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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Colossians 1

 

 

Verses 3-6

DISCOURSE: 2166

PAUL’S COMMENDATION OF THE GOSPEL

Colossians 1:3-6. We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.

“THE grace of God in truth!” What a beautiful description of the Gospel! It is grace: it is all grace, from first to last: it is the most stupendous grace that ever God vouchsafed to any creature, whether in heaven or on earth. It was marvellous grace to confer on angels such an exalted nature as they possess, together with all the glory and felicity of heaven. It was most astonishing grace also to form man in Paradise; to form him in the very image of his God; and to give him a promise, that if he should hold fast his integrity, both he and all his posterity should participate with the angels in all the blessedness they enjoy. But what is all this to the gift of God’s only dear Son to bear the iniquities of fallen man, and, by his own obedience unto death, to restore man to his forfeited inheritance? This is emphatically called, “The Gospel of the grace of God:” and truly it does exhibit the grace of God in such a view as no creature could ever have anticipated; and in such a view as must fill the whole creation, whether of men or angels, with the profoundest admiration, and gratitude, and love. This is the Gospel which ye “have heard;” which also, through the illuminating influence of the Spirit of God, many of you “know;” and the excellency of which may be seen,

I. By the effects produced in our hearts—

There are three effects mentioned, as produced in the converts of Colosse:

1. “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ”—

[This is the first effect which the Gospel produces, wherever it is received into the heart. It reveals to us our need of a Saviour; and it holds forth the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, sent into the world to bear our sins, and to expiate our guilt by his atoning sacrifice, and thereby to reconcile us to our offended God. It discovers to us the fulness and suitableness of this salvation; and brings us to this Saviour, as our only hope. It leads every one to renounce altogether every other hope, and to trust entirely in the merits and mediation of this adorable Redeemer — — —]

2. Love to all the saints—

[This is the next effect produced on all. Through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are brought into a new family, of which Christ is the master: yea, we are incorporated into a new body, of which Christ is the head, and all the saints are members. I add further, we are all penetrated with one spirit; (for “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit;”) and have thus a bond of union, which never did, nor could, exist before. The very instant we believe in Christ, we feel ourselves brought into this relation to all his believing people, whether they be separately known to us or not; and we have, from that moment, somewhat of the same sympathy with them, as every member of our body has with all the rest, the eve with the hand, and the hand with the foot — — —]

3. Hope of happiness in heaven—

[“The hope laid up for us in heaven” is that for which the Apostle principally gives thanks in the passage before us [Note: See the Greek. The faith and love are parenthetically inserted.]. But this, like the two foregoing principles, is wrought in the heart by the Gospel: by which, as St. Peter says, “we are begotten again to a lively hope of an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us [Note: 1 Peter 1:4.].” Yes, faith penetrates the highest heavens, and sees there crowns and kingdoms purchased by the blood of Christ, and promised to all who believe in him. An eternity of glory upon the very throne of God, the believer expects as his assured portion — — —]

But the excellency of the Gospel is further shewn,

II. By the effects produced on our lives—

“It brings forth fruit in all the world”—

[See the fruits of the Spirit as described by the Apostle: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance [Note: Galatians 5:22-23.].” There is not a grace that was in Christ Jesus himself, which the Gospel does not form in the souls of those who believe in him — — — “The discovery which it gives us of the glory of Christ transforms us into his image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of our God [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].”]

It does this invariably and universally—

[There is not a creature who receives the grace of God in truth, but experiences this effect upon his soul. It matters not whether he be the most civilized man on earth, or a poor savage Indian or Hottentot: he will, from the moment that he receives the Gospel, begin to bear the image of his heavenly Father “in righteousness and true holiness” — — — And the man who professes to believe in Christ, and does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness in his life and conversation, is a self-deceiver, and a hypocrite. “His faith is no better than the faith of devils;” and, if he die in his present state, his end shall be like theirs also: for God has decreed, that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord [Note: Hebrews 12:14.]” — — —]

Tell me now, brethren,

1. Have we not ground to “give thanks for you?”

[Were you all reduced to the most abject state of poverty, and relieved by the Gospel to the utmost extent of your necessities, and enriched with all that the whole world could bestow; or were you all in dying circumstances, and restored to health by the Gospel; it were nothing, in comparison of the blessings ye have received (many of you at least) through the word ministered unto you. You have been brought by it from death to life, from sin to holiness, from hell to heaven. O! what inestimable blessings are these! — — — Say, then, whether those who have preached unto you the word of life have not reason to bless God for you, as the “seals of their ministry,” and as destined to be “their joy and crown of rejoicing in the presence of that Saviour” whom they have preached unto you [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20.]? — — —]

2. Have we not encouragement, also, to “pray for you?”

[What will not God confer on those for whom he has already done so much? Surely there is not any thing which Omnipotence can effect, that shall not be bestowed upon you, in answer to the prayer of faith. See what Paul prayed for in behalf of the Colossians [Note: ver. 9–14.] — — — That same prayer would I offer for you, and entreat all of you to offer for yourselves. “Open your mouths wide, and God will fill them.” “Be not straitened in yourselves; for ye are not straitened in him.” Only ask in faith; and “according to your faith it shall be done unto you.”]

3. Is there not, however, ground for lamentation, on account of some amongst you?

[Would to God I could say that the change here described had been wrought on all! But there are many of you, I fear, who still remain in your unconverted state; and who, notwithstanding the Gospel has so long been ministered unto you, are yet strangers to the faith, and love, and hope, which it forms in the hearts of those who truly receive it; yes, and whose tempers and dispositions are widely different from the fruits which the Gospel is sent to produce. Dear brethren, I pray you study the Gospel more: pray over it more: beg of God to make it “the rod of his strength,” and to effect by it in you all that it wrought in the Colossian Church, and all that it is ordained to work in all the world — — —]


Verses 9-13

DISCOURSE: 2167

PRAYER FOR GROWTH IN GRACE

Colossians 1:9-13. We do not cease to pray for you that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.

