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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Colossians 1

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. I.

After salutation, he thanketh God for their faith, confirmeth the doctrine of Epaphras, prayeth further for their increase in grace, describeth the true Christ, encourageth them to receive the Lord Jesus Christ, and vindicates his own ministry.

Anno Domini 62.

Effectuallyto silence the false teachers, who endeavoured to seduce the Colossian brethren to Judaism, the Apostle began the doctrinal part of this Epistle with confuting their leading error; the error for the sake of which all the rest were introduced; namely, that the institutions of Moses, but especially the Levitical sacrifices, were still necessary, because there were no propitiatorysacrifices in the gospel. This false and most destructive doctrine the Apostle exploded, by showing that they who are translated into the kingdom of God's beloved Son, have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins; consequently, that, in the gospel dispensation, God hath appointed a propitiatory sacrifice of real efficacy; namely, the sacrifice of the blood of Christ, to which believers can have sure recourse for pardon, and have no need of any other propitiatory sacrifice whatever, Colossians 1:13-14.—But, as the Colossians might have been told by the Judaizers, that the pardon of the sins of the whole world was an effect too great to be ascribed to the once shedding of Christ's blood, the Apostle observed, that the atonement made by that one sacrifice, was perfectlysufficient for the taking away the sins of all who believe, because the infinite dignity of Christ enhanced infinitely the merit of his death.—Christ's dignity the Apostle described in a magnificence of language suggested by the grandeur of the subject. He is the image of the invisible God, and the Lord of the whole creation, Colossians 1:15.—for he created all things in the heavens, and uponthe earth, visible and invisible, Colossians 1:16.—and by him all things are upheld, Colossians 1:17.—The Apostle having thus described the original and infinite dignity of Christ, as God's beloved Son, for the purpose of displaying the merit of his death, proceeded to speak of the honour and power which he received, in the human nature, as the reward of his death; whereby he showed, in a conspicuous light, the folly of those who endeavoured to persuade the Colossians to prefer the mediation of angels to the mediation of Christ. He is the head of the body, even of the church, and the beginning or author thereof. He is also the first-born, or Lord of the dead; having died to raise them again to life, Colossians 1:18.—This greatness, both in the natural and moral world, he hath received from his Father, that he may unite angels and men in one great community under himself, as their head, in order that they may be happy in their subjection to the Triune God, and in the society of one another, to all eternity. For, says the Apostle, it pleased the Father, that in him all the fulness of perfection and power should constantly abide, Colossians 1:19.—and, through the exercise of his authority and power, by him to unite all things under him as head, having made peace between them by the blood of his cross, Colossians 1:20.—Even the idolatrous Gentiles, notwithstanding their former wickedness, he has thus united, Colossians 1:21.—in one body with the Jews, in his church, through the death of his Son, to render them holy and unblameable in Christ's sight, at the last day, Colossians 1:22.—To be in that manner presented before Christ, the Apostle told the Colossians, would he their happy lot, if they continued firm in the faith of the gospel doctrine, which, because of its efficacy to sanctify sinners, was preached to every creature under heaven; of which gospel St. Paul was made a minister by Christ himself, Colossians 1:23.

But lest his imprisonment, for having preached salvation to the believing Gentiles, equally with the Jews, through the death of Christ, although they did not obey the law of Moses, might have led the Colossians to suspect the truth of his doctrine, the Apostle told them, that he rejoiced in the afflictions which he was enduring for them; that is, for maintaining their titleto salvation; and that these afflictions were expressly appointed to him by Christ, for the purpose of building his body, which is his church, Colossians 1:24.—of which church, he told them, a second time, he was made a minister, or Apostle, to build it by fully publishing God's determination to save thefaithful Gentiles, Colossians 1:25.—Then he informed them, that this determination was a mystery, or secret, which, during the Mosaic dispensation, was kept hid, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles; but was now discovered to such of the Jews as God thought fit to employin publishing it to the world, Colossians 1:26.—To these preachers, God was pleased to make known, by revelation, the greatness of the glory of this mystery concerning the Gentiles;that is, the glorious excellence of that part of his plan which relates to the believing Gentiles; namely, that Jesus Christ, to them also, is the author of the hope of a glorious resurrection to eternal life, as well as to the Jews, Colossians 1:27.—Him, therefore, all the inspired Christian teachers preach as the only Saviour of the world, exhorting every man to receive him as Saviour, and teaching every man, with all wisdom, the true doctrines of religion; that, at the day of judgment, they may present everyfaithful Christian perfect, both in respect of pardon and holiness, Colossians 1:28.—And to accomplish that glorious end, St. Paul himself laboured with the utmost vigour in preaching Jesus Christ the hope of glory, to believers of all nations, and in defending that doctrine with success, in proportion to the supernatural gifts bestowed upon him as an Apostle, Colossians 1:29.

