3. We give thanks to God. He praises the faith and love of the Colossians, that it may encourage them the more to alacrity and constancy of perseverance. Farther, by shewing that he has a persuasion of this kind respecting them, he procures their friendly regards, that they may be the more favourably inclined and teachable for receiving his doctrine. We must always take notice that he makes use of thanksgiving in place of congratulation, by which he teaches us, that in all our joys we must readily call to remembrance the goodness of God, inasmuch as everything that is pleasant and agreeable to us is a kindness conferred by him. Besides, he admonishes us, by his example, to acknowledge with gratitude not merely those things which the Lord confers upon us, but also those things which he confers upon others.
But for what things does he give thanks to the Lord? For the faith and love of the Colossians. He acknowledges, therefore, that both are conferred by God: otherwise the gratitude were pretended. And what have we otherwise than through his liberality? If, however, even the smallest favors come to us from that source, how much more ought this same acknowledgment to be made in reference to those two gifts, in which the entire sum of our excellence consists?
To the God and Father. Understand the expression thus — To God who is the Father of Christ. For it is not lawful for us to acknowledge any other God than him who has manifested himself to us in his Son. And this is the only key for opening the door to us, if we are desirous to have access to the true God. For on this account, also, is he a Father to us, because he has embraced us in his only begotten Son, and in him also sets forth his paternal favor for our contemplation.
Always for you,Some explain it thus — We give thanks to God always for you, that is, continually. Others explain it to mean — Praying always for you. It may also be interpreted in this way, “Whenever we pray for you, we at the same time give thanks to God;” and this is the simple meaning, “We give thanks to God, and we at the same time pray.” By this he intimates, that the condition of believers is never in this world perfect, so as not to have, invariably, something wanting. For even the man who has begun admirably well, may fall short in a hundred instances every day; and we must ever be making progress while we are as yet on the way. Let us therefore bear in mind that we must rejoice in the favors that we have already received, and give thanks to God for them in such a manner, as to seek at the same time from him perseverance and advancement.
God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (toi theoi patri tou kuriou hemon Iesou Christou). Correct text without kai (and) as in Col_3:17, though usually “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Co_1:3; 2Co_11:31; Rom_15:6; 1Pe_1:3; Rev_1:6). In Col_1:2 we have the only instance in the opening benediction of an epistle when the name of “Jesus Christ” is not joined with “God our Father.”
Always (pantote). Amphibolous position between eucharistoumen (we give thanks) and proseuchomenoi (praying). Can go with either.
4. Having heard of your faith.This was a means of stirring up his love towards them, and his concern for their welfare, when he heard it that they were distinguished by faith and love.And, unquestionably, gifts of God that are so excellent ought to have such an effect upon us as to stir us up to love them wherever they appear. He uses the expression, faith in Christ, that we may always bear in mind that Christ is the proper object of faith.
He employs the expression, love towards the saints, not with the view of excluding others, but because, in proportion as any one is joined to us in God, we ought to embrace him the more closely with special affection. True love, therefore, will extend to mankind universally, because they all are our flesh, and created in the image of God, (Gen_9:6;) but in respect of degrees, it will begin with those who are of the household of faith. (Gal_6:10.)
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Since we heard — literally, “Having heard.” The language implies that he had only heard of, and not seen, them (Col_2:1). Compare Rom_1:8, where like language is used of a Church which he had not at the time visited.
love … to all — the absent, as well as those present [Bengel].
Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus – To wit, by Epaphras, who had informed Paul of the steadfastness of their faith and love; Col_1:7-8. This does not prove that Paul had never been at Colossae, or that he did not establish the church there, for he uses a similar expression respecting the church at Ephesus Eph_1:15, of which he was undoubtedly the founder. The meaning is, that he had heard of their faith at that time, or of their perseverance in faith and love.
Which ye have to all the saints – In what way they had manifested this is not known. It would seem that Paul had been informed that this was a character of their piety, that they had remarkable love for all who bore the Christian name. Nothing could be more acceptable information respecting them to one who himself so ardently loved the church; and nothing could have furnished better evidence that they were influenced by the true spirit of religion; compare 1Jo_3:14.
Having heard of (akousantes). Literary plural unless Timothy is included. Aorist active participle of akouo of antecedent action to eucharistoumen. Epaphras (Col_1:8) had told Paul.
Your faith in Jesus Christ (ten pistin humon en Iesou Christoi). See Eph_1:15 for similar phrase. No article is needed before en as it is a closely knit phrase and bears the same sense as the objective genitive in Gal_2:16 (dia pisteos Christou Iesou, by faith in Christ Jesus).
Which ye have (hen echete). Probably genuine (Aleph A C D), though B omits it and others have the article (ten). There is a real distinction here between en (sphere or basis) and eis (direction towards), though they are often identical in idea.
5. For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.For the hope of eternal life will never be inactive in us, so as not to produce love in us. For it is of necessity, that the man who is fully persuaded that a treasure of life is laid up for him in heaven will aspire thither, looking down upon this world. Meditation, however, upon the heavenly life stirs up our affections both to the worship of God, and to exercises of love. The Sophists pervert this passage for the purpose of extolling the merits of works, as if the hope of salvation depended on works. The reasoning, however, is futile. For it does not follow, that because hope stimulates us to aim at upright living, it is therefore founded upon works, inasmuch as nothing is more efficacious for this purpose than God’s unmerited goodness, which utterly overthrows all confidence in works.
There is, however, an instance of metonymy in the use of the term hope,as it is taken for the thing hoped for. For the hope that is in our hearts is the glory which we hope for in heaven. At the same time, when he says, that there is a hope that is laid up for us in heaven, he means, that believers ought to feel assured as to the promise of eternal felicity, equally as though they had already a treasure laid up in a particular place.