UNIVERSAL benevolence will begin to shew itself wherever Christianity gains a just ascendency. This is particularly observable in the prayers which the Apostle offered for others; the fervour and fulness of which clearly proved, that they proceeded from a heart fraught with love, and deeply impressed with the excellency of those blessings which are provided for us in the Gospel. He confined not his attention to the welfare of a few with whom he might happen to sojourn; but extended it to the whole Church, as well to those whom he had never seen, as to those amongst whom he had ministered. He needed only to be informed that a work of grace was begun in any persons, and he instantly felt an union of heart with them, and took a lively interest in all that concerned them. This remark is strongly exemplified in the prayer before us. He had heard of the blessed state of the Colossian Church; and, from the instant he had received the glad tidings, he remembered that people in all his stated prayers: and, in the passage before us, he tells them what he prayed for on their behalf. He desired that they might advance

I. In the knowledge of God’s will—

[The “knowledge of God’s revealed will” is the foundation of all acceptable obedience: and every Christian must of necessity be in some degree endued with it. But he will not be satisfied with a scanty measure of it: he wishes to be “filled with it,” so that it may engage all the faculties of his mind. Not that he can rest in a speculative view of Divine truth, however clear or comprehensive it may be: the knowledge which he covets, is a practical and experimental knowledge; a knowledge that diffuses “a spiritual savour” over his soul, and enables him to conduct himself, “with all wisdom,” as well in his secret conflicts with sin, as in the public exercises of his duty to God and man.

Such then was the Apostle’s first request for the converts at Colosse: he desired, that, as they already had some knowledge of God’s will, so they might be “filled” with it, enjoying at the same time its sweet savour, and its practical influence, “in all wisdom, and spiritual understanding.”

And should not such be our prayer also for ourselves? Let us not forget, that, while we aspire after divine knowledge, we must chiefly seek that which brings a feast to the soul, and endues it with a nice and accurate discernment of good and evil.]

II. In obedience to his commands—

[The more enlarged views the Christian has of divine truth, the more studious will he be to fulfil the will of God. And in his endeavours after holiness he will propose to himself the highest measure of obedience, and the noblest end. He will not limit himself to the rules prescribed by men; nor will he aim merely at obtaining eternal happiness: but he will consider the relation he bears to God, and the obligations he has received from him, and the expectations which he has of future benefits; and will endeavour to “walk worthy of” such a Father, such a Redeemer, such an unspeakable Benefactor. He will resemble a dutiful and affectionate servant, who does not merely consider what he must do in order to escape censure, and receive his wages, but what will please his Master. He inquires with himself, What will please my God? That is the great object of his ambition: that is the spring of his activity: and with that view he endeavours to be “fruitful,” not in some good works only, but “in every good work,” however difficult or self-denying.

Suited to these dispositions was the Apostle’s prayer: he desired for the Colossians what he knew they desired for themselves, even “that they might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work.” And it is certain, that in proportion as we have attained a just knowledge of God’s will, we shall desire, both for ourselves and others, an increase of righteousness and true holiness.]

III. In the enjoyment of his presence—

[“The knowledge of God” seems to be different from “the knowledge of his will,” that has been before mentioned: the former relates to a view of his truth, and the latter to the enjoyment of his presence. In this sense the latter is not a mere repetition, but a blessing intimately connected with a holy life. Whom will God meet, and unto whom will lie reveal himself, but “him that rejoiceth in working righteousness [Note: Isaiah 64:5.]?” Yes; there are manifestations which such persons shall receive, and such manifestations as the world can form no idea of [Note: John 14:21; John 14:23.]. God will “shed abroad his love in the hearts” of his people; and will testify to them their adoption into his family, and seal them unto the day of redemption. How desirable is this for every saint! and how rich a recompence is it for any self-denial he may exercise in the path of duty! Would to God that all professing Christians might experience this; and that not a single day might ever pass, in which they cannot say with the beloved Disciple, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ [Note: 1 John 1:3.]!”]

IV. In submission to his dispensations—

[The more any person lives in the enjoyment of God, and a diligent performance of his will, the more must he expect to be hated and persecuted by an ungodly world. But under all his trials he must be “patient:” to whatever length of time they be protracted, he must be “long-suffering:” nor must he merely possess his soul in patience; he must have it blended “with joyfulness,” regarding it as his honour and his happiness that he is counted worthy to suffer shame for his Redeemer’s sake [Note: Acts 5:41.]. But “who is sufficient for these things?” It is not possible for feeble man. to maintain such a conduct, unless he be “strengthened with all might” by the Holy Ghost: yea, there must be such an exertion of omnipotence as will serve for a bright display of “his glorious power;” nor can any thing less than this effect so great a work.

Here then again we see the suitableness of the Apostle’s prayer: for if we cannot serve the Lord without participating his cross, or sustain by our own power the trials that will come upon us, what alternative remains, but either to abandon our profession, or to implore such help from God as shall make us more than conquerors over all?]

V. In thankfulness to him for his mercies—

[There can be no state, however afflictive, in which a Christian ought not to abound in thanksgivings to God. The Israelites, to whom he divided Canaan by lot, were unspeakably indebted to him: but how are they indebted, to whom he has given an “inheritance among the saints in light;” even in heaven, where they dwell in the immediate presence of their God! For this they are rendered “meet;” (for it is impossible that they can enjoy it, if they possess not a meetness for it:) their heavenly Father has “delivered them from the power of darkness,” even as he did Lot from Sodom, and the Israelites from Egypt, with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm: lie has moreover “translated them into the kingdom of his dear Son,” and brought them into a cheerful and unreserved obedience to his will. Must not they then give glory to their God? What if they be burning at the stake, ought they not to rejoice that God has rescued them from hell, and that they are entering on a state of uninterrupted everlasting happiness?

Surely no Christian should rest short of this attainment: but we should all unite in wrestling with our God, till he pour out his Spirit upon us, and form us to the model which was here proposed for the Colossian converts.]

Infer—

1. How glorious are the Christian’s privileges!

[Did the Apostle incessantly ask of God what God was not willing to bestow? No; “if we opened our mouth wide, he would fill it;” and all these graces should abound in us, to the praise and glory of our God. What then must the Christian be, in whom these things are found! O believer, aim not at low things; but aspire after the highest measures of wisdom, purity, and joy.]

2. How dependent are we upon our God!

[It is not at our first commencement only of a religious course that we depend on God, but to the latest hour of our lives. We can have no knowledge, holiness, or joy, but as we receive it from him. Let us then make our requests known to him, and depend on him for all seasonable supplies of grace and strength.]

3. How great is the benefit of intercession!

[We certainly are not sufficiently apprised of this. But when we recollect the intercessions of Abraham for Sodom, of Lot for Zoar, of Moses for Israel, how can we be so remiss in this duty! Let us incessantly plead for each other, knowing that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.]


Verses 16-18

DISCOURSE: 2168

THE GLORY OF CHRIST

Colossians 1:16-18. By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, risible 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. And he is the Head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.