COLOSSIANS.] Colosse was a considerable city of Phrygia, in Asia Minor, situated at a small distance from Laodicea; both which cities were destroyed by an earthquake, not long after the writing of this Epistle. St. Paul himself had not been at

Colosse when he wrote it, though he had, some years before, travelled through Phrygia; however, Epaphras had founded a Christian church at Colosse, and probably in the neighbouring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis. It is probable that some Colossians, who had heard St. Paul preach at Ephesus, might be converted by him; and among them Philemon, to whom St. Paul addressed his Epistle, so entitled. The churches of Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, were exposed to more imminent danger of being seduced by false teachers than many others, as they had not received the gospel immediately from an Apostle, but from Epaphras; and as they might question whether Epaphras did not err in some respects. This occasioned St. Paul's anxietyfor them, and induced him to confirm the doctrine of Epaphras by this Epistle, which was written from Rome, about the same time with the preceding, in the year 62 or 63. Lardner thinks, that this and the Epistle to Philemon were sent away together by Tychicus and Onesimus; although that to Philemon was probably delivered first. The more immediate occasion of writing to the Colossians was, an Epistle which St. Paul had received from the Laodiceans, (see ch. Colossians 4:16.) which Michaelis thinks contained some written queries relating to the doctrines of the Essenes, and that this Epistle was intended to answer them. The Epistle to the Colossians is so like that to the Ephesians, both in language and contents, that the one will greatly illustrate the other. See the introduction of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and also Lardner, Doddridge, Michaelis, Locke, and Pierce, to whom I am under considerable obligations in respect to my criticisms on this Epistle.


Verse 1

Colossians 1:1. Timotheus our brother Or, Timothy the brother.


Verse 2

Colossians 1:2. To the saints and faithful brethren To the holy and faithful brethren. They might receive this appellation of holy, not only on account of their strong attachment to the purity of the Christian faith, but likewise as a society by profession separated from the rest of the world.


Verse 3

Colossians 1:3. To God and the Father To the God and Father. Pierce, Doddridge, &c. P. Franck has a good observation here, which illustrates the beauty of many scriptures: "The order which would seem most artificial is transposed, to make the sense plainer. It is not,—having heard of your faith, I bless God,—but vice versa." From this verse to the 13th, St. Paul acquaints them with the satisfactory account that he had received of their faith and love; assuring them, at the same time, of the great interest which they had in both his petitions and thanksgivings. In giving an account hereof, he evidently endeavours to raise their sense of the greatness of those peculiar advantages which they partook of by the gospel, which were such as the law could not secure to them; and which were in a more large and plentiful manner now dispersed, being offered to the whole world, and not confined, like the peculiar privileges of the former economy, to the comparatively small nation of the Jews. Herebyhe likewise stirs up their gratitude to God,who had dealt so kindly with them; and excites their endeavours to answer the obligations under which he had laid them.


Verse 4

Colossians 1:4. Since we heard of your faith, &c.— See on Ephesians 1:15 and Philippians 1:3-5.


Verse 5

Colossians 1:5. For the hope which is laid up, &c.— There is an ambiguity in the connection of this clause. It may either signify that the Apostle gives thanks for this their hope, (supposing the 4th verse to come in as a parenthesis,) or it may more directlyrefer to the immediately preceding words, and intimate, that a partnership in this blessed hope cemented the hearts of these good men. In either sense the connexion is instructive; but the former appears most natural.