Of which ye heard before. As eternal salvation is a thing that surpasses the comprehension of our understanding, he therefore adds, that the assurance of it had been brought to the Colossians by means of the gospel; and at the same time he says in the outset, that he is not to bring forward anything new, but that he has merely in view to confirm them in the doctrine which they had previously received. Erasmus has rendered — itthetruewordofthegospel. I am also well aware that, according to the Hebrew idiom, the genitive is often made use of by Paul in place of an epithet; but the words of Paul here are more emphatic. For he calls the gospel, καψ ἐξοχήν, (by way of eminence,) the word of truth, with the view of putting honor upon it, that they may more steadfastly and firmly adhere to the revelation which they have derived from that source. Thus the term gospel is introduced by way of apposition
For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven – That is, “I give thanks that there is such a hope laid up for you.” The evidence which he had that this hope was theirs, was founded on the faith and love to the saints which he heard they had evinced. He fully believed that where there was such faith and love, there was a well-founded hope of heaven. The word “hope” here is used, as it often is, for the thing hoped for. The object of hope – to wit, eternal happiness, was reserved for them in heaven.
Whereof ye heard before – When the gospel was first preached to you. You were told of the blessed rewards of a life of faith, in heaven.
In the word of the truth of the gospel – In the true word of the gospel.
For the hope (διὰ τὴν ελπίδα)
The A.V. connects with we give thanks (Col_1:3). But the two are too far apart, and Paul’s introductory thanksgiving is habitually grounded on the spiritual condition of his readers, not on something objective. See Rom_1:8; 1Co_1:4; Eph_1:15. Better connect with what immediately precedes, love which ye have, and render as Rev., because of the hope, etc. Faith works by love, and the ground of their love is found in the hope set before them. Compare Rom_8:24. The motive is subordinate, but legitimate. “The hope laid up in heaven is not the deepest reason or motive for faith and love, but both are made more vivid when it is strong. It is not the light at which their lamps are lit, but it is the odorous oil which feeds their flame” (Maclaren). Hope. See on 1Pe_1:3. In the New Testament the word signifies both the sentiment of hope and the thing hoped for. Here the latter. Compare Tit_2:13; Gal_5:5; Heb_6:18; also Rom_8:24, where both meanings appear. Lightfoot observes that the sense oscillates between the subjective feeling and the objective realization. The combination of faith, hope, and love is a favorite one with Paul. See 1Th_1:3; 1Co_13:13; Rom_5:1-5; Rom_12:6-12.
Laid up (αποκειμένην)
Lit., laid away, as the pound in the napkin, Luk_19:20. With the derivative sense of reserved or awaiting, as the crown, 2Ti_4:8. In Heb_9:27, it is rendered appointed (unto men to die), where, however, the sense is the same: death awaits men as something laid up. Rev., in margin, laid up for. Compare treasure in heaven, Mat_6:20; Mat_19:21; Luk_12:34. “Deposited, reserved, put by in store out of the reach of all enemies and sorrows” (Bishop Wilson).
Ye heard before (προηκούσατε)
Only here in the New Testament, not in Septuagint, and not frequent in classical Greek. It is variously explained as denoting either an undefined period in the past, or as contrasting the earlier Christian teaching with the later heresies, or as related to Paul’s letter (before I wrote), or as related to the fulfillment of the hope (ye have had the hope pre-announced). It occurs several times in Herodotus in this last sense, as ii. 5, of one who has heard of Egypt without seeing it: v., 86, of the Aeginetans who had learned beforehand what the Athenians intended. Compare viii. 79; vi. 16. Xenophon uses it of a horse, which signifies by pricking up its ears what it hears beforehand. In the sense of mere priority of time without the idea of anticipation, Plato: “Hear me once more, though you have heard me say the same before” (“Laws,” vii., 797). I incline to the more general reference, ye heard in the past. The sense of hearing before the fulfillment of the hope would seem rather to require the perfect tense, since the hope still remained unfulfilled.
The word of the truth of the Gospel
The truth is the contents of the word, and the Gospel defines the character of the truth.
Because of the hope (dia ten elpida). See note on Rom_8:24. It is not clear whether this phrase is to be linked with eucha istoumen at the beginning of Col_1:3 or (more likely) with ten agapen just before. Note also here pistis (faith), agape (love), elpis (hope), though not grouped together so sharply as in 1Co_13:13. Here hope is objective, the goal ahead.
Laid up (apokeimeinen). Literally, “laid away or by.” Old word used in Luk_19:20 of the pound laid away in a napkin. See also apothesaurizo, to store away for future use (1Ti_6:19). The same idea occurs in Mat_6:20 (treasure in heaven) and 1Pe_1:4 and it is involved in Phi_3:20.
Ye heard before (proekousate). First aorist indicative active of this old compound proakouo, though only here in the N.T. Before what? Before Paul wrote? Before the realization? Before the error of the Gnostics crept in? Each view is possible and has advocates. Lightfoot argues for the last and it is probably correct as is indicated by the next clause.
In the word of the truth of the gospel (en toi logoi tes aletheias tou euaggeliou). “In the preaching of the truth of the gospel” (Gal_2:5, Gal_2:14) which is come (parontos, present active participle agreeing with euaggeliou, being present, a classical use of pareimi as in Act_12:20). They heard the pure gospel from Epaphras before the Gnostics came.
6As also in all the world it brings forth fruit.This has a tendency both to confirm and to comfort the pious — to see the effect of the gospel far and wide in gathering many to Christ. The faith of it does not, it is true, depend on its success, as though we should believe it on the ground that many believe it. Though the whole world should fail, though heaven itself should fall, the conscience of a pious man must not waver, because God, on whom it is founded, does nevertheless remain true. This, however, does not hinder our faith from being confirmed, whenever it perceives God’s excellence, which undoubtedly shews itself with more power in proportion to the number of persons that are gained over to Christ.
