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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Colossians 1

 

 

Verse 1-2

Opening Greeting (Colossians 1:1-2)

‘Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.’

As usual Paul begins by stating his credentials. He is an Apostle of Christ Jesus. When Jesus was preparing for the future ministry of His followers He selected from among them twelve whom He called Apostles (Luke 6:13; see also Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19). The word means ‘those sent forth’ and can mean simply duly appointed messengers, but here it had the technical sense of those especially selected by Christ Himself to be witnesses to His life and teaching. It was in this sense that Paul also claimed Apostleship, on the same level as the twelve, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, a status accepted by Peter and the other Apostles (Galatians 2:7-9; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 2 Corinthians 12:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:6).

‘Through the will of God.’ Paul stresses that his Apostleship was not man made, nor even by his own choice, but directly within the will of God. It was He Who had chosen Him and set him apart from his birth to be an Apostle (Galatians 1:15) as He had with the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 49:5) and Jeremiah before him (Jeremiah 1:5).

‘And Timothy our brother.’ Timothy has clearly grown to a stature whereby he can be linked with Paul in greeting (whereas other important men are not - Colossians 4:10-14). It would seem that he was well known to the Colossians for he is not mentioned in Ephesians, which was probably intended for a number of churches, and was written around the same time. ‘Our brother.’ Not an Apostle but to be accepted as ‘a brother’. The early church had a deep sense of being a family. (For Timothy see Acts 16:1 on; Philippians 2:19-22; and the letters to Timothy).

‘To the saints’ (hagioi). This describes all those who belong to Christ and are members of His church. They are ‘sanctified (hegiasmenoi) in Christ’ (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14) and therefore ‘saints’ (sanctified ones). They are ‘set apart’ as His for a holy purpose (the main significance of the word ‘sanctify’), indwelt by His Holy Spirit, and separated to His use. It is noteworthy that earlier letters are addressed to churches as such but that Paul later moves to the more personal address as here.

‘And faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.’ This indicates that while entry into the blessing of Christ is by faith, evidence of it is found in faithfulness. The words that follow are spoken to those who faithfully follow Him. Note the final ‘in Christ’. It is in Him, and only in Him, that all blessing is found, and it is He alone Who can keep us faithful.

Colossians 1:2, ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father.’

‘Grace to you.’ Nothing can be more desirable than to have God looking on us and acting towards us in love and favour, and this is what is signified by grace. It is the undeserved love and consequent saving activity of God. Thus Paul wants the Colossians to know that he desires for them only that they enjoy the experience of the grace of God, something which does not need to be earned but is freely given..

‘And peace.’ Peace results from grace, but the kind of peace mentioned here is also God’s gift, flowing from Him to us. Once we know that we are right with God, and experience His graciousness towards us, we have peace with God (Romans 5:1), so that we are flooded with His peace (Galatians 5:22) and enjoy such peace, prosperity and success of spirit that our hearts can only overflow. For, however things may seem to smile on us, if God is not pleased with us, we cannot fully know peace. The very foundation then of peace in our hearts is the favour of God, by which we enjoy true and genuine prosperity of spirit through the work of His Spirit, and find the peace of God which passes all understanding guarding our thoughts and hearts (Philippians 4:7). This is what Paul wished for, and prayed for, for the Colossians.

‘From God our Father.’ His words to them come from the One Who is over all, but Who is especially their Father. In the first century this would convey the idea of a rather austere figure, a figure of authority as well as that of tenderness.

Usually Paul links ‘and the Lord Jesus Christ’ or similar in his greeting, and later manuscripts include it here. But this reading is probably the original, if only because of its uniqueness. Possibly he has in mind what he is about to write and does not want to pre-empt it.


Verse 3

‘Praying always for you.’ Paul wants them to know of his constant concern for them, and that he prays for their spiritual growth because he is aware of their dedicated Christian lives. It is the sign of the true minister of Christ that he prays tenderly for his flock.


Verse 4-5

‘Having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have toward all the saints, because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens which you heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel.’

Paul has heard that they have a sound faith based on faith in Christ Jesus, they have love for all God’s people and they have hope for the eternal future. This triad of faith, love and hope appears elsewhere (Romans 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 13:3; Galatians 5:5-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Hebrews 10:22-24; 1 Peter 1:22-23). Faith refers to their past response now consolidated in their present behaviour and attitude (see Colossians 1:23). They are grounded in the faith and continue to express it in and through their lives. Love demonstrates their continuation in the faith, and the work of the Spirit within (Ephesians 3:16-19). Hope expresses the end result of their faith, a certainty which enables them to endure, the expectancy of their final transformation and exaltation (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:52-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).

‘Your faith in Christ Jesus.’ He certainly has in mind ‘the faith’ in which they are grounded, their basis of sound doctrine, which is the basis of their certain hope for the future (Colossians 1:23). But also included is their day by day faith in Christ revealed in their lives. For Christ is central in ‘the faith’ as he is about to declare.

‘The love which you have towards all the saints.’ This was constantly looked for in the early church and was seen as one sign of a genuine Christian. Where love is lacking, genuineness is lacking. It was the command of Jesus that His people should love one another (John 13:35; John 15:12; John 15:17) and it is the first aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; see Colossians 1:7 and compare Romans 12:10; Romans 13:8 and often). The love referred to is Christian love (see 1 Corinthians 13). It is not sexual nor based on the loveableness of the person loved, but on the spiritual attitude of the one who loves and desires the best for ‘all the saints’, all God’s people, even when they are not very saintly.

‘Because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens.’ They know that Christ is in them, ‘the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27). Thus they look forward to a glorious hope. The New Testament is full of this hope, the hope for what will happen at the second coming of Christ, when the Lord is revealed from Heaven, raises dead believers and transforms His own and takes them to be with Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; 1 Corinthians 15:52-54). Then there will be a new heaven and a new earth, places where there is only righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).

‘Because of the hope.’ Their faith and love are kept constant by this hope. Those who lose sight of the hope soon begin to languish.