Verse 6

Colossians 1:6. In all the world "In all the provinces of the Roman empire," as the phrase often signifies. See Romans 10:18. The words in truth, at the end of the verse, may be referred to their knowledge; and then it should be rendered, since you truly knew the grace of God. But St. Paul seems rather here to mean, the true grace of God, as the gospel is called, 1 Peter 5:12. By the true grace, or unmixed gospel of God, he probably intends what was strongly on his mind,—God's great favour to the Gentiles, in receiving them to be his people,without their submitting to circumcision, and the Jewish law.


Verse 8

Colossians 1:8. Your love in the Spirit The Apostle's meaning seems to be, that their love to him was purely upon a spiritual account;—for the sake of the doctrine that he taught; they not having reason to love him upon any inferior consideration, since they had never seen him. See ch. Colossians 2:1; Colossians 2:5.


Verse 9

Colossians 1:9. Since the day we heard it, Our translators, by inserting it, shew that they thought this verse stood connected with Colossians 1:7-8 whereas those two verses are rather a parenthesis; and the present verse is to be joined with Colossians 1:6. This seems clear from what he says,—That ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will. The αυτου, his, relates here to God, mentioned in the end of the 6th verse, and consequently the sense is better supplied by these things;—that is, all the good things which he had before mentioned concerning them. By comparing the latter part of this verse with Ephesians 1:8-9 it appears, that in both places is meant a comprehensive view of the will of God; or, as he there calls it, the mystery of his will; namely, his great purpose of calling the Gentiles. Thespiritual understanding is an understanding of spiritual things, or such things as were revealed by the Spirit, of which the afore-said mystery was one. St. Paul shews himself very desirous that the Colossians should thoroughly understand and acknowledge this mystery. See Colossians 2:1-2.


Verse 10

Colossians 1:10. That ye might walk worthy, &c.— The Apostle seems here most pathetically to propose the great subject and design of this Epistle; which was chiefly intended to excite them to a temper and behaviour worthy their Christian character, and which, indeed, is the leading view in all his writings. Some would render the latter part of this verse, Being fruitful and increasing in every good work, for the knowledge of God; that is, for the acquiring of that knowledge for which St. Paul had thanked God before, Colossians 1:6.—that the gospel brought forth fruit among the Colossians; and it seems natural to suppose, that when he prays here, that they might bring forth fruit in every good work, he does not pray barely for what they already did, but for a further increase of it. Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:10. The words thus understood inform us, that a holy conversation is very serviceable to dispose men to acquire the knowledge of God.


Verse 12

Colossians 1:12. Made us meet to be partakers, The words rendered, partakers of the inheritance, literally signify, the proportion of an inheritance, which falls by lot to each of those among whom it is divided; alluding, as is supposed, to the manner in which the land of Canaan was divided among the tribes. It may be rendered, who hath made us fit for a part in the inheritance of the saints in light;—an expression which some understand as referring to the lustre of the glorified body of the saints: who will be clothed after the resurrection with a visible lucid glory, resembling that of the Shechinah.


Verse 13

Colossians 1:13. Who hath delivered us. Some think that the us and we, in these verses, refer to the Gentile converts only; but though there is no doubt that the Apostle refers to their dark andsinful state, yet there is no reason to believe that he means to exclude himself: for when divine grace made him sensible of what he had been in his pharisaical state, while a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious, he must certainly have seen himself to have been under the power of darkness; as Christ represents those of the Jews to have been, who, influenced by the spirits of darkness, were combined against him. See Luke 22:53.


Verse 14

Colossians 1:14.— St. Paul having, in the 13th verse, mentioned God's dear Son, he here, accordingtohisusualmanner,runsoutimmediatelyintoadigressionconcerning him; but it is such a digression as is very much to his main purpose; viz. to establish them in their adherence to Christ, and to make them sensible how unreasonable their attempt was, who endeavoured to seduce them from him. Nothingcould be said more proper for this end, than what he here says, to shew the pre-eminence and headship of Christ, in all respects, even infinitely above the angels, whom some would have persuaded them to worship; and to set forth his transcendent excellency, and the greatness of the advantages which the Gentiles received by him. See the Inferences and Reflections.