In addition to this, in the multitude of the believers at that time there was beheld an accomplishment of the many predictions which extend the reign of Christ from the East to the West. Is it a trivial or common aid to faith, to see accomplished before our eyes what the Prophets long since predicted as to the extending of the kingdom of Christ through all countries of the world? What I speak of, there is no believer that does not experience in himself. Paul accordingly had it in view to encourage the Colossians the more by this statement, that, by seeing in various places the fruit and progress of the gospel, they might embrace it with more eager zeal. Αὐξανόμενον, which I have rendered propagatur, (is propagated,) does not occur in some copies; but, from its suiting better with the context, I did not choose to omit it. It also appears front the commentaries of the ancients that this reading was always the more generally received.
Since the day ye heard it, and knew the grace. Here he praises them on account of their docility, inasmuch as they immediately embraced sound doctrine; and he praises them on account of their constancy, inasmuch as they persevered in it. It is also with propriety that the faith of the gospel is called the knowledge of God’s grace; for no one has ever tasted of the gospel but the man that knew himself to be reconciled to God, and took hold of the salvation that is held forth in Christ.
In truth means truly and without pretense; for as he had previously declared that the gospel is undoubted truth, so he now adds, that it had been purely administered by them, and that by Epaphras. For while all boast that they preach the gospel, and yet at the same time there are many evilworkers, (Phi_3:2,) through whose ignorance, or ambition, or avarice, its purity is adulterated, it is of great importance that faithful ministers should be distinguished from the less upright. For it is not enough to hold the term gospel, unless we know that this is the true gospel — what was preached by Paul and Epaphras. Hence Paul confirms the doctrine of Epaphras by giving it his approbation, that he may induce the Colossians to adhere to it, and may, by the same means, call them back from those profligates who endeavored to introduce strange doctrines. He at the same time dignifies Epaphras with a special distinction, that he may have more authority among them; and lastly, he presents him to the Colossians in an amiable aspect, by saying that he had borne testimony to him of their love. Paul everywhere makes it his particular aim, that he may, by his recommendation, render those who he knows serve Christ faithfully, very dear to the Churches; as, on the other hand, the ministers of Satan are wholly intent on alienating, by unfavourable representations, the minds of the simple from faithful pastors.
Which is come unto you – The doctrine of the Gospel is represented as a traveler, whose object it is to visit the whole habitable earth; and, having commenced his journey in Judea, had proceeded through Syria and through different parts of Asia Minor, and had lately arrived at their city, every where proclaiming glad tidings of great joy to all people.
As it is in all the world – So rapid is this traveler in his course, that he had already gone nearly through the whole of the countries under the Roman dominion; and will travel on till he has proclaimed his message to every people, and kindred, and nation, and tongue.
In the beginning of the apostolic age, the word of the Lord had certainly free course, did run and was glorified. Since that time the population of the earth has increased greatly; and, to follow the metaphor, the traveler still continues in his great journey. It is, the glory of the present day that, by means of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Bibles are multiplied in all the languages of Europe; and by means of the Christian missionaries, Carey, Marshman, and Ward, whose zeal, constancy, and ability, have been rarely equalled, and perhaps never surpassed, the sacred writings have been, in the compass of a few years, translated into most of the written languages of India, in which they were not previously extant. In this labor they have been ably seconded by the Rev. Henry Martyn, one of the East India Company’s chaplains, who was taken to his great reward just when he had completed a pure and accurate version of the New Testament into Persian. The Rev. R. Morrison, at Canton, has had the honor to present the whole of the New Testament, in Chinese, to the immense population of that greatest empire of the earth. May that dark people receive it, and walk in the light of the Lord! And, by means of the Wesleyan missionaries, the sacred writings have been printed and widely circulated in the Singhalese and Indo- Portuguese, through the whole of the island of Ceylon, and the pure word of the Gospel has been preached there, and also on the whole continent of India, to the conversion of multitudes. Let every reader pray that all these noble attempts may be crowned with unlimited success, till the earth is filled both with the knowledge and glory of the Lord. Talia secla currite! Amen.
And bringeth forth fruit – Wherever the pure Gospel of Christ is preached, it is the seed of the kingdom, and must be fruitful in all those who receive it by faith, in simplicity of heart.
After καρποφορουμενον, bringeth forth fruit, ABCD*EFG, many others, both the Syriac, Erpen’s Arabic, the Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, and Itala, together with many of the fathers, add και αυξανομενον, and increaseth. It had not only brought forth fruit, but was multiplying its own kind; every fruit containing seed, and every seed producing thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold. This reading is very important, and is undoubtedly genuine.
The grace of God in truth – Ye were fruitful, and went on increasing in the salvation of God, from the time that ye heard and acknowledged this doctrine to be of God, to spring from the grace or benevolence of God; and received it in truth, sincerely and uprightly, as his greatest gift to man.
Which is come unto you – It has not been confined to the Jews, or limited to the narrow country where it was first preached, but has been sent abroad to the Gentile world. The object of the apostle here seems to be, to excite in them a sense of gratitude that the gospel had been sent to them. It was owing entirely to the goodness of God in sending them the gospel, that they had this hope of eternal life.
As it is in all the world – It is confined to no place or people, but is designed to be a universal religion. It offers the same blessedness in heaven to all; compare the notes at Col_1:23.
And bringing forth fruit – The fruits of righteousness or good living; see the notes at 2Co_9:10. The meaning is, that the gospel was not without effect wherever it was preached. The same results were observable everywhere else as in Colossae, that it produced most salutary influences on the hearts and lives of those who received it. On the nature of the “fruits” of religion, see the notes at Gal_5:22-23.
Since the day ye heard of it – It has constantly been producing these fruits since you first heard it preached.
And knew the grace of God in truth – Since the time ye knew the true grace of God; since you became acquainted with the real benevolence which God has manifested in the gospel. The meaning is, that ever since they had heard the gospel it had been producing among them abundantly its appropriate fruit, and that the same thing had also characterized it wherever it had been dispensed.