THE pre-eminence he must have: the pre-eminence he shall have: his title to it is indisputable: and it is at the peril of our souls to withhold it from him. Do you ask, Of whom we speak thus? I answer, Of the Lord Jesus Christ; of whom the Apostles evidently thought that they could never speak enough. Let the Apostle Paul but touch upon his name, and he launches forth in his praise, and scarcely knows when to stop. Mark the passage before us. The Apostle had informed the Colossians what prayers and thanksgivings he daily poured forth before God, in their behalf. He especially praised God for “delivering them from the power of darkness, and translating them into the kingdom of his dear Son:” and having thus, accidentally as it were, mentioned the Lord Jesus, he goes on to expatiate on his transcendent excellencies, not only as the Redeemer of his people, but as “the image of the invisible God, and the first-born (that is, the Heir and Lord) of the whole creation.” And, lest it should be thought that he was speaking too highly of the despised and persecuted Jesus, he proceeds yet further to establish his claim to these high titles, by declaring what he had done for the world at large, and for the Church in particular; and that the preeminence thus given him was no more than his due.

In opening to you this sublime passage, I shall be led to shew,

I. On what grounds pre-eminence is due to Christ—

In all things he must take the lead. This priority is due to him, on account of,

1. His personal dignity—

[He, though born into the world a little infant, after that the world had existed four thousand years, was the Creator of all, the Preserver of all, the End of all. “By Him were all things created,” both in heaven and earth, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers. Whether they be “visible,” as the heavenly bodies and the earth, with the things upon it; or whether they be “invisible,” as the holy angels and the souls of men; he formed them all: whatever rank or order they possess in their respective spheres, (for it seems that in heaven, as well as on earth and in hell, there are beings of different ranks and orders,) from his creating hand they have derived their existence, and from his sovereign will their station. Nor is there any thing in the whole creation which is not upheld by him. He directs the stars in their orbits, and causes the sun and moon to know their appointed seasons. The smallest insect too, which is so small as to be invisible to the naked eye, is as much noticed and supplied by him, as if it were the only work of his hands. For himself too, as the supreme God, he made these things: and all of them, whether wittingly or unwittingly, subserve his glory. If we could suppose that God had delegated to him the work of creating every thing, and of upholding it in its order, (though, as he was the Creator of all things, he could not be himself a creature,) still it would be impossible for God to devolve on him the honour of being the end of all things: that is incapable of being communicated to any creature: it is the prerogative of God alone: nor could he divest himself of it, without giving a licence to his creatures to alienate from him the most essential rights of Godhead.

Behold, then, the Lord Jesus Christ, in this his personal dignity, as the author and end of all; and then say, whether he be not entitled to a pre-eminence above all? The highest archangel has no such claims. In respect of these things, he is on a level with the meanest clod of earth; and must unite with all the rest of the creation in giving glory to our blessed Lord.]

2. His official excellency—

[In his mediatorial capacity he is no less glorious. He is “the Head of the Church, which is his body:” he is the Head of vital influence, from which every member receives his supply of grace; and he is the Head and Representative of all his members, who at this very moment “are risen, as it were, in him, and sitting in heavenly places in him [Note: Ephesians 2:6.].” This I conceive is meant by his being “the beginning, the first-born from the dead.” It is true that he existed before all; and that he was the most distinguished amongst those who have risen from the dead; having raised himself by his own power, whilst all others have owed their restoration to life to the miraculous exertion of God’s power. But, as he is called “the first-born of the whole creation,” not because he was himself created, but because the rights of the first-born all centred in him, and he was, as mediator, the Heir and Lord of all [Note: Hebrews 1:2.]; so his being called “the beginning, the first-born from the dead,” imports, that in his risen state the rights of primogeniture still attach to him; and that he is, in heaven, the Head and Representative of all his members, who, in due time, shall participate the glory which he there enjoys. This is what the Apostle elsewhere distinctly states; saying, “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:20.].”

Consider him, then, in this his mediatorial character; and say, whether he does not in this view, also, justly claim the pre-eminence? To him are all in heaven, and all on earth, indebted for their happiness; even as the moon and stars, no less than this terrestrial globe, are indebted to the sun for all the light which they enjoy. The angels around the throne, no less than ourselves, are all collected under him as their Head [Note: Ephesians 1:10.]; and, through his all-powerful aid, retain the blessedness, of which we, in due season, are destined to participate. Yes, in heaven, at least, is he glorified as he ought to be; for “in that celestial city the glory of God does lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof [Note: Revelation 21:23.].”]

But as, in ascribing pre-eminence to him, we must be active, let us consider,

II. In what way and manner it should be assigned him—

It is not sufficient that we “call him, Lord, Lord:” we must honour him, “not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” We must give him the pre-eminence,

1. In our regards—

[Go up to heaven, and see how he is honoured there. There is he “as a Lamb that has been slain;” and there, “as a Lamb, he sits upon his throne;” and all the hosts of heaven, those who never fell, no less than those he has redeemed, are singing day and night, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing [Note: Revelation 5:11-13.].” Now, thus it should be on earth. We should be so filled with views of his excellency, and so penetrated with a sense of his love, that the whole creation should be a mere blank in comparison of him. Parents, children, life itself, should be of no account, where his honour is concerned. What the Psalmist said, should be the continual language of our hearts, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee [Note: Psalms 73:25.]” As for the poor things of time and sense, we should be ashamed that they have ever been suffered to occupy one single thought, except in subserviency to him. In a word, the Lord Jesus should be to us now, what he will be in a better world—our light, our life, our joy, our All.]

2. In our affiance—

[As God, who created all things, he is able, and, as our living Head, who is interested in our welfare, he is willing, to do all that our utmost necessities can require. Stretch your imagination to the uttermost; and think whether there be any guilt too deep for his blood to expiate, or any corruption too inveterate for his Spirit to subdue. To limit him, either in relation to his power or his grace, or to rely on any other besides him, were to deny his Godhead, and to cast him down from his mediatorial throne. Our whole soul should go forth to him; our every want be cast on him: and fear, except that which is truly filial, should be dismissed, and find no more place in our bosoms than it does in heaven. O, the holy glorying that becomes us! Rise to the occasion, my beloved brethren; and rest assured, that he who created and preserves the universe can new-create and preserve you; and he who redeemed the Church with his blood, and united it to himself as his own body, can redeem, and sanctify, and save, yea, “save to the very uttermost, all those who come unto God by him.”]

3. In our services—

[That was an unanswerable appeal which was made to the Jewish rulers, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye [Note: Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29.].” We should know no rule of conduct but his revealed will: nor, in the execution of his will, is there any limit to be assigned. If we had a thousand lives, they should all be devoted to him: nor, if we could die a thousand deaths, should they be accounted too much to be endured for him. “His love should constrain us,” and carry us away as a mighty torrent in his service. It is said of the angels in heaven, that “they do his commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word [Note: Psalms 103:20.]:” and so should it be with us: the very first intimation of his will should call into activity our utmost powers: nor should we ever rest, till we can say of the work committed to us, “It is finished.”]