Verse 15

Colossians 1:15. Who is the image Adam is said to have been made in the image of God, and dominion given him over the creatures of the earth; by which he became Lord of this lower world. St. Paul, in Philippians 2:6 tells us, that Christ was in the form of God, which gave him dominion over the works of nature, which had their being from, and owe their preservation to his power. Moses gives us an account how Adam fell from the dignity in which he was created, and entailed misery upon his descendants, through his disobedience and vain ambition. St. Paul says, that Christ, through obedience and submission to the will of his Father, has made an atonement, and has set us an example, by which, if the same mind be in us, through his grace, we may recover what is lost. Moses tells us, that Adam was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit, upon the hopes which the tempter gave him, that it would make him like to God. He thought it such an advantageous proposal, that he catched at the opportunity, and eagerly embraced the offer. St. Paul's account is, that Christ, who had a right by nature to appear in the majesty and glory of God, yet voluntarily laid it aside, and lived and died upon earth, in fashion as a man. What Adam got by his bold attempt, we all know; but Christ, for a recompence of his obedience, was highly exalted in his glorified humanity. Adam was, at best, a faint image of God; but Christ was a true, faithful, and infinitely complete image of the wisdom, power, and goodness of his Father. Adam was such an image of God, as the reflection of the sun is, when seen in the water; but Christ was such an image of the sun, as another sun would be, adorned with equal lustre and radiance. The Apostle describes our Redeemer in this and the following verses, in such lofty terms, as evidently bespeak him to be a Divine Person, truly and really God; and consequently the fittest, the only person to undertake so great and glorious a work as the redemption of a perishing world. The Father is always represented in the New Testament as invisible: but Christ is represented as visible; since he actually took upon him flesh, and was seen in the world. Indeed, his being called the image of God, in this place, and 2 Corinthians 4:4 implies his being visible, and that the perfections of the whole Godhead do most eminently shine in him. It is remarkable how expressly Philo, the Jew, in more places than one, calls the Logos, or Word, of which he speaks, the image of God.

Dr. Hammond observes, that the word πρωτοτοκος, besides the ordinary notion of first-born, is used sometimes in scripture for a Lord, or person in power; who hath the privilege of the first-born, dominion over all his brethren; and according to this notion it is used commonly in scripture for a prince, or principal person; (see Psalms 68:27.) and among the civilians, the heir and the lord are synonimous terms. That this is the true sense ofthe word in this place, appears probable, for the following reasons:

1. Because the Apostle immediately adds, for by him were all things created; so that the creation of all things by him is given as a reason for his being πρωτοτοκος, or the first-born. Now it is not a good argument, that, because he created all things, he was therefore himself produced before them; it is sufficient for that purpose, that he had almighty power, and was before them: but it is a very good argument, that, because he created all things, he should therefore be Lord, or Heir of all things. 2nd, Because the same Apostle, Hebrews 1:2 hath stiled the same person Heir of all things; and probably alluded to the same reason, when he added, by whom also he made the worlds. Thirdly, Because the prophesy in Psalms 89:26-27 confirms this interpretation, and shews the true meaning of the word. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation; also I will make him my first-born,(in the 70: πρωτοτοκος,) higher than the kings of the earth; but, according to the Arian notion, this should have been, He is or was my first-born. See Hebrews 1:6. Revelation 3:14. It may not be amiss to observe, that the word πρωτοτοκος hath yet another signification; and is applied by Homer, Il. P. to an animal that hath brought forth its first young; in which sense it might be applied, without any great impropriety, to the Creator of all things; to Him, who, as it were at the first birth, by the exertion of his creating power, brought forth all things. The words πασης κτισεως, so naturally signifying the whole creation, [as they are translated in Romans 8:22.] (a version which gives a much nobler and more determinate sense than every creature), at least render this interpretation very remarkable. Some translate it the first-born before, or born before all the creation. See Blackwall, S.C. vol. ii, p. 173. Sherlock, vol. 4: dis. 1. Scott's Christian Life, vol. 3: p. 559. Wallis's Sermon on the Resurrection,Tillotson, vol. 1: serm. 43 and "The Doctrine of the Trinity," &c. p. 16.

According to the Arians, the first-born of the whole creation, is the first-made creature. But the reason advanced to prove the Son the first-born of the whole creation, overturns that sense of this passage. For surely the Son's creating all things, does not prove him to be the first-made creature, unless his power of creating all things originated from his being the first-made creature; which no one I think will affirm. As little does the Son's creating all things, prove that he first of all created himself. Yet these absurdities will be established by the Apostle's reasoning, if the first-born of the whole creation signifies the first-made creature.


