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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Colossians 1

 

 

Verses 1-29

Colossians 1:1-2. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ. This is noticed in 1 Corinthians 1:3. 2 Corinthians 1:2. He generally opens his addresses to the churches much in the same form of benediction, for we all drink of the same fountain of life. This epistle, so full of divine wisdom, would help their faith, and add to their joy. It would also prepare them beforehand for the tremendous visitation of an earthquake, about to destroy their city and the adjacent country.

Colossians 1:3-5. We give thanks to God, and [even] the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith and love. And what greater subject of gratitude could inspire the heart, than to see a rising church formed at Colosse, the capital of the province, and promising to spread through all Phrygia; a church celebrated from its infancy for faith and love; a church rescued from the darkness, the gross darkness of the gentiles, the power of Satan, and now blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. The reign of grace calls for unceasing praise, and more especially for the hope laid up for them in heaven. See on 2 Timothy 1:10.

Colossians 1:5-6. The gospel is come to you, as it is in all the world. The Romans in common language called their empire “the world;” and St. Paul often adopts the phrase, as in Colossians 1:27. Eusebius also says that the gospel was like the sun, enlightening the world at once. The fifteen thousand who had fled from Judea on the death of Stephen, travelled everywhere preaching the Lord Jesus, as stated on the eighth chapter of the Acts. He calls this gospel the word of truth, the Lord’s performance of his ancient promises. “Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent, from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.” Zephaniah 3:9-10. Isaiah 55:1. Thus the Redeemer was preached to the gentiles, and believed on in the world. 1 Timothy 3:16.

Colossians 1:7-8. As ye also [even] learned of Epaphras, the beloved minister who had first preached to them, and formed the churches of Colosse, and of other places.

Colossians 1:9-12. For this cause — we desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Paul uses the same words to the Ephesians, chap. Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:18; for when the glory of the person of Christ, and the grandeur of the human redemption is once fairly presented to the mind, it lays every other scheme of salvation prostrate, and transports the soul to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. But few of our well-instructed youths ever join themselves to the clubs of atheism.

The inward energy of grace corresponds with the intellectual glory of the gospel in the regeneration of the heart; it makes us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. And though we are still in progress, and pressing towards the mark of perfection, the Lord will complete the work already begun. We cannot come to our inheritance without an education for heaven; the cross must afore prepare us for the crown.

Colossians 1:13-14. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, from the teeth of the lion and the paw of the bear, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. He has pardoned our sins, and completed our justification in the gift of righteousness by faith. He has finished transgression, blotted out our iniquities, and covered them with his grace, according as he had promised, saying, “I will remove the iniquity of the land in one day.” Zechariah 3:9. So saved, and overcome with confusion by the weight of glory, may we raise the eyes of faith, and look on him who loved us, and washed us in his own blood, making us kings and priests unto God and his Father. In thus looking to the mediatorial throne, we behold the Lord of glory.

Colossians 1:15. Who is the image of the invisible God. The word αορατου, does not refer to image, but to God the invisible. Invisibilis, non refertur ad imaginem, sed ad Deum. — ERASMUS. As man was created in knowledge, in righteousness, and true holiness, so Christ is the Wisdom of God, possessed by the Father before all worlds. Proverbs 8:22-30. He being one with the Father, planned and formed the whole work of creation. He is the image of the Eternal in power, for whatsoever the Father doeth, that doeth the Son likewise. John 5:19.

In every view, he is the brightness or beaming forth of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person. By an equivalent expression in the ancient scriptures, he is called “the face of God,” and the Angel of his presence. Beware of him, saith the Lord, and obey his voice. Provoke him not, for he will not pardon your transgressions, for “my name is in him.” Exodus 23:20. On these words we cannot have a better comment than that of our Saviour, in Matthew 11:27. “All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.”

The firstborn of every creature. This word is of constant occurrence, as, “the firstborn” among many brethren. And when he bringeth his “first- begotten” into the world, he saith, let all the angels of God worship him. He is also the “first-begotten” from the dead. Romans 8:29. Hebrews 1:6. Revelation 1:5. Other texts associate here, as, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Psalms 2:7. Agur, a very illustrious man, whose sayings the servants of king Hezekiah appended to Solomon’s proverbs, speaking of the creation, asks, What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell? The name of the Sire and the Son is one name, a name unutterable. Other words occur in connection with the person of Christ, who is invested with the glory, as of “the only-begotten of the Father.” John 1:14. He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared the Son of God with power, by his resurrection from the dead. Romans 1:3-4.

These voices are the living oracles, not the dictates of philosophy, for the world by wisdom knew not God. The doctors are unable to give us comments. The ark must not be touched with human hands, yet we are allowed to compare spiritual things with spiritual, as Paul does in the next words.

Colossians 1:16-17. 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: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. See notes on Ephesians 1:20-23.