As ye also learned of Epaphras – who is for you – Who this Epaphras was we cannot tell; only it is likely that he was a Colossian, and became, by the call and grace of Christ, a deacon of this Church, faithfully labouring with the apostle, to promote its best interests. Some think that he is the same with Epaphroditus, Epaphras being a contraction of that name, as Demas is of Demetrius; and it is remarkable that one of the Slavonic versions has Epaphroditus in this place. That he was a Colossian is evident from Col_4:12 : Epaphras, who is one of you, ο εξ υμων· some think that he was the first who preached the Gospel among this people, and hence called an apostle. He was raised up among themselves to be their minister in the absence of the apostle, and he showed himself to be worthy of this calling by a faithful discharge of his ministry, and by labouring fervently for them all, and pressing them forward, that they might stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
As ye also learned — “Also” is omitted in the oldest manuscripts. The insertion implied that those inserting it thought that Paul had preached the Gospel to the Colossians as well as Epaphras, Whereas the omission in the oldest manuscripts implies that Epaphras alone was the founder of the Church at Colosse.
of — “from Epaphras.”
dear — Greek, “beloved.”
fellow servant — namely, of Christ. In Phm_1:23 he calls him “my fellow prisoner.” It is possible that Epaphras may have been apprehended for his zealous labors in Asia Minor; but more probable that Paul gave him the title; as his faithful companion in his imprisonment (compare Note, see on Col_4:10, as to Meyer’s conjecture).
who is for you, etc. — Translate, “who is faithful in your behalf as a minister of Christ”; hinting that he is one not to be set aside for the new and erroneous teachers (Col_2:1-23). Most of the oldest manuscripts read, “for (or ‘in behalf of’) US.” Vulgate, however, with one of the oldest manuscripts, supports English Version.
As ye also learned of Epaphras – Epaphras was then with Paul. Phm_1:23. He had probably been sent to him by the church at Colossae to consult him in reference to some matters pertaining to the church there. It is evident from this, that Epaphras was a minister of the church at Colossae, though there is no evidence, as has been often supposed, that he was the founder of the church. The apostle here says, that they had learned from Epaphras the true nature of the gospel, and he designs undoubtedly to confirm what he had taught them in opposition to the teachings of errorists; see the Introduction, Section 4. He had doubtless conferred with Epaphras respecting the doctrines which he had taught there.
Our dear fellow-servant – This shows that Paul had contracted a strong friendship for Epaphras. There is no reason to believe that he had known him before, but his acquaintance with him now had served to attach him strongly to him. It is possible, as has been conjectured (see the Introduction), that there was a party in the church at Colossae opposed to Epaphras and to the doctrines which he preached, and if this were so, Paul’s strong expression of attachment for him would do much to silence the opposition.
Who is for you a faithful minister of Christ – “For you,” when he is with you, and in managing your interests here.
Of Epaphras (apo Epaphra). “From Epaphras” who is the source of their knowledge of Christ.
On our behalf (huper hemon). Clearly correct (Aleph A B D) and not huper humon (on your behalf). In a true sense Epaphras was Paul’s messenger to Colossae.
Love in the Spirit I take to mean, spiritual love, according to the view of Chrysostom, with whom, however, I do not agree in the interpretation of the preceding words. Now, spiritual loveis of such a nature as has no view to the world, but is consecrated to the service of piety, and has, as it were, an internal root, while carnal friendships depend on external causes.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
your love — (Col_1:4); “to all the saints.”
in the Spirit — the sphere or element IN which alone true love is found; as distinguished from the state of those “in the flesh” (Rom_8:9). Yet even they needed to be stirred up to greater love (Col_3:12-14). Love is the first and chief fruit of the Spirit (Gal_5:22).
Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit – The love wrought in you by the Holy Spirit. It was not mere natural affection, but love worked in their hearts by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
9.For this cause we also.As he has previously shewn his affection for them in his thanksgivings, so he now shews it still farther in the earnestness of his prayers in their behalf. And, assuredly, the more that the grace of God is conspicuous in any, we ought in that proportion specially to love and esteem them, and to be concerned as to their welfare. But what does he pray for in their behalf? That they may know God more fully; by which he indirectly intimates, that something is still wanting in them, that he may prepare the way for imparting instruction to them, and may secure their attention to a fuller statement of doctrine. For those who think that they have already attained everything that is worthy of being known, despise and disdain everything farther that is presented to them. Hence he removes from the Colossians an impression of this nature, lest it should be a hinderance in the way of their cheerfully making progress, and allowing what had been begun in them to receive an additional polish. But what knowledge does he desire in their behalf? The knowledge of the divine will, by which expression he sets aside all inventions of men, and all speculations that are at variance with the word of God. For his will is not to be sought anywhere else than in his word.
He adds — in all wisdom; by which he intimates that the will of God, of which he had made mention, was the only rule of right knowledge. For if any one is desirous simply to know those things which it has pleased God to reveal, that is the man who accurately knows what it is to be truly wise. If we desire anything beyond that, this will be nothing else than to be foolish, by not keeping within due bounds. By the word συνέσεως which we render prudentiam, (prudence,) I understand — that discrimination which proceeds from intelligence. Both are called spiritualby Paul, because they are not attained in any other way than by the guidance of the Spirit.
For the animal man does not perceive the things that are of God.(1Co_2:14.)
So long as men are regulated by their own carnal perceptions, they have also their own wisdom, but it is of such a nature as is mere vanity, however much they may delight themselves in it. We see what sort of theology there is under the Papacy, what is contained in the books of philosophers, and what wisdom profane men hold in estimation. Let us, however, bear in mind, that the wisdom which is alone commended by Paul is comprehended in the will of God.