Verse 16

Colossians 1:16. Whether they be thrones, &c.— See Ephesians 3:10. For him, at the end of the verse, means to be in subjection to him,—to be created particularly for his glory. This is justified by what is said, Colossians 1:18 that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.


Verse 17

Colossians 1:17. And by him all things consist This is a new argument which St. Paul uses, to prove the super-eminent dignity and authority of Christ; namely, that as the Father made all things by him, so he upholds and preserves all things by him too. The same is asserted, Hebrews 1:3 where he is said to uphold all things by the word of his power.


Verse 18

Colossians 1:18. And he is the head of the body St. Paul had proved Christ's superiority to all the creatures, by his making and sustaining them; and now, by a third argument, he confirms his full authority over the church, and that is by God the Father's constitution and appointment at his resurrection. The insisting expressly upon this was agreeable to his grand design, to confirm the Colossians in their regard to Christ, being apprehensive that they were in some danger of being drawn off from him. The beginning here mentioned, (who is the beginning) is very different from that spoken of before; and yet this beginning, which is his resurrection, is plainly laid down as a foundation of the principality and headship which he holds over the church. He was the beginning, with respect to the creation of all things, being the Lord or first born of every creature; He is the beginning and head of the church, being the firstborn from the dead;—the first who ever rose to an endless life. 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23. Acts 26:23. Revelation 1:5. In all things, means in all respects; not only as the Maker of all things, but as the Mediator raised from the dead.


Verse 19

Colossians 1:19. For it pleased, &c.— Or, For in him all fulness pleased to dwell. The 9th verse of the next chapterseems clearly to explain this passage—"It pleased the Father that all the plenitude of the Godhead should reside inhim bodily." The word rendered dwell signifies a permanent and inseparable presence; and it is stiled by the fathers an hypostatical union. See John 1:16. Ephesians 1:23.


Verse 20

Colossians 1:20. And having made peace, &c.— And by him to reconcile all things unto the same (having made peace by the blood of his cross) by him, I say, &c. Dr. Whitby would render it, by him to make all things friendly in him, making peace between them by the blood of his cross. But if we take the words in their literal sense, they mean that by him God hath reconciled all things to each other, whether things on earth, i.e. Jews and Gentiles, or things in heaven, i.e. celestial spirits, who are now reconciled to all the glorified saints and to all that believe upon earth, and incorporated with them into one holy and happy society: for when a breach commenced between God and man, the angels, as faithful subjects, must join with God against rebellious man, and be ready to act as enemies to him, as long as he continued an enemy to God. See Ephesians 1:10.


Verse 22

Colossians 1:22. In the body of his flesh, &c.— That body, or mortal flesh, which he was pleased to assume, that he might be capable of suffering. See Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 5:27-30 and Colossians 1:10 of the present chapter.


Verse 23

Colossians 1:23. If ye continue in the faith, &c.— "You will certainly be so presented, if ye continue established and grounded in the faith in which you have been instructed, and be not by any floods of affliction or tempers of temptation, removed and carried away from the important hope of a happy immortality brought to us by the glorious gospel; which we have heard, and which hath not only been published among the Jews, but, by a special commission from God, been preached to the whole creation under heaven, as a message which extends to all the species of mankind; by which he commandeth all men every where to repent, and promises salvation to all who believe and obey. Of which gospel I Paul am appointed a minister, and esteem it my peculiar honour and happiness that I am so."


Verse 24

Colossians 1:24. And fill up, &c.— Nothing could be further from the Apostle's intention (as is manifest from the whole tenor of his writings), than to intimate that the sufferings of Christ were imperfect as to that fulness of atonement which was necessary in order to the justification of believers. But he deeply retained in his mind the impression of that first lesson which he had from his Saviour's mouth, namely, that he was persecuted in his members. Acts 9:4. He therefore considers it as the plan of Providence, that a certain measure of sufferings should be endured by this body of which Christ was the head; and he rejoices to think, that what he endured in his own person, did in some sense and degree resemble the sufferings of his adorable Lord. Comp. Ephesians 3:13. Philippians 2:17-18.


Verse 26

Colossians 1:26. Even the mystery, &c.— See Romans 16:25. Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 3:21.