‘The word of the truth of the Gospel.’ The preaching of the truth of the Good News of their participation in the death and resurrection of Christ also includes the Christian’s glorious hope. ‘Word’ regularly means the preached word, compare 1 Corinthians 1:18. Notice the emphasis on ‘the truth’, a constant theme of Jesus (consider especially John 14-16) and a constant theme of Paul’s. It was not just belief, it was the word of truth. Ephesians 1:13 speaks similarly of ‘the word of truth, the Good News of your salvation’.


Verse 6

‘Which is come to you even as it is also in all the world, bearing fruit and increasing, as it does in you also since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.’

This word of truth has borne fruit among them and resulted in their growth as Christians and the drawing of many to Christ, and indeed has done so since they first heard it. And it has not just been effective in them, but also in ‘all the world’. And what is this word? It is the true knowledge of the grace of God, of the unmerited active favour of God acting on their behalf, revealed in Christ. There may be here a reflection of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13). The sowing of the word produces growth and abundant harvest.

‘In all the world.’ That is in all the world with which he was familiar, and even beyond. He knew that the preaching of the Gospel was spreading out wider and wider.


Verse 7-8

‘Even as you learned of Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.’

Paul rejoiced in the close bond between himself and his fellow-workers. To him they were all beloved. It was clearly Epaphras, sent out by Paul, who had established the church at Colossae and returned to Paul declaring how they had revealed true spiritual love implanted in them by the Holy Spirit. He also established the churches at Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13) and upheld them all in constant prayer. Thus can Paul declare, ‘he is faithful’ in the task he is carrying out and has carried out ‘on our behalf’. They work as a team and each works on behalf of the whole.

‘A faithful fellow-servant (sun-doulos, a ‘together servant’)) and a faithful servant (diakonos) of Christ.’ What greater commendation could there be? And this from Paul who knew how to assess men. It is required in servants that they be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2), and Epaphras was faithful. He also apparently shared one of Paul’s imprisonments (Philemon 1:23).

‘Epaphras.’ See also Colossians 4:12; Philemon 1:23. The name is short for Epaphroditus, but Paul probably distinguished him from the other Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:18) by this shortened name.


Verse 9

‘For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and to make request for you that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.’

Their first prayer was that the Holy Spirit might bring home to them (and to us) the true knowledge of His will. ‘That you might be filled with the knowledge of His will.’ There is nothing more important for us than that we should have an understanding of the will of God filling our hearts and minds Many teachers of all kinds tried to catch their ears claiming to impart a special ‘knowledge’ (gnosis) about God. So it was vital that through it all they should have the true knowledge (epignosis) of the will of God. And that could only be by being enlightened by the Spirit.

‘In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.’ He prays that they might have spiritual wisdom and spiritual understanding. This is understanding and wisdom imparted by the Spirit of God, something that should be our constant desire and prayer. And we know that to Paul the true wisdom was found in the cross (1 Corinthians 1:17-24 compare Colossians 1:13-14), and in the crucified One Who was Himself the Wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30). He also knew that this could only be brought home to the spiritual man by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11-15).

As he says later, in Christ Himself ‘are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3). Thus he is praying that they might have a full understanding of Jesus Christ as the crucified Saviour (Colossians 2:13-14), Who was made unto them wisdom from God revealed in righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). A wisdom that would lead them in the way and walk of humility (Philippians 2:5-11). For truly, ‘The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil, that is understanding’ (Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10). Wisdom signifies a true awareness of God and of all that He is, knowledge refers to an understanding of His ways.


Verses 9-14

Paul’s Prayer that They Might Have Understanding, and Strength (Colossians 1:9-14).

Once Paul had learned of their response to Christ he and his fellow-workers had begun to pray for them constantly. Their first prayer was that they might have spiritual wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of His will. This is the most important thing for us all, true knowledge and understanding, and it leads on to what follows. Then they prayed that they may walk in accordance with that wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:10). For such wisdom and understanding, if genuine, will produce ‘the fear of the Lord’ and departure from evil (Job 28:28). And then they prayed that they might have the strength imparted to enable them to do it (Job 28:11), for without that God given strength all would be impossible. And finally they prayed that they might appreciate the power and glory through which this has become possible, our redemption in Christ (Job 28:12-14).

The liturgical nature of some of what follows may suggest that they result from creeds and prayers put together by Paul and the other Apostles to assist in the church’s worship, resembling similarly constructed liturgies found in synagogue worship. As Christ had taught them to pray and worship, so they would teach others.


Verse 10

‘To walk worthily of the Lord, pleasing in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.’

Their continuing prayer was further that this would result in a walk that was worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in everything. As His way of humility was brought home to them, and as the purpose of God for their lives was revealed to them, they must then bear fruit in good works of every kind and must increase in the knowledge of God. In the final analysis godly understanding is revealed in godly behaviour and growth in the knowledge of God. And this pleases Him (compare 2 Timothy 2:4).

Those who have had the cross brought home to their hearts, and who have grown in the knowledge of the Crucified and risen Saviour, can have only one aim, and that is to please Him in everything they do, and to walk as He walked. They will ‘seek first the kingship of God and His righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33). Then their lives will become fruitful (compare Matthew 6:6) and good works will abound. They have the heart and mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). And as they walk with the Lord and in His word, learning more about Him from that authoritative source, and as they abound in good works, learning the lessons of patient endurance and consideration for others, their knowledge of God will deepen and become wider and broader.

There is an important lesson for us here. The test of whether we are really coming to know God better is whether it produces practical results in our lives so that even those we live with begin to see the difference.


Verse 11

‘Strengthened with all power according to the might of his glory (His glorious might) unto all patience and longsuffering with joy.’

The third prayer was that they might experience the mighty strength which would enable them to walk successfully in this way. That they might be strengthened with ‘all power’, that is with all the power that has its source in ‘the might of His glory’. Thus as they considered His present glory and authority, and His almighty power revealed in that glory, they should know that it revealed something of the power on which they could draw, and this would enable them to walk worthily of the Lord. How? By displaying patient endurance and longsuffering, and being joyful in their doing of it.