Suffer ye now, brethren, a word of exhortation—

1. Contemplate the excellency of your incarnate God—

[Survey the heavens, with all the diversified and stupendous bodies contained in them: and inspect the minutest insect, which nothing but the greatest magnifying power can render visible: and see, both in the one and in the other, his creating hand, and his preserving power. Then say with yourselves, ‘The Maker of all these things is my Friend, my Beloved, yea, my very Head, one with me; not merely as a subject is one with his political head, the king, but as any member of my body is with my own head. Not any powers which I myself possess are more used for the good of my own members, than all the powers of this Saviour are for me. For me he became incarnate: for me he died upon the cross: for me he rose, and ascended up where he was before: for me he orders every thing in heaven and earth: for me “he has prepared a place” in the mansions of his Father: and for me is he shortly coming again, to “take me to himself, that where he is I may be also.” Shall I cease for a moment to think of him? Shall any thing for a moment stand in competition with him?’ My dear brethren, let him have the pre-eminence: let him be seated on the throne of your hearts: let every Dagon fall before him: and let him “be all your salvation and all your desire.”]

2. Awake to the performance of your duties towards him—

[Are you not ashamed that this adorable Saviour has held so low a place in your esteem, that even the most contemptible things that can be imagined have had a pre-eminence above him? There is not a base lust which has not more power to sway you, than love to him, or zeal for his glory. There is not a vanity which you have not more desired, nor an object whom you have not more feared, nor a device you have not more relied upon, than he. Would you not have thought it impossible, that a Being so glorious in himself, and so gracious unto you, should ever be so despised by you, as he has been? O! humble yourselves before him; and now set yourselves with all diligence to honour and to glorify his name. Let it no longer be a doubt, either in your own minds or in the minds of any that behold you, who has the preeminence in your souls. Give yourselves wholly to him: live altogether for him: let your daily and hourly inquiry be, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” In short, endeavour to begin the life of heaven whilst you are yet upon earth. When once you are there, “you will follow the Lamb whither-soever he goeth [Note: Revelation 14:4.].” Follow him now: follow the footsteps which he trod on earth: follow him, in your affections, to the highest heavens [Note: Colossians 3:1-2.]: and look forward to the time when he, who has ascended as your Forerunner, shall come again to take you to himself, and “seat you with him upon his throne, as he sitteth on his Father’s throne.”]


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 2169

THE FULNESS OF CHRIST

Colossians 1:19. It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.

IT is scarcely possible to read with attention the Epistles of St. Paul, and not to be struck with the energetic manner in which he expatiates on the glory and excellency of Christ, not merely when he professedly treats of his work and offices, but oftentimes when he only incidentally, as it were, makes mention of his name. We notice this particularly in the passage before us, where he puts forth all the powers of language to exalt his character to the uttermost.

Confining our attention to the expression in the text, we shall shew,

I. What is that fulness which resides in Christ—

There is in him,

1. An essential fulness—

[Christ, though apparently a mere man, was the first cause and last end of all things, even “God over all, blessed for ever [Note: ver. 16. with Romans 9:5.].” His people are said to be “filled with all the fulness of God [Note: Ephesians 3:19.];” but “in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead [Note: Colossians 2:9. in this place it is not θεοῦ, but θεότητος.].” Men are made to enjoy all the gifts and graces of God’s Spirit; and, in this sense, are “partakers of the Divine nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.]:” but Christ was really “God manifest in the flesh [Note: 1 Timothy 3:16. John 1:1; John 1:14.].” The Godhead dwelt in him, not symbolically as in the temple [Note: Psalms 80:1.], or spiritually as in us [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:16.], but truly, “bodily [Note: σωματικῶς, Colossians 2:9.],” substantially. The fulness of the Godhead was essentially his from all eternity; nor was he any more dependent on the Father than the Father was on him: but his assumption of our nature was the result of the Father’s counsels, and the fruit of the Father’s love [Note: John 3:16. 1 John 4:10.].]

2. A communicative fulness—

[He has a fulness of merit to justify the most ungodly. Christ, by his obedience unto death, perfected whatever was necessary for the restoring of us to the Divine favour. His atonement was satisfactory; his righteousness was complete. Under the Mosaic law, there were many sins for which no sacrifice was provided: but the one sacrifice of Christ was all-sufficient; arid “all who believe in him, are justified from all things [Note: Acts 13:39.]:” his “righteousness shall be unto them, and upon them all [Note: Romans 3:22.]:” and, however great their iniquities have been, they shall be without spot or blemish in the sight of God [Note: Ephesians 5:27.].

He has also a fulness of grace to sanctify the most polluted. With him was “the residue of the Spirit [Note: Malachi 2:15.]” The oil that was poured out upon him was to descend to the meanest of his members [Note: Psalms 133:2.]. “He was constituted Head over the Church, that he might fill all things [Note: Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 4:10.]:” and he received gifts on purpose that he might bestow them on the rebellious [Note: Psalms 68:18.]. His grace is still sufficient to support us in all temptation [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.], and to sanctify us throughout in body, soul, and spirit [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.]. No lusts are so inveterate as eventually to withstand its influence [Note: Luke 8:2.]; nor is any heart so vile but it shall be “purged by him from all its filthiness, and from all its idols [Note: Ezekiel 36:25-27.].”]

It will not be presumptuous, or unprofitable, if we inquire,

II. Why it pleased the Father that all fulness should reside in Christ?

Many reasons might be mentioned; but the principal of them may be comprehended under the two following:

1. For the honour of his own Son—

[As Jesus was to become a sacrifice for us, it was meet that he should have all the honour of our salvation. Accordingly we are told, that God exalted him on purpose that at his name every knee should bow, and that every tongue should confess him to be the sovereign Lord of all [Note: Philippians 2:9-11.]. By this appointment of Christ to be the head of vital influence to the Church, all are necessitated to come to him, and to “receive out of his fulness [Note: John 1:16.],” and to live by faith upon him from day to day [Note: Galatians 2:20.]. All are necessitated to depend on him for a constant communication of grace and peace, as much as to depend on the sun for the periodical returns of light and heat. Hence, both on earth and in heaven [Note: Galatians 6:14. Revelation 5:12-13.], all are constrained to give him all the glory of their salvation. No one can ascribe any thing to his own goodness; seeing that all are cleansed in the blood of Christ, and arrayed in the spotless robe of his righteousness [Note: Isaiah 61:10]: nor can any glory in his own strength; since no one has any sufficiency in himself even to think a good thought [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:5.]; and much less to renew his own soul. The merit that justifies, and the grace that sanctifies, are all of him: “he is all, and in all [Note: Colossians 3:11.]:” and he is made all unto us, on purpose that all may be compelled to glory in him alone [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:30-31].]