Verse 27

Colossians 1:27. Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory, "This rich display of divine grace is all summed up in one word, That Christ is in you the hope of eternal glory. Being formed by divine grace in your hearts, he brings to you, who were once without hope, and without God in the world, (Ephesians 2:12.) the bright beamings of this blessed prospect;—even of a glorious and holy immortality."


Verse 28

Colossians 1:28. Whom we preach All this discourse centers in the great view of engaging the Colossians to adhere to genuine Christianity; and it is pleasing to observe how everyverse, and almost every clause, suggests more directly orobliquely some strong argument to that purpose. The words every man occurring no less than three times in the compass of this one verse, shews that St. Paul laid great stress upon them. The meaning of the last clause is, "I labour that my ministry may have that effect upon all my hearers, whether Jews or Gentiles, as that every one of them may appear perfect in the sight of God." Nor need it seem strange that the Apostle should speak of this presenting, as his own act, since he uses a somewhat similar expression elsewhere, 2 Corinthians 11:2. I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ: the expression here seems used in allusion to the offerings presented to God under the law. When he says perfect in Christ Jesus, he hints, that they had not, and could not have, this perfection by the Mosaical law.


Verse 29

Colossians 1:29. Striving according to his working, &c.— This may import the many signs and wonders which God enabled him to perform for the confirmation of the doctrine that he preached; (comp. Galatians 2:8. 2 Corinthians 13:3.) or else the divine influence upon himself, whereby he was excited and enabled with such vast diligence, industry, and success, to preach the gospel. Comp. Romans 15:19. 1 Corinthians 15:10. The next verse, which, with the two following, should not have been separated from this chapter, leads us rather to prefer the latter of these senses.

Inferences.—What a divine authority does the apostolic character give to St. Paul's epistles! And with what affection should we, after his example, wish all aboundings of grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, to all the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus! And how should we bless God on their behalf, and recommend them in our prayers to him, on account of what we see or hear of their faith and love! What a mercy is it that this gospel is now preached, by divine commission, to Gentiles as well as Jews, in all its unsearchably glorious riches; which was a mystery concealed in a great measure from former ages, but is now manifested to the saints! But how much greater is the mercy still, to know this gospel of the grace of God in truth; to experience its efficacy in delivering us from the power of Satan, and translating us into the kingdom of God's best beloved Son; and to have Christ dwelling in our hearts as our hope of glory! This encourages further prayers for all increase in light and grace and strengthenings, by the glorious operations of divine power, unto all patience, long-suffering and joy, under all the trials of life; and unto all becoming, fruitful, and holy walking with God, who in this way makes all his faithful people meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

How great and glorious is the person of Christ! He is the essential and representative image of God the Father, who in his own nature is invisible; he had an eternal existence before all worlds, and is the Creator and Upholder, the first cause and last end of all things, from the highest to the lowest of them, in heaven and on earth: He also, as Mediator, is the Head of his mystical body the church; has all office and dispensatory fulness constantly residing in him; and is the first and chief that rose from the dead to immortal life, and every way super-eminent to all saints and angels. And how important are the benefits which the faithful receive from him! They who were some time enemies, through the iniquity of their hearts and lives, are now reconciled to God by his atoning death, have remission of sins through his redeeming blood, and are sanctified by his Spirit. And what an honour is it to be made wise and faithful preachers of Christ, and instruments of presenting multitudes perfect in him! Who would not willingly lay themselves out to the utmost, according to the powerful workings of his grace in and with them, to subserve this blessed design; and rather rejoice than repine at any sufferings, to what degree soever they may be called to undergo them in the cause of Christ, for his sake, and for the conversion, edification, and eternal salvation of immortal souls!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Apostle opens his epistle with his usual introduction. Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, appointed to that eminent honour and office by an immediate commission from heaven, and Timotheus our brother, who joins with me in this epistle, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse, who are living members of Christ's mystical body, and in practice correspond with their holy profession; Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ; may every blessing of pardon, adoption, comfort, strength, sanctification, and glory, be your happy portion!

