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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
Colossians 1



Verse 4-5

Colossians 1:4-5

Christ the uniting Hope of His people.

I. The Epistle to the Colossians is remarkably full of this delightful fact, the world-wide family love of the Gospel. In this epistle Paul rejoices that the Gospel had begun to come to all the world, that its blessed truth was preached "to all the creation under heaven," and that "the riches of the glory" and this secret, this mystery was made known among the heathen. He lets them know that it is the most precious possible news to him that they have faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ, and love to all the saints, because of the hope laid up for them in heaven. It is the truth that wears well and bears perpetual using, and gets brighter with use, this truth that the Gospel, with its one Lord and its one hope, tends directly to bind believing hearts in one. Many influences blind our sight to the reality and glory of the fact.

II. Now what was the hope, this hope laid up for them in heaven? It was the hope of their being presented hereafter holy, unblamable, unreprovable, before the Lord. It was in their hearts no mere perchance, no venture in the unknown, no wavering "it may be so." True, the full-blown flower was yet to come, but the plant was already rooted and growing. Christ their Hope was already their Life. He was theirs now, as well as to be theirs then; so they had the hold of a deep and lawful assurance on their coming glory.

III. Then again, it was a social hope; not solitary, but social. It was for them not only one by one, but for the happy band all together. They looked forward together. Their longing eyes met upon that radiant point. They were drawn together by that glowing prospect, their final and eternal bliss, ushered in by the return of Jesus from the heavens, and bound up with Him for evermore.

H. C. G. Moule, Christ is All, p. 69.

References: Colossians 1:5.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 305; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 276; Ibid. Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1438. Colossians 1:5, Colossians 1:6.—J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 438; J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 145. Colossians 1:5-7.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xv.,

Verse 9

Colossians 1:9

Moral thoughtfulness.

I. The state of spiritual folly is, I suppose, one of the most universal evils in the world. For the number of those who are naturally foolish is exceedingly great: of those, I mean, who understand no worldly thing well; of those who are careless about everything, carried about by every breath of opinion, without knowledge and without principle. But the term spiritual folly includes, unhappily, a great many more than these: it takes in not those only who are in the common sense of the term foolish, but a great many who are in the common sense of the term clever, and many even who are in the common sense of the term prudent, sensible, thoughtful and wise. It is but too evident that some of the ablest men who have ever lived on earth, have been in no less a degree spiritually fools. And thus it is not without truth that Christian writers have dwelt upon the insufficiency of worldly wisdom, and have warned their readers to beware, lest, while professing themselves to be wise, they should be accounted as fools in the sight of God.

II. Note the opposite to this notion, that those who are, as it were, fools in worldly matter, are wise before God. Although this is true in a certain sense, and under certain peculiar circumstances, yet taken generally, it is the very reverse of truth; and the careless and incautious language which has been used on this subject, has been often extremely mischievous. On the contrary, he who is foolish in worldly matters is likely also to be, and most commonly is, no less foolish in the things of God; and the opposite belief has arisen mainly from that strange confusion between innocence and ignorance with which many ignorant persons seem to solace themselves. He who is a fool as regards earthly things, is much more a fool with regard to heavenly things: he who cannot raise himself to the lower height, how is he to attain to the higher? he who is without reason and conscience, how shall he be endowed with the Spirit of God?

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 23.

References: Colossians 1:9, Colossians 1:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1742. Colossians 1:10.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 65; Church of England Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 6; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 12th series, p. 93; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 35. Colossians 1:11.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., pp. 31, 273.

Verse 12

Colossians 1:12

It is the special glory of the Gospel, the foundation or the perfection of all the rest, that it first truly and distinctly, in language beyond the uncertainties of conjecture, the refinements of allegory, or even the bright colouring of hope, enlarged the prospects of men into the depths of eternity. It first clearly and authoritatively taught us that the present existence is the least and meanest portion of our inheritance, and death to the undying spirit only the birthday of immortal life. From the hour that this awful and glorious secret was revealed to the sons of men, the whole science of life was for ever changed; a new element entered into calculation that transformed all the rest. Created eternal, the soul is intended, from the instant of its birth, to breathe the air of eternity. It is at home only in its own high sphere of being; connected by a visible frame with the present world, it is itself invisible, and lives by the invisible. Through its own proper organs, and through Faith and Hope and Love Divine, it already commences with the eternal scene, where, hereafter, disburdened of its earthly fetters, it is to dwell and to rejoice everlastingly.

I. This, then, is the great truth implied in the text, that the life for eternity is already begun; that we are at, and from the very hour of our regeneration introduced into the spiritual world, a world which, though mysterious and invisible, is as real as the world of sense around us; that the Christian's life of heavenliness is the first stage of heaven itself. No thought surely can be more awakening than this; none of more urgent and immediate practical importance. Men may forget their past sins, but they cannot be ignorant of their present disposition. We are saved that we may for eternity serve God; salvation itself would be misery unaccompanied by a love for that service. All aspirations for salvation are vain in which that love forms no element; all desire for pardon is self-contradictory if it does not include an earnest present desire for that enjoyment and service of God which are to form the sequel and the value of the pardon.