Note how Paul recognises that all the power of the God of glory will be needed to keep them patiently enduring and to enable them to be longsuffering and considerate for others. Man is good at being inconsiderate. He loves to display his ability and self-importance, he loves to strut the stage and have his own way, or in some cases simply to have his own way quietly but firmly. He has no difficulty in doing that. He needs no strengthening to do it. It is natural to him. But this is not the way of Christ. The way of Christ is joyful ‘patient endurance and longsuffering’, bearing with others, putting up with their weaknesses, and seeking to help them while at the same time being careful not to be caught in the same trap, and having joy in doing so. It includes joy in the face of persecution when it comes. And this kind of life requires the full power of God.


Verses 12-14

‘Giving thanks to the Father who has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, who delivered us out of the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of his beloved Son (the Son of his love), in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.’

Here is the source of the power, and of the privilege of walking worthily of the Lord, and the motive force behind it. It is in the action of the Father. It is the Father Who has done these things. And Paul gives thanks for what He has done, and he wants the Colossians, and us, to do so as well. He points out that He has ‘made us meet’, made us into what is required. He has delivered us, and He has redeemed and forgiven us. Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like me His praise should sing?

‘Who has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.’ When we consider the glory of that inheritance, that time when the people of God will dwell with the Father in His everlasting light (Revelation 21:22-23; Revelation 22:5), we, in our sinfulness, can only ask, ‘how can we may be made meet (hikanosanti), be made sufficient, be made suitable and satisfactory, be made worthy, for this?’ And the answer is given. ‘He has delivered us from darkness and brought us into light and under His kingly rule’, having redeemed and forgiven us so that we can face that light without fear, and has been ‘made unto us righteousness’ (1 Corinthians 1:30) so that we have been made ‘the righteousness of God in Him’ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

‘Who delivered us out of the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.’ We were under ‘the power of darkness’, the rule of darkness (note the contrast with the rule of Christ, the rule of light). Our minds were blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4), we were manipulated by Satan, we followed His ways (see Ephesians 2:2-3). And then God stepped in. He paid the transfer price that justice demanded, and ,through the death of the Redeemer, He delivered us from darkness and from Satan’s manipulation, and transferred us into another sphere of power, the kingship, the rule of His own beloved Son. So were we brought into heavenly places with Christ, recognising Him as our Lord, submitting to Him and sharing with Him His power and His glory (Ephesians 2:4-6). This is our present state, preparing us for the heavenly kingdom yet to come when earth’s clutch will be no more.

‘The power of darkness.’ Here darkness is seen as a kingdom which has power over us. We can compare how Jesus said to the Jewish leaders who came to arrest Him, ‘this is your hour and the power of darkness’ (Luke 22:53). They were acting on behalf of the power of darkness, as do all who oppose Christ. (Compare the parallel expression ‘the power of Satan’ in Acts 26:18).

‘The Son of His love.’ His own beloved Son. He Who was great and loved beyond all measure. He Who had died and had risen again and was now seated far above all in glory and majesty (Ephesians 1:20-22), it is His kingdom that we share. And we share His kingdom even now prior to that day when God will become all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

The ‘kingdom (kingship) of Christ’ is never elsewhere referred to specifically as such in the New Testament, but the idea is regularly implied for He is the King, both on His own throne and on His Father’s throne (Revelation 3:21). He is set at God’s right hand and rules over all (Ephesians 1:20-21). It refers here to His present rule over His people. We are under His rule and called to be obedient and dedicated to Him. But this will be extended by His future rule (Matthew 25:34) when His people enter eternal life (Matthew 25:46) to receive the future kingdom. It parallels ‘the kingdom (kingship) of God’ which also has present aspects (Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 4:20; Colossians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:12) and future aspects (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 5:21; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:18), and can be called ‘the kingdom of Christ and of God’ (Ephesians 5:5 compare Revelation 11:15). The emphasis here is on the fact that He has established His rule by His redeeming love and power in accordance with the will of the Father.

‘In Whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.’ Here is the secret. A price was paid, a ransom (Mark 10:45). We were ‘redeemed’. We were bought back through His blood (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-20). Our lives were forfeit but the price of sin was paid by Another dying in our place (Mark 10:45). And thus we were delivered. The price was not paid to Satan. He had no rights over us except by conquest. The price was paid at the bar of justice before the Judge of all to satisfy a broken Law.

But redemption not only includes the payment of a price, it also includes redemption by power. And through the cross He broke the power of evil and set us free from bondage to Satan and his forces (Colossians 2:15). And so we received forgiveness for all our sins. We were rid of them for they were laid on Him (Isaiah 53:6). And we being thus forgiven no longer have our sins counted against us, for they are cancelled out. They are removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). We are made righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

‘Redemption.’ The idea of redemption is redemption from bondage, from bondage to sin as our accuser (Romans 7:11; Romans 3:24-25) and as our slave-master (Romans 6:12-14; Romans 6:17; Romans 6:23; Romans 7:5; Romans 7:23), from bondage to fear of death (Hebrews 2:15), from bondage to Satan as ruler over the power of darkness. It is deliverance by the payment of a price and the exercise of great power.

‘The forgiveness of our sins.’ A popular New Testament idea. The word for forgiveness here is ’aphesis which means ‘cancellation’ and is used to mean the cancellation of the guilt of sin. It is common in the New Testament, see Matthew 26:28; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:77; Luke 3:3; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38 (by Paul); Acts 26:18 (by Paul); Hebrews 9:22; Hebrews 10:18, but rarely used by Paul in his epistles (only here, in Ephesians 1:7, a parallel passage, and in a quotation in Romans 4:7) who tends to speak more in terms of ‘reckoning righteous’. Elsewhere he speaks of ‘pardon’ (charizomai) for sin (Colossian Colossians 2:13) and the ‘passing over’ of sins done aforetime in the light of Christ’s then future redemptive work (Romans 3:25). For such forgiveness see Psalms 51:1; Psalms 51:9; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22. See also James 5:15; 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:12.

The deliverance from the power of darkness that we might receive forgiveness of sins, and the receive His inheritance, are found also in Paul’s words to Agrippa (echoing Christ’s words to him), ‘to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me’ (Acts 26:18).


Verse 15

‘Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.’