Jamison, Fausset, and Brown
we also — on our part.
heard it — (Col_1:4).
pray — Here he states what in particular he prays for; as in Col_1:3 he stated generally the fact of his praying for them.
to desire — “to make request.”
might be filled — rather, “may be filled”; a verb, often found in this Epistle (Col_4:12, Col_4:17).
knowledge — Greek, “full and accurate knowledge.” Akin to the Greek for “knew” (see on Col_1:6).
of his will — as to how ye ought to walk (Eph_5:17); as well as chiefly that “mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself; that in the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph_1:9, Eph_1:10); God’s “will,” whereby He eternally purposed to reconcile to Himself, and save men by Christ, not by angels, as the false teachers in some degree taught (Col_2:18) [Estius]. There seems to have been a want of knowledge among the Colossians; notwithstanding their general excellencies; hence he so often dwells on this subject (Col_1:28; Col_2:2, Col_2:3; Col_3:10, Col_3:13; Col_4:5, Col_4:6). On the contrary he less extols wisdom to the Corinthians, who were puffed up with the conceit of knowledge.
wisdom — often mentioned in this Epistle, as opposed to the (false) “philosophy” and “show of wisdom” (Col_2:8, Col_2:23; compare Eph_1:8).
understanding — sagacity to discern what on each occasion is suited to the place and the time; its seat is “the understanding” or intellect; wisdom is more general and has its seat in the whole compass of the faculties of the soul [Bengel]. “Wouldst thou know that the matters in the word of Christ are real things? Then never read them for mere knowledge sake” [Quoted by Gaussen.] Knowledge is desirable only when seasoned by “spiritual understanding.”
Do not cease to pray for you – Col_1:3. The progress which they had already made, and the love which they had shown, constituted an encouragement for prayer, and a reason why higher blessings still should be sought. We always feel stimulated and encouraged to pray for those who are doing well.
That ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will – They had shown by their faith and love that they were disposed to do his will, and the apostle now prays that they might be fully acquainted with what he would have them do. He offered a similar prayer in behalf of the Ephesians; see the parallel place in Eph_1:17-19, and the notes at those verses.
In all wisdom – That you may be truly wise in all things; Eph_1:17.
And spiritual understanding – In understanding those things that pertain to the “Spirit;” that is, those things taught by the Holy Spirit, and those which he produces in the work of salvation; see the notes at 1Co_2:12-13; compare 1Jo_2:20; 1Jo_5:20.
10. That ye may walk worthy of God. In the first place he teaches, what is the end of spiritual understanding, and for what purpose we ought to make proficiency in God’s school — that we may walk worthy of God, that is, that it may be manifest in our life, that we have not in vain been taught by God. Whoever they may be that do not direct their endeavors towards this object, may possibly toil and labor much, but they do nothing better than wander about in endless windings, without making any progress. Farther, he admonishes us, that if we would walk worthy of God, we must above all things take heed that we regulate our whole course of life according to the will of God, renouncing our own understanding, and bidding farewell to all the inclinations of our flesh.
This also he again confirms by saying — unto all obedience, or, as they commonly say, well-pleasing. Hence if it is asked, what kind of life is worthy of God, let us always keep in view this definition of Paul — that it is such a life as, leaving the opinions of men, and leaving, in short, all carnal inclination, is regulated so as to be in subjection to God alone. From this follow good works, which are the fruits that God requires from us.
Increasing, in the knowledge of God. He again repeats, that they have not arrived at such perfection as not to stand in need of farther increase; by which admonition he prepares them, and as it were leads them by the hand, to an eagerness for proficiency, that they may shew themselves ready to listen, and teachable. What is here said to the Colossians, let all believers take as said to themselves, and draw from this a common exhortation that we must always make progress in the doctrine of piety until death.
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord – Suitably to your Christian profession, exemplifying its holy doctrines by a holy and useful life. See the notes on Eph_4:1; and on Phi_1:27 (note).
Unto all pleasing – Doing every thing in the best manner, in the most proper time, and in a becoming spirit. Even a good work may be marred and rendered fruitless by being done improperly, out of season, or in a temper of mind that grieves the Holy Spirit.
Being fruitful in every good work – See on Col_1:6 (note). St. Paul exhorts the Christians at Colosse,
1. To walk – to be active in their Christian calling.
2. To walk worthily – suitably to the dignity of that calling, and to the purity of that God who had called them into this state of salvation.
3. To do every thing unto all pleasing; that God might be pleased with the manner, the time, the motive, disposition, design, and object of every act.
4. That they should be fruitful; mere harmlessness would not be sufficient; as God had sown good seed, he expected good fruit.
5. That every work should be good; they must not be fruitful in some works and fruitless in others.
6. That they should increase in religious knowledge as time rolled on, knowing, by genuine Christian experience, more of God, of his love, and of his peace, day by day.
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord – That you may live as becomes the followers of the Lord. How this was to be done he states in this and the following verses.
Unto all pleasing – So as to please him in all things; compare Heb_11:5.
Being fruitful in every good work – This is one way in which we are to walk worthy of the Lord, and so as to please him; see the notes at Joh_15:8.
And increasing in the knowledge of God – This is another way in which we may walk worthy of the Lord, and so as to please him. It is by endeavoring to become better acquainted with his true character. God is pleased with those who desire to understand what he is; what he does; what he purposes; what he commands. Hence he not only commands us to study his works (compare Psa_111:2), but he has made a world so beautiful as to invite us to contemplate his perfections as reflected in that world. All good beings desire that others should understand their character, and God delights in those who are sincerely desirous of knowing what he is, and who inquire with humility and reverence into his counsels and his will. People are often displeased when others attempt to look into their plans, for they are sensible they will not bear the light of investigation. God has no plans which would not be seen to be, in the highest degree, glorious to him.
