew, and they were not walking well- pleasing unto the Lord, if they did not know it, and were not continually praising Him for it.

THE GODHEAD OF CHRIST

This reference to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, leads to the thought of His Person and Glory. “The image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) means more than a likeness. Two men are alike but one is not the image of the other. On the other hand, the head on a coin is not only a likeness of the sovereign but his image a copy of him derived from and representing him. So Christ is the representation of His Father because derived from Him (Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:3). There are then three teachings in this phrase, Christ is the Son of God, He is the Eternal Son of God, He is God. His eternal Sonship is seen in that He is not called the Son merely by reason of His incarnation, but as the image of God “prior to all creation,” as the next phrase may be rendered. It was not the incarnation which made Him the image of God, but being His image, the incarnation brought Him, so to speak, within our grasp. Moreover, a corroboration that He was “before all creation,” is set before us in the next two verses.

This declaration concerning His Godhead is followed by one concerning his reconciling work (Colossians 1:18-23). He is not only the head of the universe as God, but the Head of the church as the God-man. And He is the Head of the church, because He is the beginning of the church. And He is the beginning of the church because He is the firstborn from among the dead (Colossians 1:18), for the church is made up of raised ones like Himself. Now are they raised in a spiritual sense by faith, but when He comes again they will be raised in the bodily sense and glorified with Him. Being thus Head of the universe and Head of the church, the first in creation and the first in grace, in all things He has the preeminence, “for it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell” (Colossians 1:19), i.e., the whole fulness of the Godhead (see Colossians 2:9).

The Gnostics taught that a fragment of the Deity was given to the various divine emanations or angels, who, according to their false philosophy, were generated from the Supreme Deity. The fragment became less and less, in proportion as any one of these emanations was removed from Deity, but still each had a fragment. A smaller fragment was found in man also. The Greek word for fulness was pleroma. Paul wrests this word from their perversion of it, and appropriates it to Christ in the utmost extent of its significance. Inasmuch as in Him all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt, therefore it was possible “by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself” (Colossians 1:20), to bring them out of the deranged condition in which they were on account of sin into harmony with Himself.

RECONCILIATION THROUGH CHRIST

“Reconciliation” is that effect of the death of Christ on the believer, which, through Divine power, works in Him a thorough change toward God from enmity and aversion to love and trust. It is never said that God is reconciled. God is propitiated (Romans 3:25) but the sinner is reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

This reconciliation is true not of all things absolutely, but of “all The things,” or to give the exact order in the Greek, “The all things,” which it pleased God thus to reconcile. These things are those of earth and heaven, we perceive, but to hell (compare Matthew 25:46; Revelation 20:10). Among these especially, are men who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16). They were once alienated from God and enemies to Him, but now are they reconciled by him (Colossians 1:21), through the sacrifice of Christ, and presented “unblameable and unreprovable to His sight” (Colossians 1:22). This means that such is the position of the believer now, on the earth, the moment he believes on Christ (see our comment on Ephesians 1:4). The proof of it is that he is continuing in the faith (Colossians 1:23), “Preached to every creature under heaven,” means among all mankind, in all countries, in contrast to Judaism, for example, which was limited to one nation.

CHRIST DWELLING IN US

We now come to the still deeper mystery of Christ’s indwelling in the believer (Colossians 1:24-29). Paul had spoken of his ministry (Colossians 1:23), which caused his suffering (Colossians 1:24). This suffering had been endured on their account, but he rejoiced in it nevertheless. “The afflictions of Christ in my flesh,” means probably his own afflictions, and yet also Christ’s, on the principle that the Head suffers in the sufferings of His members (Acts 9:4-5; Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Corinthians 1:5). “He was going on to endure whatever remained of the afflictions which God had appointed for him to endure,” in the exercise of his ministry for them. His was a special ministry, a dispensation of God had been given him “to fully preach the Word of God.” This included the revelation of the mystery expressed in the words, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). This mystery is something more than the gospel of our salvation, for that had not been “hid” in the Old Testament. It is an altogether unique blessing, belonging only to the church of this dispensation, and is the indwelling of Christ. And note that this indwelling itself is not the “glory” spoken of but the hope of the glory. The glory includes our resurrection bodies; our new hearts in “unhindered development of Christly life”; our coming back with Christ again to earth, and sharing in the triumphs of His reappearing; our sitting with Him on His throne as He has sat down with His Father on His throne; and finally the glory which shall endure “to all the generations of the age of the ages” (Ephesians 3:4), for when at length the millennial church shall have been transferred to her place among the glorified, then shall there be “a new heaven and a new earth.” Oh, the glory of being a Christian!

QUESTIONS

1. What title do we give to this chapter?

2. Divide the chapter into three main parts.

3. What threefold declaration about Christ does it contain?

4. What is the meaning of the phrase “in all the world”?

5. What is the single petition of Paul’s prayer?

6. In what way are Christians to “walk worthy of the Lord”?

7. For what should the thankfulness of Christians be ever expressed?

8. What is the difference between a likeness and an image?

9. Why may we speak of Christ as the Eternal Son of God?

10. How did Christ come to be the head of the church as well as the universe?

11. What was the teaching of the Gnostics about the nature of the Deity?

12. Define reconciliation.

13. To what is this Divine reconciliation limited?

14. What is meant by the “afflictions of Christ in my flesh”?

15. Describe in a phrase the ministry Paul was commissioned to reveal.

16. What are some of the things which the promised glory includes?

 


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Bibliography Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Colossians 1:4". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jgc/colossians-1.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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