‘Who is the image of the invisible God.’ The God of the Jews was invisible and could not be represented by any physical representation in earth or heaven, whether of supernatural being, man or beast (Exodus 20:4). Such representations could only be images of a visible God, and would thus misrepresent God. So ‘the image’ is not meant to suggest God’s physical likeness. Rather it means revealing Him in His essential being. As ‘the image of the invisible God’ Christ has made the invisible God known to man in a unique way, in His life, His power and His teaching. He has shown what God is really like. He has revealed His glory.

Thus John can say, ‘we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Son of His Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14), and adds, ‘No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son Who is in the Father’s bosom, He has made Him known’ (John 1:18). He is the ‘monogenes (only begotten), the only One of like nature with the Father, as opposed to being a creation of God.

That is why Jesus Himself could say, ‘How do you say “show us the Father”? He who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). We behold God in the things Jesus said and the things He did, in what He essentially was, for the Father was in Him and working through Him uniquely. He did not hesitate to point to Himself as revealing the Father’s full glory.

Hebrews puts it this way, ‘Who being the outshining (effulgence) of His glory and the stamped out image of His substance’ (Hebrews 1:3). The ‘outshining’ refers to light that comes from a glorious object, of the same essence and revealing its glory, like the rays of the sun. The ‘stamped out image’ refers to that which is an exact representation of what is stamped out by a seal. Neither should be taken too literally. God is not physical light, nor can invisibility be ‘stamped out’. Thus both tell us that He reveals the very nature and being of God, not some physical image.

We can compare how in Romans 1:20, Paul tells us that ‘the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even His everlasting power and Godness’. Note that it is invisible things which are ‘seen’, that is grasped and understood in the mind, just as the invisible God is ‘seen’ through Christ. But this perceiving was not, be it noted, through small parts of that creation, which were strictly forbidden as representations of Him, but through creation seen as a whole. The very heavens and earth declared His glory, and power, and uniqueness to the receptive mind, for He was their Creator. But here now was One Who even more revealed that everlasting power and ‘Godness’ in His very nature and being.

‘The firstborn (prototokos) of all creation.’ On earth the firstborn was the one who, being of the same nature as his father, most fully revealed what his father was. He would one day stand in the place of his father, and be as his father once his father had died. He was, as it were, the reproduction of the father. In Greek philosophy also the Firstborn (prototokos) was seen as the one who fully represented the divine Reason, the Logos, in its relation to the world and as being of the same nature as the divine Reason. But in this latter case both were eternal, the one merging into the other. The stress is on likeness of nature and likeness of being, not physically but essentially.

Paul may also have had in mind the Messianic connection of the term. In Psalms 89:27 God says, ‘I also will make him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.’ This was interpreted Messianically by the Jews. Here the idea is of one made superior and set over all.

But He is the Firstborn ‘of all creation’ not just of the Jews. (This is part of the ‘mystery’ as we shall see shortly (Psalms 89:27)). Thus as the Firstborn of all creation, Christ is seen to have precedence to, and authority over all, creation.

But this will now be related to Him creating all things, which includes the whole supernatural sphere. So His sphere of authority comes as Creator, the One Who was in existence before all things. He is superior because He is God’s ‘firstborn’, the One Who reveals Him as He is, and indeed because He is Hisonlybegotten Son. (These are human, and therefore inadequate pictures. They are intended to convey oneness of essence, not that He was ‘born later’ than the Father. Theologians use the term ‘eternally begotten’, ‘not begotten at a point in time’, to describe this).

Thus Jesus Christ as the Firstborn fully represents His Father. He is before all things, He is the heir of all things and supreme over all things, and He is the One through Whom the Father approaches the world. We might thus paraphrase, ‘ the Firstborn, He Who was before the whole of creation, who was of the same essence as the Prime Creator, who represented the Prime Creator in His external relationships and was set over all things supernatural, brought the creation into being.’ As Jesus Himself said, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58).


Verses 15-20

The Glory of Christ (Colossians 1:15-20).

Paul now brings to their attention the glory of their Redeemer, the One Who created all things and is over all..


Verse 16-17

‘For in (or ‘by’) him were all things created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or power, all things have been created through him and unto him, and he is before all things and in him all things hold together.’

Jesus as ‘the Firstborn’ created all things. Paul is careful to include those beings which existed before the world was created, and to exclude nothing. They were created through Him, and the purpose of their creation was His own benefit and satisfaction (‘unto Him’). Then, to make matters even clearer he says, ‘Heisbefore all things’ (’autos ’estin pro panton). He existed before all things, and takes precedence before all things. He is supreme over all, permanently and unceasingly. And He sustains and holds together all things.

This proclamation of Christ as the creator of all things is found elsewhere, in Hebrews 1:2 ‘through Whom also He made the worlds’, in John 1:3, ‘all things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that has been made’, and in 1 Corinthians 8:6, ‘one Lord Jesus Christ through Whom are all things’.

‘In (or ‘by’) Him were all things created.’ Paul does not qualify this, he expands on it. It does not only include earthly creation but the creation of all heavenly beings. Note that He isnotsaid to be the ‘first-created (protoktisis). As the ‘firstborn’ of God He existed before creation.

If we translate ‘in Him’ (the preposition can mean either) he is the sphere in which all things were created, and thus ‘bigger’ than them all. If we translate ‘by Him’ He was the source of that creation. Usually creation is said to be ‘through Him’ (see paragraph above) which may support translating ‘in Him’ here. The verb ‘created’ is in the aorist tense signifying a once for all action. Compare later in the verse where it is in the perfect tense, signifying a creation that endures to the present.

‘In the heavens and on the earth.’ He then expands this to include all supernatural beings and everything, whether visible or invisible. ‘Thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers’ represents all authority wherever it may be, including Satan himself. Nothing is outside His creation or His control. Ancient religions invented many demi-gods and divine beings, probably in awareness of these supernatural authorities, but whatever they be, says Paul, He is over them all.

‘In Him all things hold together.’ All is sustained by Him. He has but to withdraw His hand and the universe will collapse within itself. In the words of Hebrews 1:3, ‘He upholds all things by His powerful word.’


Verse 18

‘And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.’