2. For the security of our souls—

[There never was but one man to whom a stock was entrusted; and he soon (if we may so speak) became a bankrupt. And if we had grace committed to us in such a manner as to he left wholly to ourselves for the improvement of it, we should lose it again, as he did. For our more abundant security therefore the Father treasured up all fulness in his Son; that, however our broken cisterns might fail, there might be an inexhaustible fountain secured to us. In this view we are reminded, that “God has laid help upon One that is mighty [Note: Psalms 89:19.];” and that “because he liveth we shall live also [Note: John 14:19.].”

We are further told by the Apostle, that this appointment of Christ to he our head, with the consequent necessity of living by faith on him, and of receiving out of his fulness, was ordained of God on purpose that the promises might be finally secured to all the seed [Note: Romans 4:16.]; and he himself declares, that this very constitution of things was the one ground of his assurance respecting the salvation of his soul: “Our life is hid with Christ in God: and (therefore) when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we also shall appear with him in glory [Note: Colossians 3:3-4.].”]

This passage, duly considered, shews us clearly,

1. The excellency of faith—

[How can we receive any thing from Christ except by faith? No other method can be conceived whereby we can obtain any thing at his hands. But faith interests us in all that he has done and suffered for us, and in all that he has received to communicate unto us. It is that whereby alone we can “draw water out of the wells of salvation:” it is that, in the exercise of which we may be “filled with all the fulness of God.” Let all of us then cultivate this precious grace, and, as the best means of receiving every other blessing, let us pray with the Apostles, “Lord, increase our faith.”]

2. The evil of self-righteousness—

[Self-righteousness is a practical denial of the assertion in our text. It refuses to Christ the honour put upon him by the Father, and ascribes to self that which belongs to him alone. And shall it be thought a small evil to rob Christ of his glory? Shall it appear a light matter to thwart the eternal counsels of the Father, and to set ourselves in direct opposition to his blessed will? Let none henceforth suppose, that the trusting in our own wisdom, righteousness, or strength, is a venial offence: for surely God will be jealous for his own honour, and the honour of his dear Son; and will look with scorn on every proud Pharisee, while he will receive with boundless compassion the vilest of repenting publicans.]

3. The true nature of evangelical piety—

[Vital godliness, especially under the Christian dispensation, consists in a conformity of mind to the revealed will of our heavenly Father. Now in no respect is that will more sacred than in reference to the glory designed for Christ; nor is there any thing wherein a conformity to it is more characteristic of true and eminent piety. In one word then, the true Christian is well pleased that all fulness should dwell in Christ: if he might have some fulness in himself, he would rather have it in Christ, that he might receive all from him. Every part of salvation is the more endeared to him, on account of its coming through that channel: and it is his supreme felicity in this world, as it will be also in the world to come, to owe every thing to that adorable Saviour, and to glorify him in all, and for all.

Beloved, let this be your daily experience. Let it be your delight to live upon Christ’s fulness; and it shall be his delight to communicate to you all spiritual and eternal blessings.]


Verses 21-23

DISCOURSE: 2170

SANCTIFICATION THE END OF REDEMPTION

Colossians 1:21-23. You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.

OF all the subjects that can occupy the human mind, there is not one so great and glorious as that of redemption through the incarnation and death of God’s only-begotten Son. It is that which occupies incessantly the heavenly hosts; and which the Apostle Paul, whatever be his more immediate subject of discourse, reverts to on every occasion: and when he has, however incidentally, touched upon it, he scarcely knows how, or when, to leave it. This very strongly appears in the passage now before us. Having in the beginning of this chapter thanked God for bringing the Colossians to the knowledge of his Gospel, and informed them what were the peculiar blessings which in his daily prayers lie sought for in their behalf, and what thanksgivings he constantly offered up, especially for that which they had experienced in being “translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son,” he launches forth into the praises of the Lord Jesus Christ for all that he had done in the creation, preservation, and redemption of the world, and particularly for his redeeming love, as manifested to, and exercised upon, the Colossian converts. But, as they were converts from the Gentile world, we may fitly consider his address to them as delivered also to us; and may take occasion from it to shew,

I. What the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us—

1. Our state was awful in the extreme—

[“We were alienated from God, and enemies to him in our mind by wicked works.” This is no less true of us than of the idolatrous Gentiles: for though by calling ourselves Christians we have professed a regard for God and his Christ, we have not really sought our happiness in God: we have not even desired his favour, or used any means to obtain it. We have been contented to live at a distance from him, to put the very remembrance of him far from us, and to seek our happiness in things which had no proper tendency to endear either him to us, or us to him. However observant we may have been of outward forms, we have had no pleasure in communion with him. The exercises of prayer and praise have rather been an irksome task, than occupations in which we found our chief delight. And if at any time we have had opportunities of becoming better acquainted with God and with his holy will, we have not been forward to avail ourselves of them: and if instruction on the subject of his Gospel has been proffered to us, we have rather turned away from it, as distasteful to us, than listened to it as pleasing to our souls. The very light which would have revealed him to us, has been offensive to us; and we have turned our eyes from it, as bringing to our view an object, whose presence was to us a source of pain.

Nor is this all. We have been “enemies to him;” yea, “enemies to him in our mind:” we have had a decided aversion to his law: instead of contemplating it as “holy, just, and good,” we have viewed it as imposing a yoke that could not be endured. And this hatred to it has been proved by our actual rebellion against it: our “wicked works” have shewn clearly enough that the service of sin was more congenial with our minds than the service of our God. As for all the sublime duties which it inculcates, we have lived in a wilful neglect of them: and of innumerable evils which it forbids, we have lived in the daily and habitual commission — — — Such had been the state of the Colossians in their time of unregeneracy; and such is the state of every child of man, till he is renewed by God in the spirit of his mind.]

2. But the Lord Jesus Christ has interposed to deliver us from it—

[“He has reconciled us to God in the body of his flesh through death.” Yes: the Son of God himself has left the bosom of his Father, and assumed our flesh, that in the very nature which had sinned he might bear the penalty that was due to sin, and expiate our guilt by his own blood. The sacrifices under the law were substituted in the place of the offender, and they surrendered up their life as an atonement for his sins: and through the death of the victim in his stead, the sinner was reconciled unto his God. So the Lord Jesus Christ has offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; and effected reconciliation for all who believe in him. No longer does God look with anger upon his enemies, when with penitential sorrow they implore mercy for Christ’s sake. Not one of their trespasses will he ever impute to them: their iniquities, how great or numerous soever they may have been, are “blotted out by him as a morning cloud,” and “cast behind his back into the very depths of the sea.” This we are authorized to declare: for “God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation,” and commanded us to proclaim to the whole universe, that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.].”]