2nd, Though unknown to them in person, yet in heart and affection warmly attached to them, the blessed Paul,

1. Thanks God for the pleasing account which he had heard of them. We give thanks to God, and the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, our reconciled and covenant God in him; praying always for you, that you may abide and abound in every thing that is excellent; and blessing God for what he has already done on your behalf; since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and how cordially you embraced his glorious gospel, and rested firm on him alone for acceptance and salvation: and of the love which ye have to all the saints, the genuine fruit of your faith, and the proof of your unfeigned love to him whose image they bear; for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, even the eternal blessedness which God hath prepared and promised for all his faithful saints; whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel which is come unto you; through the Divine Providence it has been preached among you, as it is in all the world, throughout the Roman empire, and bringeth forth fruit, made effectual by the Divine Power to the conversion of men's souls; as it doth also in you produce the most blessed effects, since the day ye heard of it and knew the grace of God in truth, experimentally made acquainted therewith, receiving the gospel both in the light and in the love of it. As ye also learned of Epaphras, our dear fellow-servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; for to his labours you are singularly indebted; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit, testifying his warm affection toward you, in the report that he made of your unfeigned love to Christ and his people, the evidence of the genuine work of God's Spirit in your souls. Note; (1.) The mercies of which others, who are near and dear to us, partake, call for our thankfulness, as well as those which we receive from God ourselves. (2.) It is an inestimable favour, through Divine Providence, to hear the word of the truth of the gospel preached; but the grand matter is to receive it into our hearts, and to know the grace of God in truth. (3.) Wherever Divine Grace operates effectually, it will be seen in the blessed fruits which are produced thereby. (4.) A faithful minister is an invaluable blessing to any people; and highly are they bound to love and honour him.

2. To his thanksgivings he adds his hearty prayers. For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you. [1.] That ye may be made wise unto salvation: and to desire, proceeds the Apostle, that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will, your minds more clearly discerning the riches of the grace of God, your privileges, and the practice of holiness which thence results, advancing in all wisdom and spiritual understanding: and [2.] Disposed to follow in simplicity the light which God bestows, that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, adorning your holy profession by a suitable conversation, and desiring to approve yourselves to the great Master: being fruitful, as trees of righteousness, in every good work, that is for the glory of God, and the benefit of your brethren; and thus increasing in the knowledge of God. Note; As knowledge is essential to all acceptable service, so the more faithfully we improve the grace given us, the more fully shall we be let into the secrets of wisdom. For if any man doth his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, John 7:17. [3.] We pray that ye may be strengthened with all might in the inner man, for the discharge of every duty, and to resist every enemy of your souls, according to his glorious power, which can support you abundantly unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness, bearing up your minds with cheerfulness under all persecutions or afflictions which may befal you, neither weary nor desponding, but with holy triumph exulting in the grace that you have experienced, and the promises of continual help in every time of need. Note; (1.) All our strength must come from above, and is to be obtained in the way of prayer. (2.) Every true believer, conflicting with and conquering sin and Satan, is a living monument of God's glorious power, and like the burning bush, though compassed with temptations, is not consumed. (3.) However multiplied, prolonged, or afflictive our trials may be, we are called to exercise all patience, and neither to murmur nor faint under them: and, hard as the work is, God will enable the believer for that which he does command, yea, not only to be resigned, but to rejoice in the midst of tribulations.

3rdly, The Apostle returns again to thanksgiving,

1. In view of the inestimable blessings to which they had been admitted. Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, by his Spirit renewing our hearts, raising up our affections to high and heavenly things, and preparing us, if faithful, for that glory which he hath prepared for us. Note; It would be folly and delusion to expect our lot among the saints in light, if we have not our conversation among them here below.

2. He gives thanks to God, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, plucking us as brands from the burning, rescuing us from the slavery of sin and Satan, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son, admitting us to the inestimable privileges and blessings of that kingdom of light and grace which Jesus came to erect, that we might be brought under his happy government. Note; (1.) We are by nature slaves of sin and Satan, walking in darkness, and liable each moment to rush into eternal ruin. (2.) It is an act of amazing grace, when God is pleased to pluck the sinner from this miserable state; but this he is willing to do for every real penitent.

3. He blesses God for the salvation obtained through Christ, in whom we have redemption through his blood, deliverance from guilt, and, as the earnest of our adoption, the forgiveness of sins, freely bestowed upon us.