Not only does the old creation have its being from Him, but also the new creation. He is not only Lord and Head over all things (Ephesians 1:22) but also the Head, the Overlord, of the church, that gathering of people who have been united with Him in His body. Firstly because He is ‘the beginning’, and secondly because He is ‘the firstborn from the dead’. Thus the aim is that as the Firstborn of all creation, the source and Lord of the old creation, and as the Firstborn from the dead, the source and Lord of the new creation, He should have total pre-eminence in and over all things.

‘He is the Head of the body.’ This does not mean that we are to see Him as the head in heaven and we as, as it were, a body joined to that head, and representing Him on earth. It refers to His sovereignty over the body, a body which is made up of Himself and His people united with Him. As Ephesians 1:22 tells us, as Head He is not just the head of the church but the ‘Head over all things’ to the church. His Headship stresses His supremacy, not a direct connection with the body. Consider how in 1 Corinthians 12 the body, which is Himself and His people, includes the head, all of whom are represented by it (1 Corinthians 12:16 where ear and eye are part of the body, and 1 Corinthians 12:21 where the head is contrasted with the feet, all within the body). So He Who is Head of creation (Ephesians 1:22 and implied here in Colossians) is also Head of the church (not as its head as opposed to its body but as its sovereign Lord).

‘Of the body.’ The people of God are His body because they have been united with Him in His body. They have been crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:24; Galatians 6:14; Romans 6:5-6; Romans 7:4; Ephesians 2:16 ), they have risen with Him (Romans 6:4-6; Ephesians 2:1-6), they are one with Him (Ephesians 5:31-32; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13) and the bread at the Lord’s Table represents both Him and them (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). To suggest that this speaks of the church as the ‘extension of His incarnation’ is to miss the point completely. It does not mean that. It emphasises spiritual union within the body. The idea of the body is never as outward in relation to the world, but always as inward in relation to God and to each other. They are onewithHim, and one with each other. They have been presented blameless ‘in the body of His flesh through death’ (Colossians 1:22). For further treatment of this subject see the Appendix.

‘Who is the beginning.’ He was its founder and commencer. It is ‘His church’, which He would build on Peter’s confession (Matthew 16:18). And He is its originator and the source of its life. He began it all.

‘The firstborn from the dead.’ He is pre-eminent in resurrection and indeed the prime cause in the raising from the dead (John 5:26). He had the power to lay down His life and the power to take it again (John 10:18). It was only through His resurrection that the resurrection of others became possible (consider Matthew 27:52-53). We can live because He lived. And when He speaks all the dead will rise (John 5:28-29). Thus He is Lord of the resurrection.

‘That in all things He might have the pre-eminence.’ Both old and new creation owe their being and continuing existence to Him. And the overall goal of the Godhead was His total pre-eminence.


Verse 19

‘For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell.’

Once more the good pleasure of God comes into account. All things happen according to His good pleasure. And it was His good pleasure that ‘all the fullness’ should permanently dwell in Him. The meaning of ‘fullness’ here would seem to be the entire attributes of the Godhead. In Him there was nothing lacking of the fullness of God (compare Ephesians 3:19).

‘Of the Father.’ This is not in the Greek text and is to be read in from Ephesians 3:12. We could alternatively read in ‘of the Godhead’ or ‘of the invisible God’ (from Ephesians 3:15). The Greek could also be translated ‘for in Him all the fullness was pleased to permanently dwell’, but the significance is the same, for ‘the fullness’ personified could only refer to God..

Many ancient religions interposed between God and man many intermediaries through whom unworthy, insignificant man, who could not approach God directly, must in one way or another seek to approach the holy, all-powerful God, but Paul sweeps all such aside. Man is ever tempted to a false humility by seeking intermediaries between himself and God (witness the cult of Mary and of the saints), but Paul stresses that ‘there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 2:5). None other is needed and to seek such is an insult to Him and what He has done. And He could be that because in Him God and man was combined. He was both God and man.

‘The good pleasure.’ The verb is elsewhere only used of God’s good pleasure.

‘To dwell.’ This is the aorist infinitive. To take up dwelling once for all. And the verb itself suggests permanent dwelling.

‘The fullness.’ (the pleroma). The word is used of patches ‘filling up’ a tear in clothing (Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21), the fullness is not the patch but represents the completeness of the whole once it is patched; of baskets being ‘filled up’ (Mark 8:20), and thus the whole basketful; of the future ‘fullness’ of Israel when they have full and complete enjoyment of what they have lost (Romans 11:12); of ‘the fullness’ of the Gentiles referring to the complete number of those who respond to Christ (Romans 11:25); of love as the ‘fulfilment’ of the Law, referring to it as fulfilling it and completing it (Romans 13:10); of the earth and its ‘fullness’, the totality of things on earth (1 Corinthians 10:26-28); of the fullness of the blessing of Christ, with nothing coming short of full blessing (Romans 15:29); and of the fullness of the times, when the necessary overall time is complete (Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10). It thus carries the ideas of completeness and totality.

The garment is made ‘complete’ by the patches; fullness represents the sum total of everything within a ‘container’ (the filled baskets, the earth’s fullness, the Law); it represents the completeness of a designated period (the fullness of times) and it represents that which is complete in itself (the fullness of the Jews and Gentiles and of blessing from Christ through Paul). Extra-biblically it is used of the full complement of a ship’s crew ‘completing’ the ship and then of the ship itself as complete.

Theologically it is used of ‘His fullness’, the fullness of Christ (John 1:16), signifying the totality of what He is and has; it is used of being ‘filled unto all the fullness of God’ (Ephesians 3:19) signifying the totality of the love that God would give us as a whole (or even possibly the totality of the love of God); it is used of ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Ephesians 3:13) as signifying the totality of what Christ is as man (or the totality of His requirements); and in Ephesians 1:23 it is used of the church as ‘the fullness of Him Who fills all in all’, where it would seem to mean that the church will, like the patch, once the plan of redemption is completed, make up what is lacking in His overall supremacy, so making Him complete (the patch completes the fullness. It is not itself the fullness). Thus until that day He is (by His own choice) not totally complete until all the saved are gathered in and presented perfect before Him. (Although some see it as meaning that they receive of His fullness and thus are made complete in Him (compare Colossians 2:10)). In Colossians 2:9 we read, ‘in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ where it signifies that in Him is the totality of what God is, and this leads on to the fact that we are made complete in Him.