II. Heaven is our pattern, but of heaven itself we surely can know little. How then shall we regulate our lives by an unknown model? An obvious distinction solves this difficulty. The details of celestial life we cannot know. The abodes in which we are to dwell, the companions with whom we shall rejoice, the bodies—bright similitudes of Christ—which we shall wear—all these and the like, are matters beyond our limited conjecture. But then, it is not in these things that we are bound to practise the celestial life on earth. The principles of that life, the great general laws of heart and spirit that govern it—these are to be the principles and laws of this, and these are clear and indisputable. The great preparatory graces are faith, the realising power, hope, the consoling and fortifying power, and love, the uniting power, the consummation and perfection of all.

W. Archer Butler, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, p. 101.

References: Colossians 1:12.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vii., p. 221; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 206; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 147; E. W. Benson, Boy Life, p. 361. Colossians 1:12-13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 319. Colossians 1:12-20.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 484; H. Crosby, American Pulpit of the Day, p. 10; Plain Sermons, vol. ix., p. 58. Colossians 1:13.—T. Guthrie, Christ and the Inheritance of the Saints, pp. 60, 80, 98, etc. Colossians 1:13-16.—J. O. Dykes, Sermons, p. 97. Colossians 1:14.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 80; G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to my Friends, p. 104. Colossians 1:15.—B. Jowett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 323; Ibid., Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 307; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 355. Colossians 1:15-17.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 232. Colossians 1:16.—Ibid., vol. vi., p. 45. Colossians 1:16, Colossians 1:23.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 448.

Verse 18

Colossians 1:18

I. Living as we do, far down the stream of time, when long ago the name of Christ has associated itself to all that is the most classical in literature, the most refined in art, the most exquisite in poetry, the most generous in chivalry, and the most advanced in civilisation; when the cross, no more the word of shame or the brand of ignominy, has become the banner of progress, and the crest of honour, it is very difficult for us to throw ourselves enough into the spirit of the age of St. Paul, to estimate the grandeur of thought, and the strangeness with which the words must have burst upon the world, that Christ the Nazarene, Christ the Crucified, should in all things have the pre-eminence. And yet the whole expansion of the world's history is but the fulfilment of that vision of St. Paul, that his spiritual eye saw, when he contemplated Christ and the Resurrection, and said, "that in all things He should have the pre-eminence."

II. I feel sure that no one who has been an accurate observer of life, has failed to notice the elevating and purifying influence of a true religion wherever it is received. Has it never occurred to you in life to know some mind of a rude and coarse texture brought under the power of the simple faith of the Lord Jesus Christ? You have, perhaps, watched the wonderful transformation. That intellect, once the dullest, has gone up, if not unto the very first class, yet certainly far beyond itself and above the ordinary rank. And that heart has taken a delicacy such as the best secular education rarely succeeds in giving. Christ is in him, and Christ, rising, raises the man to show that wherever Christ is, even in the poorest, darkest, lowest, most miserable sinner's heart, He will have the pre-eminence.

III. Many persons are looking a great deal into their own hearts, as if they would ever find peace by looking down there. The way to arrive at peace is to examine Christ, to magnify Christ, to take grand views of Christ, to find your evidences in Christ. An uplifted Christ is the sinner's rest.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 261.

References: Colossians 1:18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 839; T. Guthrie, Christ and the Inheritance of the Saints, p. 269, etc.

Verse 19

Colossians 1:19

The Communicable Fulness of Christ.

I. Think first of the fulness of Christ referred to in the text. There is in Christ (1) all fulness of life, (2) all fulness of pardoning mercy, (3) all fulness of peace and comfort, (4) all fulness of spiritual strength, (5) all fulness of sanctifying grace.

II. How is all this fulness of Christ appropriated, so as to become ours? The answer is, by faith. Faith, on the strength of the Divine promises, carries the believer to Christ for every thing, and obtains every thing from Him. The believer, through faith, gives himself up to Christ, and, through faith, Christ is made of God unto him wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 243.

References: Colossians 1:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 978; vol. xx., No. 1169. Colossians 1:19, Colossians 1:20.—Bishop Westcott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 161. Colossians 1:20.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 93; vol. iv., p 85. Colossians 1:23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1688. Colossians 1:24.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., pp. 224,474.

Verse 27

Colossians 1:27

Christ, the Age, and the Church.

I. The character of our age. It is a distinctive age. Whatever may be said of it in the future, this at least will not be affirmed that it was an age of meagre and unmarked peculiarity. It may indeed not be helpful to individual distinctiveness. I am not sure whether the personal set or type is not being overwhelmed in our time, and the individual with his mark and self-assertion lost in the very freedom and liberty which men have come to enjoy. But the age itself is marked enough. It is unlike all others. (1) It is an age of great power over material conditions. In former generations men were either indifferent to nature, friendly with nature, or terrified by nature. (2) In no way has the result of this triumph over nature shown itself more clearly than in what we regard as the second striking feature which the age presents, viz., the highly developed intercommunication between all parts of the world. (3) It is a natural step from this condition of our time to the next which we note, that of its widely-spread individualism. (4) From all this it follows necessarily that the spirit of our time will be materialistic, alike in its intellectual inquiries, and in its conduct and action.