4. He describes the glorious personage, to whom we are indebted for pardon, grace, and every blessing; who is the image of the invisible God; one with the Father in essence and perfections, and, as incarnate, appears his visible representative, the first-born, or first-begotten of every creature, begotten before the worlds were, and the Lord and Heir of all creation. For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, from the lowest rank of beings to the highest archangel, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers, by whatever names or titles distinguished, whether in heaven, or in earth: all things were created by him and for him, by his power and for his glory. And he is before all things, in eternal pre-existence; and by him all things consist, preserved and upheld by his providence and care, as they were spoken into being at his word. And he is the head of the body, in his peculiar character as Mediator, not only as having the dominion over all things, but also as communicating vital influence to the several members, of which the church universal is composed: who is the beginning, the principle of spiritual life to his believing people; the first-born from the dead, who rose by his own power, and is the pledge, and first-fruits of our resurrection; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence, exalted far above all creatures, the object of adoration to saints and angels, and possessing the first place in their affection and regard. For it pleased the Father, in consequence of the complete atonement which he has made, that in him should all fulness dwell for the use of his church, all fulness of merit, righteousness, graces, gifts, according to their wants, to be freely dispensed to every real member of his body mystical. And (having made peace through the blood of his cross, receiving full satisfaction to his justice, by the oblation of the body of Jesus once for all, and now, consistently with his own glory, being able to extend mercy to the guilty sinner) it pleased the Father by him to reconcile all things unto himself, restoring them from their state of enmity to his forfeited regard, in a way as honourable to him, as happy to them; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven, the members of the church militant here below, or those already entered into rest above. How glorious is the sacrifice of Christ, beheld in this delightful view! How justly worthy to be the grand object ever before us, since to it we are indebted for all that we possess here, and all that we hope for hereafter!

5. He mentions with delight the interest which they, to whom he wrote, possessed in all the blessings of this glorious redemption. And you that were some time utterly alienated from God, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, by nature and by practice rebels against the divine government, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, receiving you into the arms of his mercy, when drawing near to him by faith, through that new and living way which he hath consecrated through the vail of his crucified body; to present you holy and unblameable, and unreprovable in his sight: and this will be your happy case, both now and for ever, if ye continue in the faith, if ye cleave to Christ perseveringly till death, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, even that substantial hope which springs from the perfect atonement and all-sufficient grace of the great Redeemer: which blessed gospel ye have, through mercy heard; and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven, as a common salvation, alike free for Gentiles as for Jews, and extending to all sinners of every rank and condition. Note; The gospel is grace abounding; none perish because of the greatness of their guilt, but because they reject the only remedy through pride and unbelief, and will not come to Christ, that they might have life.

6. Having mentioned the gospel which was preached unto them, among others who were honoured with the dispensation of it, he humbly inserts his own name, whereof I Paul am made a minister, by special commission, on behalf of the Gentiles: who now rejoice in my sufferings for the glorious truths which I have preached unto them, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church; not that the sufferings of Christ were incomplete, and needed any addition to them in order to perfect the ransom, and make satisfaction to Divine Justice; but as the members of his body are all to go through tribulation to glory, I, who was the instrument of their sufferings formerly, now in turn receive my measure of afflictions, and with holy joy triumph under them, when I have cause to hope that his church and people shall be profited thereby: whereof (of which church) I am made a minister, by a call immediately from heaven, according to the dispensation of God, which is given to me for you Gentiles, to fulfil the word of God, which was commanded me, or in correspondence with the prophecies which had foretold your conversion by the gospel, even the mystery which had been hid from ages, and from generations, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs; but now is made manifest to his saints, his prophets and apostles, and by them to all the faithful: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, who should be admitted to the participation of all the invaluable privileges of the gospel, the author, purchaser, and dispenser of which is Christ in you, formed in your hearts by faith, the hope of glory; whom we preach as the only Saviour of the miserable and desperate; warning every man of the mortal danger of sin, and his inevitable ruin out of Christ; and teaching every man in all wisdom concerning the only method of safety, even faith in a crucified Saviour; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, complete in him as their head, and grown up to the perfection of knowledge, grace, and holiness, in the day of his appearing and glory: whereunto I also labour, striving with every nerve, in the midst of opposing enemies, according to his working which worketh in me mightily, who enables me for the conflict, and crowns my labours with success.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Colossians 1:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/colossians-1.html. 1801-1803.

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