So pleroma represents completeness, totality, fullness. And here in Colossians 1:19 it therefore indicates that in Him dwells permanently the complete fullness of God with nothing lacking.


Verse 20

‘And through him to reconcile all things to himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross, through him, I say, whether things on the earth or things in the heavens.’

This verse concludes what Colossians 1:16 began. In Colossians 1:16 Paul began with ‘all things’ created in the heavens and on the earth, here he finishes with ‘all things’ reconciled to Him, whether things on the earth or things in the heavens. The reversal of heavens and earth (Colossians 1:16) to earth and heavens (Colossians 1:20) deliberately draws attention to the unity of the whole passage. We begin with the heavens and end with the heavens.

This reconciliation of ‘all things’, a description which includes the powers in heavenly places, as Colossians 1:16 makes clear, must be seen in the light of Paul’s teaching elsewhere. Peace has been made through the blood of the cross, and all that finally is will be reconciled to Him. All will be at one with Him. But although this will include all who are, it will not include all who have been, for some will no longer be. Not all will find peace with God, because they refuse His offer of mercy. Some will therefore have been defeated and made to submit (Colossians 2:15; Philippians 2:10) resulting in final punishment. And their end will be destruction not final reconciliation. And the same will be true of sinful man. He too will have to bow the knee preparatory to receiving judgment (Philippians 2:10) and will also experience final destruction.

The total reconciliation through His cross, of all things that remain, is necessary so that all things might be summed up in Him (Ephesians 1:10) and so that the whole creation might be delivered from the bondage of corruption (Romans 8:21). But note that the latter also will partly be achieved by the corrupted heaven and earth being in the end burned up with fire (2 Peter 3:10).

With the fall of angels and of man disharmony had been brought into creation. This disharmony will now be removed as a result of His ‘making peace through the blood of His cross’. For those who respond to Him in faith His death acts on their behalf, they are seen as dying with Him (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6), and thus the penalty of sin is paid (Colossians 2:14) and they have peace with God (Romans 5:1-2) and go free. They are made members of His body. They will be transformed and share His everlasting glory. But for those who do not respond His cross is a sentence of death (2 Corinthians 2:16). It is the evidence of their final guilt and of their being deserving of punishment and destruction. As a result they will have to bow the knee and submit to His judgment (Philippians 2:10; Acts 16:31), and then all rule, authority and power opposed to Him will be abolished (1 Corinthians 15:24). They will face eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:9), and everlasting peace will be established (Ezekiel 37:26) and God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

‘Through Him to reconcile all things to Himself.’ The first ‘Him’ is Jesus Christ, the ‘Himself’ is either ‘the Father’ as representing the Godhead, or ‘God’ as representing the same. Peace had to be finally established and all that was antagonistic and in rebellion done away. And this is accomplished ‘through Him’. The world must be finally be back at one with Him, with all that is unfit or unworthy done away, for those who are His will be fully reconciled and those who refused to be reconciled would be subjugated and would face the final sentence of eternal death.

‘Having made peace through the blood of His cross.’ What the blood signifies is a human death died, and died voluntarily. The death of the representative Man Who sums up all redeemed mankind within Himself. Through Adam, the first man, death came into the world, the result and consequence of sin (Romans 5:12; Romans 5:15; Romans 5:17), through the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), the ‘second man’ (1 Corinthians 15:47), came the death that was due, not to His own sins but to the sins of others (Romans 3:24-25; 2 Corinthians 5:21), the death that made salvation possible, that averted the wrath of God for those who respond to Him (Romans 3:25; 1 John 4:10; John 3:36), the sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). As the sinless One suffered He bore the sins of many (Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 53:12; 1 Peter 2:24), giving His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6; Galatians 3:13), breaking the power of sin and evil and death, and triumphing over them in the cross (Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14).

No words can fully cover or define the depth and significance of what He accomplished that day. Each description is but the small part of the whole, a feeble representation of what He achieved. There ‘God made man’, through His human death in the body of His flesh (Colossians 1:22) did all that was necessary to accomplish peace between God and His creation. And now peace was not only available, it was certain of achievement. God would make peace with all who would respond, and those who would not respond would be removed from the equation.


Verse 21-22

‘And you, being in time past alienated, and enemies in your mind in your evil works, yet now has He reconciled, in the body of his flesh through death to present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before him.’

The Colossians, like all men, had been alienated from God, estranged from Him, at enmity with Him. They had not known Him. And this enmity, which was in their minds, controlling their whole being, had been revealed by their evil behaviour. Constant evil behaviour reveals the set of mind. The fleshly mind is enmity against God because it is not subject to the Law of God, and indeed, by its very nature, cannot be so subject (Romans 8:7). And its result is death (Romans 8:6).

And what is meant by evil behaviour is constantly outlined (see Galatians 5:19-21; Romans 1:29-31; Romans 3:10-18; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 2 Corinthians 12:20). Those who behave in this way, in one aspect or another, both by sins of the mind or by sins of the flesh, reveal their enmity against God.

But for those who have responded to Christ all this has been done away. Through His death the enmity is removed, their evil mind is dealt with by the entrance of the Spirit of God (Romans 8:1-11), and because Jesus Christ is a propitiation by His blood through faith (Romans 3:25) they are reconciled to God. God makes peace with them and they find peace with God.

Through the immediate application by Jesus Christ of what He has done for them, they can already at this present time be presented before Him, judicially without stain, holy, unblemished and unreproveable, because they are reckoned as righteous in Christ, enabling the reconciliation. And, through the continuing working of His power, they also have the certain hope that they will also be presented before Him in actual reality without stain, holy, without fault or blemish and unreproveable in the final day. Their acceptance is in the first place totally because of what Christ has done for them, but this will then be effective in the continual transformation of their lives, resulting in the final perfect transformation.