11.Strengthened with all might. As he has previously prayed that they might have both a sound understanding and the right use of it, so also now he prays that they may have courage and constancy. In this manner he puts them in mind of their own weakness, for he says, that they will not be strong otherwise than by the Lord’s help; and not only so, but with the view of magnifying this exercise of grace the more, he adds, according to his glorious power.“So far from any one being able to stand, through dependence on his own strength, the power of God shews itself illustriously in helping our infirmity.”
Lastly, he shews in what it is that the strength of believers ought to display itself — in all patience and long-suffering.For they are constantly, while in this world, exercised with the cross, and a thousand temptations daily present themselves, so as to weigh them down, and they see nothing of what God has promised. They must, therefore, arm themselves with an admirable patience, that what Isaiah says may be accomplished,
In hope and in silence shall be your strength. (Isa_30:15.)
It is preferable to connect with this sentence the clause, with joy. For although the other reading is more commonly to be met with in the Latin versions, this is more in accordance with the Greek manuscripts, and, unquestionably, patience is not sustained otherwise than by alacrity of mind, and will never be maintained with fortitude by any one that is not satisfied with his condition.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Greek, “Being made mighty with (literally, ‘in’) all might.”
according to his glorious power — rather, “according to the power (the characteristic of ‘His glory,’ here appropriate to Paul’s argument, Eph_1:19; Eph_6:10; as its exuberant ‘riches,’ in Eph_3:16) of His glory.” His power is inseparable from His glory (Rom_6:4).
unto all patience — so as to attain to all patient endurance; persevering, enduring continuance in the faith, in spite of trials of persecutors, and seductions of false teachers.
long-suffering — towards those whom one could repel. “Patience,” or “endurance,” is exercised in respect to those whom one cannot repel [Chrysostom].
with joyfulness — joyful endurance (Act_16:25; Rom_5:3, Rom_5:11).
Strengthened with all might – This was also an object of Paul’s earnest prayer. He desired that they might be strengthened for the performance of duty; to meet temptations; and to bear up under the various trials of life.
According to his glorious power – Not by any human means, but by the power of God. There is a manifestation of power in the spirit with which Christians are enabled to bear up under trials, which shows that it is not of human origin. It is the power which God gives them in the day of trial. This power is “glorious,” or, as it is in the Greek, it is the “power of his glory.” It is manifestly the power of the great and glorious God, and it tends to promote his glory, and to show forth his praise.
Unto all patience – So that you may be enabled to bear all your trials without complaining. It is only the power of God that can enable us to do that.
And long-suffering – Notes, 1Co_13:4.
With joyfulness – Rom_5:3, note; 2Co_7:4, note. The Syriac version, Chrysostom, and a few manuscripts attach this to the following verse, and read it: “With joyfulness giving thanks to the Father,” etc. The only difference is in the pointing, and either reading makes good sense.
Strengthened (dunamoumenoi). Present passive participle of late verb dunamoo (from dunamis), to empower, “empowered with all power.” In lxx and papyri and modern Greek. In N.T. only here and Heb_11:34 and MSS. in Eph_6:10 (W H in margin).
According to the might of his glory (kata to kratos tes doxes autou). Kratos is old word for perfect strength (cf. krateo, kratilos). In N.T. it is applied only to God. Here his might is accompanied by glory (Shekinah).
Unto all patience and longsuffering (eis pasan hupomonen kai makrothumian). See both together also in Jam_5:10.; 2Co_6:4, 2Co_6:6; 2Ti_3:10. Hupomone is remaining under (hupomeno) difficulties without succumbing, while makrothumia is the long endurance that does not retaliate (Trench).
12. Giving thanks. Again he returns to thanksgiving, that he may take this opportunity of enumerating the blessings which had been conferred upon them through Christ, and thus he enters upon a full delineation of Christ. For this was the only remedy for fortifying the Colossians against all the snares, by which the false Apostles endeavored to entrap them — to understand accurately what Christ was. For how comes it that we are carried about with so many strange doctrines, (Heb_13:9 ) but because the excellence of Christ is not perceived by us? For Christ alone makes all other things suddenly vanish. Hence there is nothing that Satan so much endeavors to accomplish as to bring on mists with the view of obscuring Christ, because he knows, that by this means the way is opened up for every kind of falsehood. This, therefore, is the only means of retaining, as well as restoring pure doctrine — to place Christ before the view such as he is with all his blessings, that his excellence may be truly perceived.
The question here is not as to the name. Papists in common with us acknowledge one and the same Christ; yet in the mean time how great a difference there is between us and them, inasmuch as they, after confessing Christ to be the Son of God, transfer his excellence to others, and scatter it hither and thither, and thus leave him next to empty, or at least rob him of a great part of his glory, so that he is called, it is true, by them the Son of God, but, nevertheless, he is not such as the Father designed he should be towards us. If, however, Papists would cordially embrace what is contained in this chapter, we would soon be perfectly agreed, but the whole of Popery would fall to the ground, for it cannot stand otherwise than through ignorance of Christ. This will undoubtedly be acknowledged by every one that will but consider the main article of this first chapter; for his grand object here is that we may know that Christ is the beginning, middle, and end — that it is from him that all things must be sought — that nothing is, or can be found, apart from him. Now, therefore, let the readers carefully and attentively observe in what colors Paul depicts Christ to us.
Who hath made us meet. He is still speaking of the Father, because he is the beginning, and efficient cause (as they speak) of our salvation. As the term God is more distinctly expressive of majesty, so the term Father conveys the idea of clemency and benevolent disposition. It becomes us to contemplate both as existing in God, that his majesty may inspire us with fear and reverence, and that his fatherly love may secure our full confidence. Hence it is not without good reason that Paul has conjoined these two things, if, after all, you prefer the rendering which the old interpreter has followed, and which accords with some very ancient Greek manuscripts. At the same time there will be no inconsistency in saying, that he contents himself with the single term, Father. Farther, as it is necessary that his incomparable grace should be expressed by the term Father, so it is also not less necessary that we should, by the term God, be roused up to admiration of so great goodness, that he, who is God, has condescended thus far.