But, that we may not be deceived by a partial view of this mystery I will pass on from what he has done, to shew,

II. What was his ultimate design in doing it—

Whatever compassion the Lord Jesus felt for our fallen race, and however desirous he was to deliver us from destruction, he had other objects in view, that were not a whit less dear to him, and without which indeed his dying for us could never have prevailed to make us happy.

The restoration of our souls to the Divine image was in his more immediate contemplation—

Man by the Fall was despoiled of holiness, as well as happiness; and without a restoration to the former, could never repossess the latter. Indeed God could never re-admit him to his presence: nor could he, if admitted into heaven, find any satisfaction in the sight of a holy God, or any pleasure in the employments which constitute the felicity of the heavenly hosts. To restore man therefore to the image which he had lost, was one great end of Christ’s incarnation and death; as St. Paul has said, “He gave himself for us to redeem us” not from punishment merely, but “from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works [Note: Titus 2:14]” In another passage the Apostle comes more immediately to the point, and says, “Christ has loved his Church, and given himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish [Note: Ephesians 5:25-27.].” this passage shews, that the expressions in my text relate not to our justification before God, but to the sanctification of our souls; to which Christ has had a view in all that he has done and suffered for us.]

And this he will effect for all whom he reconciles to God—

[He will impart of his Spirit to the soul: he will strengthen the soul for all its conflicts: he will enable all his people to “mortify their earthly members,” and to “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts:” nor will he ever cease to work in them, till he has transformed them into his own linage, and can “present them unblameable and unreproveable in the sight of God.” We are not indeed to suppose that he will so renew them as to render them perfectly sinless; for the Mesh will continue to lust against the Spirit, as well as the Spirit against the flesh, to the latest hour of our lives [Note: Galatians 5:17.]: but he will so make the spiritual principle triumphant in the soul, as to leave in us no allowed sin, and so that he may present us to God as “Israelites indeed in whom there is no guile.”]

In this, however, there must be the concurrence and co-operation of the believer himself; as will appear whilst I shew,

III. What is necessary to be done on our part, in order to secure the blessings which he has obtained for us—

Those who are addicted to system would alter the translation here, and read it, not, “if ye continue,” but “since ye continue.” But this is only one instance of many, wherein the advocates for human systems betray their determination to make every thing bend to their views. The translators of our Scriptures would indulge no such unhallowed partiality. They would in no case wrest the Scriptures to make them favour a party in the Church. They maintained a child-like simplicity; and with scrupulous fidelity laboured to transmit to us the Scriptures in a perfect agreement with the inspired original. Of the propriety of the translation in this place I have no doubt: it is the very language of the Scriptures, in a thousand other places as well as this; and it speaks to us a most important truth, namely, that we never can be presented blameless before God at last, unless we continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.

1. It was by faith that we first obtained an interest in Christ—

[It would have been to no purpose that Christ had died to reconcile us to God, if we had not on our part believed in him as our Mediator and Redeemer. The unbelieving world who die in their sins, are rather plunged the deeper into perdition, than delivered from it, by the intervention of Christ. Their rejection of him has aggravated their guilt exceedingly: and the word preached to them in his Dame, will be “a savour of death unto all, to whom it is not a savour of life.” The receiving of him into our hearts by faith, put us into possession of all the blessings which he had purchased for us.]

2. By the continued exercise of the same faith we must ultimately secure the harvest of which we have reaped the first-fruits—

[“As we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so we must walk in him [Note: Colossians 2:6-7.].” We must “continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not be moved away from the hope of the Gospel.” It is a fact, that many do make shipwreck of the faith. The Scriptures abound with instances of it: and we also shall feel many temptations, both from without and from within, to follow their sad example. Like the stony-ground hearers, we may through the influence of persecution “fall away:” or, as in the case of the thorny-ground hearers, the good seed in us may be so choked by the cares and pleasures of this life, as to “bring forth no fruit to perfection.” And, from whatever source the defection arises, “if we turn back, we turn back unto perdition,” and “God’s soul shall have no pleasure in us.” Would we then be “presented faultless before the presence of God’s glory with exceeding joy [Note: Jude, ver. 24.]?” we must hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering:” we must be more and more “grounded” in the faith by a constant exercise of it on every occasion: we must be so firmly “settled” in it, that a man may as well attempt to pluck the sun from the firmament, as to shake either our faith or hope. This is the way to “endure unto the end;” and it is in this way only that we can fulfil that salutary injunction, “Look to yourselves, that ye lose not the things which ye have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward [Note: 2 John, ver. 8.].”]

Address—

1. Are there any who are here yet unreconciled to God?

[O! think what a mercy it is that God’s wrath has not broken forth against you to your utter and everlasting destruction! Think how many of the human race are now suffering the penalty due to their sins in hopeless sorrows, and in torments of which we have no conception. Do not, I entreat you, let the efforts made for your salvation be in vain. Let not “Christ have died in vain;” and “receive not the grace of God in vain:” but “to-day, whilst it is called to-day, harden not your hearts, lest you provoke God to swear in his wrath that you shall never enter into his rest.”]

2. Are there here those whom God has reconciled to himself?

[How can you ever adore him as you ought to do? Can you reflect on the means he has used for your redemption; can you reflect on his laying your iniquities on the person of his only dear Son, and not bless him? The wonder is, how you can find a moment for any other employment; and that you are not, like the lame man whom Peter and John healed, leaping, and dancing, and praising God every day and all the day long.

But, if this were the frame of your mind, I should still point you to a more excellent way of glorifying your heavenly Benefactor. You have seen that the Lord Jesus, in dying for you, sought “to present you to God holy, and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight:” let his object then in redeeming you be the one object at which you shall aim through the remainder of your lives. And remember, that it is not sufficient that you be unblameable and unreprovable before men; you must be so “in the sight of God” also, even of that “God who searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins” Let your secret walk with God be such as he will approve. Let your every temper, and disposition, and habit, mark the friendship that subsists between God and you. And let every day be so spent, as if at the close of it you expected your soul to be required of you, and to be presented by your Saviour to your reconciled God.]


Verse 27

DISCOURSE: 2171

CHRIST IN US, THE HOPE OF GLORY

Colossians 1:27. Christ in you, the hope of glory.