‘In the body of His flesh through death.’ The words are deliberately intended to convey the fact that this has only been achieved by the literal sacrifice of the human body of Jesus Christ given in death. This was the crucial, unavoidable factor in the act of reconciliation. The Messiah had to die as the Messiah. ‘The body of His flesh’ is a Hebraism for ‘His fleshly human body’.


Verses 21-23

Redeemed Mankind Made Perfect Before Him (Colossians 1:21-23).

Now the general statement is applied to the particular situation. Those who respond will be made complete. There can be no peace-making without final transformation.


Verse 23

‘If so be that you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel which you heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven, whereof I Paul was made a minister.’

Final perseverance is the test of the genuineness of faith and the resultant salvation. If Christ is at work in them then He will enable them to the end. Thus their assurance rests on two things. It rests on their faith in the reliability of the Saviour, and on the evidence of their continuation in ‘the faith’, the truth as revealed in Jesus, firmly grounded, and faithful and steadfast. Those who move away from ‘the hope’ of the Gospel, the expectation of their final presentation in unreproachable perfection, and cease to live lives approved unto God, only prove thereby that they had never truly believed. ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they had been of us they would have continued with us’ (1 John 2:19).

‘The faith.’ As revealed in ‘the word of God’ (Mark 7:13), the Old Testament, and in ‘the testimony of Jesus’, which became the Gospels, and as found in the proclamation of the word by the Spirit guided Apostles, which became the rest of the New Testament.

‘Moved away.’ There are always those who would seek to move us away from the true Gospel. And their teaching is often subtly like the Gospel, possibly just with an overemphasis on one particular aspect. But if that aspect takes our eyes off Christ, or out of fellowship with His people, we must beware, for Christisthe Gospel, and love forallHis people is mandatory.

‘Grounded.’ Based and built on a firm foundation (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-11). ‘Steadfast.’ Because firmly grounded, continuing firm, and immovable. Such people are like the man who built his house on a rock, and when storm, tempest, hurricane and flood came it stood firm because it was firmly grounded (Matthew 7:24-25).

‘The hope of the Gospel.’ The ‘hope of the Gospel’ is faith looking into the future. Looking to that final day when Christ Himself will come and transform the righteous, presenting them without fault or blemish before His Father.

‘Which was preached in all creation under heaven.’ Jesus Christ had Himself promised that the Gospel would be preached to all nations (Mark 13:10). Paul saw this as well under way. But as always in Scripture such all embracing statements refer to their known world, not to the vague world far beyond of which they knew little or nothing (compare 1 Kings 10:24).

‘Whereof I Paul was made a minister (diakonos).’ A reminder to them of his special calling which was the basis of his authoritative teaching.


Verse 24-25

The Mystery of God, Christ in You The Hope of Glory (Colossians 1:24-29)

‘Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body’s sake, which is the church whereof I was made a minister.’

Paul rejoices that he can suffer for Christ and for His people, for he knows that God’s purposes are carried forward through suffering, which has a worthwhile chastening influence on the people of God and is a consequence of the battle with evil (Romans 5:1-4; Hebrews 12:3-13). A century later Tertullian, a late second century Christian leader, could speak of ‘the blood of the martyrs which is the seed of the church’ because of the converting effect it had on the world.

The church is made the body of Christ by being united with Him in His body, and as He has suffered they too must anticipate suffering. Thus Paul speaks elsewhere of ‘the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming conformed to His death’ (Philippians 3:9), and here he rejoices that he has a part in that ‘fellowship’, that ‘sharing together’, aware that it has a part to play in the final fulfilment of the purposes of God.

‘I fill up on my part.’ The afflictions of Christ had resulted in Paul being reckoned as righteous before God (Romans 3:24-25), they had resulted in his being crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), they had resulted in his being redeemed by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7) and reconciled to God (Colossians 1:20), but what they did not do, for he had not personally experienced them, was work in him the direct benefits arising from his personally suffering for Christ. So now he gladly suffers (but not voluntarily, there is no suggestion of his inflicting suffering on himself) so that the beneficial effects of suffering may be his (Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 1:4; Hebrews 12:10-11). And he does it for the sake of God’s people, who have benefited, and will benefit, through his suffering. Furthermore he seeks to make his full contribution to what the church as a whole must suffer in fulfilling the purpose of Christ for them, for he knows that effectiveness and suffering often go together. No one persecutes the unsuccessful.

‘That which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ.’ There was nothing lacking from the point of view of man being reckoned as righteous and having his sins forgiven, from the point of view of atonement. But God’s purposes have always gone forward through suffering, and always will (Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12). We have only to consider how the prophets suffered (see James 5:10), and the sufferings of the early church in the book of Acts (consider 1 Corinthians 4:12), a suffering which was seen as inflicted on Jesus Himself (Acts 9:4). There is no suggestion anywhere that they contributed to atonement, for that had been accomplished by Christ Himself, but they were necessary for the spread of the Gospel and the growth of God’s people. And they would lead to greater glory and blessing ( Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Timothy 2:12)

And Paul, who had himself once been a cause of those sufferings, had best cause to know that to serve Christ would regularly lead to suffering of one kind or another (‘the sufferings of Christ abound to us’ - 2 Corinthians 1:4-5). He knew that this was necessary for the birth and growth of the church (again 2 Corinthians 1:4-5, ‘that we may be able to stand alongside to strengthen those who are in any affliction through the strengthening with which we are strengthened by God’; see also Acts 9:16). So he knew that as one who had been made a servant of the church he must necessarily suffer. Indeed he points out elsewhere that he suffered birth pangs for them (Galatians 4:19), that he was a prisoner on their behalf (Ephesians 3:1), and he could catalogue a long list of sufferings brought on by his adventures and persecution in the course of his ministry and as a result of it (2 Corinthians 11:23-29; Philippians 3:8).

‘For His body’s sake, which is the church.’ For the building up and preservation of the church Christ had suffered, and many would suffer with Him as He had warned (John 15:20; John 16:2-3), and as His body the church suffered with them. Just as when Christ suffered in His body on our behalf (Galatians 2:20), we as the body suffered in Him, and when Paul suffered on its behalf, the body suffered, for the body suffers when any of His people suffer ( 1 Corinthians 12:26) we too must expect suffering of one kind or another, having our part in sharing in the sufferings of Christ. If we are united in the body of the suffering Servant (Isaiah 53), we must expect that suffering will be our lot. Jesus suffered, Paul suffered and so must we be ready to suffer if need be, for we are God’s servant. (See Hebrews 12:4).