But for what kindness does he give thanks to God? For his having made him, and others, meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints. For we are born children of wrath, exiles from God’s kingdom. It is God’s adoption that alone makes us meet. Now, adoption depends on an unmerited election. The Spirit of regeneration is the seal of adoption. He adds, in light,that there might be a contrast — as opposed to the darkness of Satan’s kingdom.
Giving thanks unto the Father – Knowing that ye have nothing but what ye have received from his mere mercy, and that in point of merit ye can never claim any thing from him.
Which hath made us meet – Ικανωσαντι· Who has qualified us to be partakers, etc. Instead of ικανωσαντι, some MSS. and versions have καλεσαντι, called; and B (the Codex Vaticanus) has both readings. Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath called and qualified us to be partakers.
Of the inheritance – Εις την μεριδα του κληρου. A plain allusion to the division of the promised land by lot among the different families of the twelve Israelitish tribes. The κληρος was the lot or inheritance belonging to the tribe; the μερις was the portion in that lot which belonged to each family of that tribe. This was a type of the kingdom of God, in which portions of eternal blessedness are dispensed to the genuine Israelites; to them who have the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit, whose praise is of God, and not of man.
Of the saints in light – Light, in the sacred writings, is used to express knowledge, felicity, purity, comfort, and joy of the most substantial kind; here it is put to point out the state of glory at the right hand of God. As in Egypt, while the judgments of God were upon the land, there was a darkness which might be felt yet all the Israelites had light in their dwellings; so in this world, while the darkness and wretchedness occasioned by sin remain, the disciples of Christ are light in the Lord, walk as children of the light and of the day, have in them no occasion of stumbling, and are on their way to the ineffable light at the right hand of God. Some think there is an allusion here to the Eleusinian mysteries, celebrated in deep caves and darkness in honor of Ceres; but I have already, in the notes to the Epistle to the Ephesians, expressed my doubts that the apostle has ever condescended to use such a simile. The phraseology of the text is frequent through various parts of the sacred writings, where it is most obvious that no such allusion could possibly be intended.
Giving thanks to the Father – This is another mode by which we may “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” Col_1:10; to wit, by rendering appropriate thanks to God for his mercy. The particular point which the apostle here says demanded thanksgiving was, that they had been called from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. This had been done by the special mercy of the Father who had provided the plan of salvation, and had sent his Son to redeem them. The connection shows that the word “Father” refers, in this place, not to God as the Father of his creatures, but to the Father as distinguished from the Son. It is the “Father” who has translated us into the kingdom of the “Son.” Our special thanks are due to the “Father” in this, as he is represented as the great Author of the whole plan of salvation – as he who sent his Son to redeem us.
Who hath made us meet – The word used here – ικανόω hikanoo – means properly to make sufficient, from ικανός hikanos – sufficient, abundant, much. The word conveys the idea of having sufficient or enough to accomplish anything; see it explained in the notes at 2Co_3:6. The verb is not elsewhere used in the New Testament. In its use here, there seems to be implied the idea of conferring the privilege or the ability to be thus made the partakers of the kingdom, and the idea also of rendering us fit for it. The sense is, he has conferred on us grace sufficient to make it proper that we should partake of the blessings of his kingdom. In regard to this “fitness” or “meetness” for that kingdom, we may remark:
(1) that it does not mean that we are rendered fit by our own merits, or by anything which we have done; for it is expressly said that it is God who has thus rendered us “meet” for it. No one, by his own merits, even made himself fit for heaven. His good works cannot be an equivalent for the eternal rewards of heaven; nor is the heart when unrenewed, even in the best state, fit for the society and the employments of heaven. There is no adaptedness of such a heart, however amiable and however refined, to the pure spiritual joys of the upper world. Those joys are the joys of religion, of the love of God, of pleasure in holiness; and the unrenewed heart can never be wrought up to a fitness to enter into those joys. Yet.
(2) there is a fitness or meetness which Christians possess for heaven. It consists in two things. First, in their having complied with the conditions on which God promises heaven, so that, although they have no merit in themselves, and no fitness by their own works, they have that meetness which results from having complied with the terms of favor. They have truly repented of their sins, and believed in the Redeemer; and they are thus in the proper state of mind to receive the mercy of God; for, according to the terms of mercy, there is a propriety that pardon should be bestowed on the penitent, and peace on the believing. A child that is truly brokenhearted for a fault, is in a fit state of mind to be forgiven; a proud, and obstinate, and rebellious child, is not. Secondly, there is, in fact, a fitness in the Christian for the participation of the inheritance of the saints in light. He has a state of feeling that is adapted to that. There is a congruity between his feelings and heaven – a state of mind that can be satisfied with nothing but heaven. He has in his heart substantially the same principles which reign in heaven; and he is suited to find happiness only in the same objects in which the inhabitants of heaven do, He loves the same God and Saviour; has pleasure in the same truths; prefers, as they do, holiness to sin; and, like the inhabitants of heaven, he would choose to seek his pleasure in holy living, rather than in the ways of vanity. His preferences are all on the side of holiness and virtue; and, with such preferences, he is fitted for the enjoyments of heaven. In character, views, feelings, and preferences, therefore, the Christian is made suitable to participate in the employments and joys of the saints in light.
To be partakers of the inheritance – The privileges of religion are often represented as an heirship, or an inheritance; see the notes at Rom_8:17.