On this great subject the Arians contend, that the Father created the Word or the Wisdom, or the Messiah, before he had created principalities and powers, that he might be the head of all created intelligences. They presume to prove it from Proverbs 8:22, where they follow the mistaken reading of the Septuagint, which has the word “created.” This acceptation of the Hebrew is erroneous, whose import in this place is, possessed, not created, as is proved from the same word used by Moses in Genesis 4:1. When Eve embraced her firstborn, she exclaimed, Kaniti, I have gotten a man, the Lord, or from the Lord. Now, Eve possessed her son in her bosom; she could not create him; and this idea, in regard of Christ coincides with John 1:18. “The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

Others, whether to call them christian doctors or not, seems doubtful, confine the terms, firstborn, and the first begotten, wholly to the resurrection of our Saviour from the tomb. This they plead gave him, as the firstborn, a title to be Lord, both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:9. They attempt to justify the idea by the effusion of the Spirit, and by the power of the gospel. All this is true, but it is not the whole truth. Paul is brief here, having been full in Romans 1:3-4, where he states that Christ was indeed the seed of David according to the flesh, but declared to be the Son of God with power, when he was raised from the dead. By consequence, his resurrection only “declared” his uncreated glory, which had been hidden under the form of a servant. What connection can subsist between Christ’s mortal flesh, yesterday in the tomb, and his being the Creator of thrones, principalities, and powers in heavenly places? When he says, Thou art my Son, it means that he is, that he ever was, and ever will be the same.

The gloss of those colder christians is at full issue with the Nicene fathers, who believed “In one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds. God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” So Polycarp adored him in the fire. “I thank thee, I praise and glorify thee for all thy mercies through the eternal Highpriest Jesus Christ, thy beloved Son, through whom, to thee, together with him, and the Holy Ghost, be glory now and for ever. Amen.” — Euseb. Ecclesiastes Hist. 5:15.

Of the Nicene fathers, who were in effect the great grandchildren of the apostles, Simon Episcopius, who seems himself to have been reclaimed from a leaning to Arianism, gives their true spirit and sense. “If you conceive him to be the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, whom it was not requisite to send into the world, the dignity of whose person was too exalted, either to be clothed with flesh, or exposed to death; for being the only-begotten of the Father, and too dear to him to suffer, then assuredly the inestimable love of God to fallen man shines out with resplendent lustre.”

Colossians 1:20. Having made peace through the blood of his cross. It was an ancient law to offer sacrifice after revolts into sin, after war, and after sickness: thus Christ is our peace. Romans 5:12, 2 Corinthians 5:19-20. Ephesians 2:14-15. But all in earth and heaven being named here, some have thought that the human redemption was designed also for the edification of angels, and for confirmation in their high and happy state.

Colossians 1:23. If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled. The first means of perseverance are to be well-instructed in the glory of the Redeemer’s person, and in the mystery of the gospel, and to have Christ formed in us the hope of glory, by the power of regenerating grace. Then we know the truth, and taste the lovingkindness of the Lord. In this age the caution is requisite, and peculiarly so; for the gospel, which in a few years was preached to all the Roman world, is now despised. Myriads of men have lost their hope, and myriads of professed christians are wicked and profligate as infidels, while others are dead branches about to be burned. All these are so many admonitions to be faithful to Christ, and to continue in welldoing to the end of our course.

Colossians 1:25. I am made a minister for you, to fulfil the word of God to the gentiles. Genesis 12:3. This expression is not the language of one who was a total stranger to the church of Colosse; it indicates a high degree of probability that Paul had visited that city.

Colossians 1:28. Whom we preach, in all his glory, as described in this chapter, warning every man, for those who join this rebellious age shall not inherit the kingdom of God. — We must teach and feed the flock daily, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, in reference to justifying and sanctifying grace, and especially in regard to the perfect love of God, which makes us bold in the day of crisis.

REFLECTIONS.

The commission of Paul to preach to the gentiles made him debtor to all men, for the love of Christ has made the church one family. He therefore writes to the Colossians in the fulness of his heart, as he does to the Laodiceans, and to other churches, congratulating them on their faith in Christ, and love to each other, making continual mention of them in his prayers. For ever adored be the divine goodness, that the word of God, which sets before us a hope laid up in heaven, is come unto us, and to all the world. Let us often examine ourselves as to the fruit it has brought forth in our own hearts and lives. Let us be solicitous for ourselves and others, that we may in a more spiritual and intelligent manner be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all its compass and extent, so far as he has been pleased to reveal it; and that this knowledge may produce in us the most substantial effects, so as to engage us to walk worthy of the Lord whose name we bear, and in a manner which he may behold with approbation and pleasure; being fruitful and encreasing more and more in every good work, that our barrenness may not reproach our profession, and that the great vital truths of christianity may not seem to be dead or dormant in our hearts.