THE Gospel is a “mystery;” “the riches” of which are unsearchable, and “the glory” incomprehensible. But the sum and substance of it is contained in few words: it is briefly this; “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” In the margin of our Bibles it is translated, “Christ among us, the hope of glory;” and each of these translations has its zealous advocates: but we may easily and properly comprehend both, by saying, that Christ is the hope of glory to us,

I. As revealed in the Scriptures—

The way to the tree of life is guarded by a flaming sword and there is no access to it for fallen man, but by Christ, as the appointed Mediator. He, as St. Paul says, “is our hope [Note: 1 Timothy 1:1];” and through him there is hope for all: through him,

1. As a dying Saviour—

[It is ho who has made atonement for our sins, and “reconciled us to God by the blood of his cross.” Through his vicarious sacrifice every sinner in the universe may come to God; seeing that “he is a propitiation, not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” However great the debt which we owe to Divine justice, we may regard it all as paid by our Divine Surety; and may assure ourselves, that, if we believe in Christ, “there neither is, nor ever shall be, any condemnation to us” — — —]

2. As a living Saviour—

[It is worthy of particular observation, that in the Holy Scriptures a greater stress is laid upon the life of Christ in glory, than upon his death upon the cross. St. Peter speaks of him as our hope, in this particular view: “God raised him up, and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God [Note: 1 Peter 1:21.].” St. paul, too, represents the life of Christ as more efficacious for our salvation than his death: “Who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us [Note: Romans 8:34.].” And still more forcibly, he says in another place, “If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life [Note: Romans 5:10.].” In heaven we view the Lord Jesus as our advocate with the Father, maintaining continually our peace with him; when we, by our innumerable departures from him, should entirely destroy all our hope of final acceptance with him. We view Him, also, as the one source of all spiritual blessings, the first cause of all the good that is in us, the protector of his people from all their enemies, and “the finisher” of the work of which he has been “the author.” It is from this view of him that the weakest of his people is enabled to say, “Because he lives, I shall live also” — — —]

But he is our hope yet more especially,

II. As dwelling in the heart—

All that the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us would be in vain, if he did not also work effectually in us. But this he does,

1. Purifying our hearts from sin—

[Our blessed Lord is said to “dwell in us [Note: Ephesians 3:17.],” and to be “one with us, even as he and his Father are one [Note: John 17:21; John 17:23.].” Now it is a fact, that his people are universally, and without exception, holy. And whence comes this? Is it from any power of their own? No; it is from the mighty working of his power in us: as the Apostle says, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me [Note: Galatians 2:20.]” Were we “separate from him, we could do nothing [Note: John 15:5.];” but, through the mighty working of his power in us, we “die unto sin and live unto righteousness,” and attain a meetness for our heavenly inheritance.]

2. Transforming us into his blessed image—

[This, after all, is the crowning work of redemption. Till this is effected, we may well stand in doubt both of ourselves and others. St. Paul, addressing the Galatian converts, says, My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you [Note: Galatians 4:19-20.].” To say the truth, till this is effected, nothing is done to any good purpose. It is not Christ on the cross, nor Christ in heaven, no, nor Christ in the heart, that will save us, unless his image be there formed in righteousness and true holiness. This is strongly declared by the Apostle Paul, in the third chapter of this epistle; where he says, “Put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him; where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free; but Christ (that is, the image of Christ) is all, and in all [Note: Colossians 3:10-11.]” But, when this great work is wrought, we need not fear: we may entertain a well-founded hope;, yea, we may have “a full assurance of hope,” that, “where he is, there we shall be also;” and that, “when He, who is our life, shall appear, we also shall appear with him in glory [Note: Colossians 3:4.].”]

Address—

1. Those who are deluding themselves with false hopes—

[There is not any one who does not conceive himself entitled to indulge a hope of happiness hereafter. But, to entertain any such hope without having received the Lord Jesus Christ into our hearts by faith, is a fatal delusion. For the Apostle says, that they who are “without Christ” are also without hope [Note: Ephesians 2:12.].” You will ask, Do I wish to drive you to despair? Yes, I do; so far, at least, as to drive you out of all false refuges, and to lead you to Him who is the only Saviour of the world: and I must declare unto you, that, whatever you lay as a foundation of hope, besides that which God himself has laid, you only deceive your own souls: for “other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:11.].” Christ is the only refuge of fallen man: nor can you have a scriptural hope of glory, till you have “fled to him, and laid hold on him [Note: Hebrews 6:18.],” and got his image enstamped upon your souls.]

2. Those who have a “good hope through grace”—

[“Let your union with Christ be more and more confirmed, becoming daily more intimate and more abiding. It is by this that the work of grace must be carried on, and perfected within you. It is by this that the justness of your hopes must be made to appear: for “every one that has a good hope in Christ will purify himself as Christ is pure,” and be progressively “changed into his image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” In proportion as this work advances, your hopes may well increase: and if this work decline within you, your evidences will be the less clear, and your hope be less assured. Press forward, then, for the highest possible conformity to the Saviour’s image; that you may already breathe, as it were, the atmosphere of heaven, and live in the constant anticipation of your future inheritance.]


Verse 28

DISCOURSE: 2172

PREACHING CHRIST

Colossians 1:28. Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

THE mystery of the Gospel was first made known to Adam in Paradise: but in process of time the real scope of it was forgotten; and nothing of it remained but the rites whereby it was shadowed forth. To Abraham a plainer revelation of it was given; and to Moses, a complete system of types, which were to illustrate the Gospel in all its parts. Still, however, the views which men had of it were obscure: the design of the ceremonial law itself was very imperfectly understood; and the idea of all men being saved through the crucifixion of the incarnate Deity, was almost as new to the Jews, in the apostolic age, as to the heathens themselves. Hence St. Paul speaks of it as “hid from all preceding ages and generations,” and as then for the first time “manifested to the saints.” That the memory of it might continue to the end of time, and its benefits be universally diffused, our blessed Lord appointed an order of men, whose sole business should be to spread the knowledge of it throughout the world. Amongst these St. Paul was a very distinguished instrument. He both laboured more abundantly, and suffered more severely, than any other of the Apostles.

In our text we see,

I. The ministrations of this great Apostle—

He specifies distinctly, first of all, the subject of his ministrations—

[This, as he tells us in the words preceding our text, was Christ in us the hope of glory. The words might be translated, “Christ among [Note: ἐν is so translated, a few words before, “among the Gentiles.”] you the hope of glory.” But whether we change, or retain, the present translation, we are sure that the death of Christ, as an atonement for sin, was that which he chiefly insisted on. He expressly tells us so in another place [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:23-24.], and declares that he had fully “determined to know and preach nothing else [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:2.].”