II. The age being such it requires an inspiration of a moral kind which may direct its energies and control its evil tendency. That inspiration, that government, that law, is Jesus Christ, who has been appointed by God as the Saviour, and through His Spirit the Sanctifier of men. His is the light in which the ages must walk; His the teaching, by which they are schooled; His the presence—living, real, immediate—by which they are animated, round which they gather, and of which, at last, the age will finally become the proper and becoming body. (1) Christ must be apprehended by the age in His historical reality. (2) Christ must also be felt by the age as a personal presence. (3) The age needs to apprehend Christ in the supremely spiritual quality of His person and work.

L. D. Bevan, Christ and the Age, p. 3.

I. Note some of the general results that flow from this relationship of Christ to His people. (1) To be in Christ is to have Christ interposed between you and the condemnation of the law. (2) The believer, as in Christ, has really fulfilled the righteousness of the law, and answered all its demands, either for obedience or for punishment. (3) The believer, as in Christ, stands accepted by the Father. (4) Christ, in the believer, is the Author of a new life in him. (5) Christ, in the believer, destroys the power of sin in him. (6) Christ, in the believer, leads us to look for the transplantation of the graces which adorned Him into the believer.

II. Note how, in virtue of this relationship between Him and them, Christ is to His people the hope of glory. (1) He is so, because from their felt relationship to Him, the burden of sin is removed from their conscience, and they are able, with some confidence, to look up to God as reconciled to them and as their Friend and Father. (2) He is so, as living and reigning with His people, and assimilating them to Himself.

A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 292.

References: Colossians 1:27.—Parker, Pulpit Analyst, p. 61; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 228; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1720; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 530; 4th series, vol. i., p. 165; Expositor, 1st series, vol. ix., p. 284. Colossians 1:27, Colossians 1:28.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 541.

Verse 28

Colossians 1:28

On looking at this verse, three points seem to emerge distinctly from it: the theme, the manner, the object of our preaching.

I. We have, says St Paul, to preach Christ. Now to preach Christ is not to mention Him, more or less frequently, in your sermons and discourses. It is obvious that there might be a perpetually recurring repetition of His sacred name, and yet that the entire tone of thought should be as antagonistic as possible to the teaching of the Saviour. It is obvious, again, that we might omit the name, keeping it, as it were, altogether in the background, and yet that the sentiments expressed should breathe so much of the Christlike spirit, as to bring the image of the unseen Saviour at once to the mental view, and to attract towards Him very strongly the desires and affections of the heart. The preaching of Christ, then, does not depend upon the frequent or infrequent mention of His name, but upon making Him the starting-point and foundation of spiritual life; or as Scripture expresses it, "the only hope of salvation of all the ends of the earth."

II. In the next place, we have to describe the manner of preaching Christ. The Apostle speaks of two methods. First, warning, then teaching. (1) Within the borders of the Christian Church, at the time when the Apostle wrote, there were doubtless some who professed the faith of Christ, but who had no real and vital connection with His sacred person. We can easily understand the necessity that had arisen for loud and emphatic warning on the part of the Christian teacher. Men are slumbering, as the rich man in the parable slumbered; wrapt up in a false belief of their own security; speaking peace to themselves, when there is no peace. We need all to be warned against religious declension. (2) But besides warning, the Apostle speaks of teaching, and of teaching in all wisdom. A most important part of the office of the preacher is that of communicating instruction. He has to bring forth out of the treasures of the Divine word things new and old. Nor is there to be any concealment, any reservation in his teaching. His duty is to declare the whole counsel of God, as far as he understands it himself; and thus, not only to warn his flock, when he has occasion to do so, but also to teach them in all wisdom.

III. We now come to the last point, the object of our preaching: "to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." This is something more than to save every man. It is a great thing to be the instrument, in God's hands, of bringing a fellow-creature to salvation, but when this is done much more has to be done—the saved man has to be built up in the faith, so as to attain to what the Apostle calls "perfection in Christ Jesus." Scripture recognises a growth in the believer. Beginning as a child, he is to advance, through different stages, to the maturity of spiritual manhood. It is to this that the Apostle alludes, and he represents the object of the ministry to be to help men to attain the stature of the strength of the full-grown Christian.

G. Calthrop, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 998.

References: Colossians 1:28.—J. Vaughan, Sermons, 8th series, p. 53; Homilist, 4th series, vol. i., p. 167; Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 25; Plain Sermons, vol. iv., p. 294; Scott, University Sermons, p. 301; W. Spensley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 241; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 28; J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 352. Colossians 1:29.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 914. Colossians 2:1.—Good Words, vol. iii. p. 758.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Colossians 1:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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