To give them their full energy on our souls, we need the operation of God’s glorious and mighty power, by which we may not only be established in all patience and longsuffering, but inspired with holy joy. Then shall we breathe forth lively acknowledgments to the Father, who hath revealed to us that glorious inheritance which he distributes amongst the saints in light, even that kingdom where they all reign in everlasting friendship, purity and joy. May he prepare us to receive our lot, and take up our abode there! And oh, how inexcusable shall we be, if we make ourselves the slaves of sin, while we have our abode in the visible kingdom of Christ. How fearful, to neglect or despise the blood of the covenant, and the mercy which it establishes, and thus seal ourselves up under a guilt never to be removed, a guilt heightened to infinite degrees of provocation and malignity, by the very methods which have been taken to expiate it.

Let us learn by this sublime discourse of our holy apostle, how we are to conceive of our Lord and Saviour, to whose glory he so wisely and happily consecrated the labours of his pen and of his life: and while we commemorate that precious blood in which we have redemption, even the remission of our sins, let us bow to him as the image of the invisible God, and the firstborn of the whole creation. And whatever discoveries we may at any time receive as to the display of the divine power, wisdom and goodness, in the formation of the visible or invisible world, let us remember that by Christ all things were created, not excepting thrones and dominions, principalities and powers. The angels of God worship him, as with and by the Father, their great Original and Support, acknowledging with Paul, and with the whole catholic church as taught by him, that in Christ all things subsist. Let us then, with the whole host of heaven, bow down before him, and worship Him that sits upon the throne, and the Lamb. Let us with all humility adore his condescension, in uniting us to himself in such dear and intimate bonds, and avowing himself the Head of the church, which he disdains not to call his body, though he be the beginning of the creation of God, as well as the firstborn from the dead, and beyond comparison preëminent in all.

Important indeed are the consequences of this his condescension. It is by him that God is reconciled to us and dwells in us. It is the blood of his cross that hath made peace between jews and gentiles, between heaven and earth. Justly might the angels have forsaken this earth, and have ascended to heaven to enter their protest against sinful man, yea to seek a commission for executing vengeance upon apostate creatures. But now, through Christ, they are become our friends and our brethren. At his command they minister to the heirs of salvation, and will continue their kind offices till heaven gives the interview which earth denies, and lays a foundation for the endearments of an everlasting friendship. Oh that this reconciling gospel might be effectually preached to every creature under heaven.

To experience its efficacy, the gospel must subdue our hearts to holiness. To be still under the power of sin, to go on in a course of evil works, is to continue at enmity with God, and all his holy and happy creatures. Let us see to it, that we thankfully accept the reconciliation which the gospel proposes. Then shall we at length be presented blameless, irreproachable and holy in his sight. As we hope for this end, let nothing remove us from our steadfastness, nor from that glorious hope of the gospel for which it is certain nothing can be an equivalent. May divine grace establish and confirm us in it, and make us victorious over every thing that might attempt to supplant our feet and take away our crown.

To bear sufferings with patience has justly been reckoned a high attainment; and it was the boasted strength and glory of the pagan philosophy to teach men to do it; a glory in which it was often deficient, a strength which often failed them, who had the fairest opportunities of being proficients in their schools. But Paul had learnt by the philosophy of Jesus to rejoice in tribulation, when considered as subservient to the honour of Christ, and to the good of his church, even of those members of it whom he had never seen in the flesh. He rejoiced in thus fulfilling his embassy, and confirming that important word of God which taught the mystery concealed from so many ages and generations. And what was that mystery, but the same that is so clearly revealed to us, even that Christ in us is the hope of glory? To gentile sinners that were without hope, is hope now preached, the hope not of felicity only, but of eternal glory.

This hope is not only proclaimed amongst us, but is actually formed in all them that believe, though to many who hear of it in the preaching of the gospel, Christ is still a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. Highly are they honoured who have it in charge to preach him. May they learn from the apostle how it is to be done. It is to be attended with practical instructions and admonitions, to be conducted with the greatest prudence and care, and to be addressed to every man, according to his respective character and circumstances in life; that so, if it be by any means possible to prevent it, none of those committed to their care and charge may be lost, but every one at length be presented perfect in Christ in that day, when among all that truly belong to him there shall be no remaining imperfections.

Surely this is a cause in which it is worth their while to strive. May the strength of God work powerfully in them for that purpose. Then will our hearts be comforted, when we have attained to the full assurance of the truth of our religion, when we courageously acknowledge and maintain it, when we improve it to the great end for which it was preached to us, and having professed to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord, make it our care in a suitable manner to walk in him.

For this purpose, let us endeavour to be deeply rooted and grounded in him, confirmed in the faith as the apostles taught it; giving thanks to God for the instructions we receive in it, and numbering it, as we have great reason to do, among the choicest mercies we could receive, even from an omnipotent hand, not only that we hear the sound of the gospel, but that we have felt its vital influence upon our hearts.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Colossians 1:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/colossians-1.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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