This he affirmed to be the only hope of sinful man: that it was that which made satisfaction to divine justice, and procured our reconciliation with his offended Father [Note: ver. 21, 22.]: that nothing could be added to it to render it more effectual [Note: Galatians 5:2; Galatians 5:4.]: and that if ever we attained to happiness and glory, it must be entirely through the merit of his all-atoning sacrifice [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:11.]. But though the sufficiency of the death of Christ for our salvation was the principal subject of the Apostle’s preaching, yet the in-dwelling of Christ in the soul by his blessed Spirit was necessarily connected with it; and the two points together formed the sum and substance of all his ministrations. He often speaks of Christ “dwelling in us [Note: Ephesians 3:17.]” and “living in us [Note: Galatians 2:20.],” and “being our life [Note: Colossians 3:4.]:” and in the text he says, that “Christ in us is the hope of glory.”

The necessity of this he urged with as much care and earnestness as the atonement itself: because without Christ we could do nothing [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:5.], yea, we must continue reprobates [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:5.], and for ever destitute of any interest in his salvation [Note: Romans 8:9.].]

He next mentions the manner in which he conducted them—

[He left nothing undone which could promote the reception of the Gospel: he “warned every man:” he was faithful to the trust reposed in him; and, without either courting the favour of men or fearing their displeasure, he boldly commended himself to the consciences of all. Knowing the terrors of the Lord, he persuaded men [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:11.]. He told them freely of their lost estate, and their utter incapacity to help themselves. He set before them the provision which God had made for them in Christ Jesus; and in the most pointed terms assured them, that “if they neglected that great salvation, they could never escape” the wrath of God [Note: Hebrews 2:3 and 1 Corinthians 16:22.]. If any, yea if even an angel from heaven should attempt to substitute another Gospel, or alter in any respect that which he had preached to them, he did not hesitate to pronounce them accursed [Note: Galatians 1:8-9.]. Nor had he any respect of persons. When preaching before kings, he spake so plainly as to make them tremble on their throne [Note: Acts 24:25.]: and when addressing those who professed godliness, he warned them frequently with tears, that carnal and worldly-minded Christians, whatever they might profess, were “enemies of the cross of Christ; and that their end would be destruction [Note: Philippians 3:18-19.].” He also “taught every man in all wisdom.” Being himself instructed beyond any of the sons of men, he laboured to impart what he had so freely received, and to make known to his hearers “the whole counsel of God. “Yet in this he exercised discretion. He administered milk to babes, and strong meat to those only who were able to digest it [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:1-2. Hebrews 5:13-14.]. As, on the one hand, he accommodated himself to the infirmities of the weak, so, on the other hand, he “withheld nothing that could be profitable” to the strong [Note: Acts 20:20.]. As far as he could with a good conscience, “he became all things to all men, that by all means he might save some [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:19-22.].”

Hence it appears with how much justice he called himself “a wise master-builder [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:10.];” indeed the whole of his ministrations prove him to have been “a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth [Note: 2 Timothy 2:15.].”]

He further declares the scope or end at which he continually aimed—

[The Apostle considered himself to be nearly in the situation of Abraham’s servant, who was sent out to procure a wife for Isaac [Note: Genesis 24:4.]: and, like him he laboured to accomplish his mission in the best and most successful manner [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:2.]. He wished to present all, whether Jews or Gentiles, perfect in Christ Jesus.”

He wished to present them perfect in his righteousness. All who believe in Christ are freely justified from all their sins [Note: Acts 13:39.]. They are clothed in the unspotted robe of Christ’s righteousness, and are “presented faultless before the presence of the Father’s glory [Note: Jude, ver. 24.].” Whatever iniquities may have been committed by them in their former life, they are all “blotted out as a morning cloud, and cast into the depths of the sea.” From the moment that they believe in Jesus, they are perfectly reconciled to God; they are “accepted in the Beloved [Note: Ephesians 1:6.],” and are “complete in him [Note: Colossians 2:10 and Revelation 3:18. middle clause.].”

He sought to present them also perfect through his grace. This was the end at which our blessed Lord aimed in dying for sinners [Note: ver. 22.]: and the very same was the Apostle’s end in preaching to them. He would not have his converts to continue in a low state of holiness, but to attain the fullest conformity to the Divine image: he would have them to “be holy, even as He which had called them was holy [Note: 1 Peter 1:15-16.].” This is the more usual acceptation of the term “perfect” in the sacred volume: it means that growth which Christians in general may be expected to attain: it imports maturity, in opposition to infantine weakness. And so anxious was the Apostle to bring his converts to this state, that he continued “travailing, as it were, in birth with them,” till it was fully accomplished: and this was the true reason of his so often “changing his voice” towards them [Note: Galatians 4:19-20.] in a way of consolation or reproof.]

From hence we see unquestionably,

II. The line which mutually becomes us in the relation in which we stand—

1. Me, as your minister—

[St. Paul is doubtless the best model for a Christian minister; and, consequently, he is most likely to labour with effect who follows him in the subject, the manner, and the scope of his ministrations. What then becomes me but to be a follower of him in these respects? God helping me, this is what I have endeavoured to be, and hope to continue even to the end. I must know nothing but Christ, and him crucified; I must warn or comfort men with all faithfulness; I must not relax my labours as long as I can have access to one who is not yet presented perfect in Christ Jesus; and I must regard the turning of many unto righteousness as the best and richest reward of all my labours — — —]

2. You, my stated hearers—

[The preaching of Christ is generally called enthusiasm: the warning of men respecting their guilt is deemed harshness: the labouring to instruct men is ascribed to an officious impertinence, or ostentatious vanity, or perhaps designing hypocrisy. A solicitude to bring men to a state of spiritual perfection is reckoned, I had almost said, among the most unpardonable of crimes; insomuch, that the drunkard, the whoremonger, and adulterer, shall meet with more favour from the world at large, than a faithful, diligent, conscientious minister. But if we revere the person and ministry of Paul, we ought also to honour those who resemble him; and to concur with them to the uttermost, by a submission to their rebukes, a following of their instructions, and an entire devoting of ourselves to the service and enjoyment of God. We should have the same end in hearing which they have in preaching to us; we should not be satisfied with any low attainment, but desire and labour to be “perfect in Christ Jesus.” This is what, through the tender mercy of my God, I have long experienced at your hands; and this is what 1 pray God 1 may ever see in you, as long as our mutual relation shall subsist, and till we be summoned to give an account of ourselves at the judgment-seat of Christ.

Let me however both “teach and warn” you. The time is shortly coming when I must present you all before God, either as having answered the end of my ministrations, and as having attained perfection in Christ, or as having disregarded and defeated all my efforts for your salvation. The Lord grant that I may not in that day prove “a swift witness against you,” but may have you as “my joy and crown of rejoicing” to all eternity.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Colossians 1:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/colossians-1.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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