Jesus is clearly identified with the suffering Servant of Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-3; Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 50:4-9; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12), and His people are also shown to be part of the ministry of the Servant in his preaching aspect (Acts 13:47), thus being identified with Him in His work and in His suffering. His body is also now the Servant.

(Note. Jesus specifically identifies Himself with the Servant in Luke 22:37, and He is declared to be the Servant at His baptism - ‘my beloved, in whom I am well pleased’ (Mark 1:11 compare Isaiah 42:1) and the idea is applied to Him in Matthew 12:17-21; Luke 2:32; Luke 9:35 RV and RSV Luke 23:35. The Servant is also probably to be identified with the prophet in Isaiah 61:1-3 which Jesus applied to Himself in Luke 4:16-21. When John the Baptiser declares Him to be ‘the Lamb of God’ (John 1:29; John 1:36 compare Isaiah 53:7) this identification is also made by him).

Furthermore oneness with Christ must necessarily involve suffering for He is the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13) come out from among the sufferings of His people (who are also the ‘son of man’ in comparison with the beasts) in which He will have participated (Daniel 7:25), and indeed He tells us in the Gospels that as the Son of Man He specifically came to suffer (Mark 8:31), and that meant in His body (Colossians 1:22).

So as we are united with Him in His body as the Son of Man and as the Servant, we must therefore suffer with Him, being crucified with Him (Romans 6:5-6), being baptised by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), and sharing in His death and resurrection. And that ‘body’ is not, be it noted, primarily the church butisChrist (1 Corinthians 12:12) And yet at the same time it includes the body comprised of the church united with Him in His body, which has suffered with Him and will be glorified with Him. The church is in the body, and can be called the body, because it is united with Him. (See Appendix). That is why we must expect to share in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10). And that is why when His people suffer, He suffers with them (Acts 9:4-5). For to persecute them is to persecute Christ.


Verses 25-27

‘Whereof I was made a minister (diakonos) according to the stewardship of God which was given me towards you, to fulfil the word of God, even the mystery which has been hid from all ages and generations, but now has it been openly revealed to his saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you the hope of glory.’

Paul stresses again that he has been made a servant in accordance with the stewardship from God which was given to him to ‘fulfil the word of God’, that is to preach it openly and fully and to bring into being what the prophets promised beforehand (Romans 16:26; 1 Peter 1:10; 2 Peter 3:2).

What had been prophesied was ‘a mystery’, something hidden. But now it was revealed to all those who would receive it. None who will hear are excepted. It had been hidden ‘from ages and from generations’ but was now openly revealed to all His people (no exclusivism here). Indeed God was pleased to make known to them the full glorious riches of that mystery, and that mystery was ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’, Christ in the Gentiles who are to share in all the blessings brought by the Messiah.

That God’s word was to be a blessing to the Gentiles was declared again and again in the Old Testament, and the Jews had welcomed Gentile proselytes on this basis (e.g. Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 42:6-7; Isaiah 49:6). But they had to become Jews. What had not previously been revealed was that they were to be received on equal terms as fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus revealed by the Gospel (Ephesians 3:6)

‘To fulfil the word of God.’ Here Paul may be saying that he has brought the word of God into effect by his preaching and ensured its fulfilment. But compare Romans 15:19, ‘so that from Jerusalem and round about, even to Illyricum, I have fulfilled the Gospel of Christ’, which means that he has preached it fully, completely and successfully over a wide area.

‘The riches of the glory (a Hebraism for ‘glorious riches’, Hebrew was lacking in adjectives) of the mystery.’ No richer mystery could be known for it brought home to them the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Ephesians 3:8).

‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ How are we to express fully this amazing fact and its consequences, the reception of the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8)? Christ the Creator and Redeemer being among them and in them, possessing them, dwelling within each of them (Ephesians 3:17), working in them (Philippians 2:13), united with them so that they have become His body, and are thus becoming perfected together as He is perfect, being made complete as He is complete, and are experiencing His saving work which will bring them to their glorious inheritance and destiny (Colossians 1:12; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:14) and give them glory (Romans 5:2; Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 15:43; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 5:4).


Verse 28

‘Whom we proclaim, admonishing every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ.’

Christ’s work of perfecting His people is largely carried out through the ministry of the word. So here Paul refers to such work carried out by himself and his fellow-workers. Firstly they proclaim Christ (‘Whom we proclaim’). Then they admonish and teach ‘in all wisdom’, in the only wisdom, in the totality of the wisdom, that comes from the word of God, about the cross which to the Christian is true wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18 with 24), about Christ Who is the Wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30), and ‘in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3).

And their aim? To present every man perfect and complete in Christ, which parallels, of course, the aim of Christ Himself. Paul’s eyes are here on the second coming of Christ (His parousia - see 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). Indeed he prays for the Thessalonians that ‘the God of peace’ will Himself sanctify them wholly and that their whole spirit, soul and body may be preserved complete and blameless ‘at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). For ‘we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2).

‘Admonishing every man and teaching every man.’ Two necessary sides to the same responsibility, the stick and the carrot. Admonishment (‘admonishing, warning’) without teaching is harsh and unsustainable, teaching without admonishment can produce educated potatoes. Notice the double emphasis on ‘every man’. This is to be for all, not just the chosen few.


Verse 29

‘Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working which works in me mightily (in power).’

Paul plays his full part in this work of ministry. ‘Labour’ (kopio) means toiling almost to the point of exhaustion. ‘Striving’ (’agonizomai), means ‘agonising, putting in great effort’ as in an athletics contest (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). So the fact that he is empowered does not mean that no effort is required of him. But while the effort is his, the power is not. That is given to him by Another. It results from the working of God which works in him ‘in power’ (dunamis), dynamic power (compare Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 2:13). And without that effective power all activity would be in vain.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Colossians 1:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/colossians-1.html. 2013.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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