Of the saints in light – Called in Col_1:13, “the kingdom of his dear Son.” This is a kingdom of light, as opposed to the kingdom of darkness in which they formerly were. In the East, and particularly in Persia, there prevailed early the belief that there were two great kingdoms in the universe – that of light, and that of darkness. We find traces of this opinion in the Scriptures, where the kingdom of God is called “light,” and that of Satan is called “darkness.” These are, of course, figurative expressions; but they convoy important truth. Light, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of holiness, knowledge, happiness; and all these are found in the kingdom over which God presides, and of which Christians are the heirs. Accordingly, we find the word “light” often used to describe this kingdom. Thus, it is said of God, who presides over it, that he “is light, and in him is no darkness at all,” 1Jo_1:5; of Christ, that he is “the light of man,” Joh_1:4; that he is “the true light,” Joh_1:9; that he is “the light of the world,” Joh_8:12; compare Joh_12:35; Luk_2:32. The angels of that kingdom are “angels of light,” 2Co_11:14. Those who compose that kingdom on earth are “the children of light,” Luk_16:8; 1Th_5:5. And all the descriptions of that kingdom in heaven represent it as filled with light and glory, Isa_60:19; Rev_21:23; Rev_22:5.
Who made us meet (toi hikanosanti hemas). Or “you” (humas). Dative case of the articular participle of hikanoo, late verb from hikanos and in N.T. only here and 2Co_3:6 (which see), “who made us fit or adequate for.”
To be partakers (eis merida). “For a share in.” Old word for share or portion (from meros) as in Act_8:21; Act_16:12; 2Co_6:15 (the only other N.T. examples).
Of the inheritance (tou klerou). “Of the lot,” “for a share of the lot.” Old word. First a pebble or piece of wood used in casting lots (Act_1:26), then the allotted portion or inheritance as here (Act_8:21). Cf. Heb 3:7-4:11.
In light (en toi photi). Taken with merida (portion) “situated in the kingdom of light” (Lightfoot).
13. Who hath delivered us.Mark, here is the beginning of our salvation — when God delivers us from the depth of ruin into which we were plunged. For wherever his grace is not, there is darkness, as it is said in Isa_60:2 Behold darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the nations; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
In the first place, we ourselves are called darkness, and afterwards the whole world, and Satan, the Prince of darkness, under whose tyranny we are held captive, until we are set free by Christ’s hand. From this you may gather that the whole world, with all its pretended wisdom and righteousness, is regarded as nothing but darkness in the sight of God, because, apart from the kingdom of Christ, there is no light.
Hath translated us into the kingdom. These form already the beginnings of our blessedness — when we are translated into the kingdom of Christ, because we pass from death into life. (1Jo_3:14.) This, also, Paul ascribes to the grace of God, that no one may imagine that he can attain so great a blessing by his own efforts. As, then, our deliverance from the slavery of sin and death is the work of God, so also our passing into the kingdom of Christ. He calls Christ the Son of his love, or the Son that is beloved by God the Father, because it is in him alone that his soul takes pleasure, as we read in Mat_17:5, and in whom all others are beloved. For we must hold it as a settled point, that we are not acceptable to God otherwise than through Christ. Nor can it be doubted, that Paul had it in view to censure indirectly the mortal enmity that exists between men and God, until love shines forth in the Mediator.
Delivered us from the power of darkness – Darkness is here personified, and is represented as having εξουσια, power, authority, and sway; all Jews and Gentiles, which had not embraced the Gospel, being under this authority and power. And the apostle intimates here that nothing less than the power of God can redeem a man from this darkness, or prince of darkness, who, by means of sin and unbelief, keeps men in ignorance, vice, and misery.
Translated us into the kingdom, etc – He has thoroughly changed our state, brought us out of the dark region of vice and impiety, and placed us in the kingdom under the government of his dear Son, Υιου της αγαπης αυτου, the Son of his love; the person whom, in his infinite love, he has given to make an atonement for the sin of the world.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
from — Greek, “out of the power,” out of the sphere in which his power is exercised.
darkness — blindness, hatred, misery [Bengel].
translated — Those thus translated as to state, are also transformed as to character. Satan has an organized dominion with various orders of powers of evil (Eph_2:2; Eph_6:12). But the term “kingdom” is rarely applied to his usurped rule (Mat_12:26); it is generally restricted to the kingdom of God.
his dear Son — rather as Greek, “the Son of His love”: the Son on whom His love rests (Joh_17:26; Eph_1:6): contrasted with the “darkness” where all is hatred and hateful.
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness – The power exerted over us in that dark kingdom to which we formerly belonged – the kingdom of Satan. The characteristic of this empire is darkness – the emblem of:
(3) misery and death.
Over us, by nature, these things had uncontrollable power; but now we are delivered from them, and brought to the enjoyment of the privileges of those who are connected with the kingdom of light. Darkness is often used to represent the state in which men are by nature; compare Luk_1:79; Act_26:18; Rom_13:12; 1Pe_2:9; 1Jo_2:8.
And hath translated us – The word rendered here “translated” is often used in the sense of removing a people from one country to another; see Josephus, Ant. ix. 11. 1. It means, here, that they who are Christians have been transferred from one kingdom to another, as if a people were thus removed. They become subjects of a new kingdom, are under different laws, and belong to a different community. This change is made in regeneration, by which we pass from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light; from the empire of sin, ignorance, and misery, to one of holiness, knowledge, and happiness. No change, therefore, in a man’s life is so important as this; and no words can suitably express the gratitude which they should feel who are thus transferred from the empire of darkness to that of light.
14. In whom we have redemption. He now proceeds to set forth in order, that all parts of our salvation are contained in Christ, and that he alone ought to shine forth, and to be seen conspicuous above all creatures, inasmuch as he is the beginning and end of all things. In the firstplace, he says that we have redemption and immediately explains it as meaning the remission of sins; for these two things agree together by apposition For, unquestionably, when God remits our transgressions, he exempts us from condemnation to eternal death. This is our liberty, this our glorying in the face of death — that our sins are not imputed to us. He says that this redemption was procured through the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of his death all the sins of the world have been expiated. Let us, therefore, bear in mind, that this is the sole price of reconciliation, and that all the trifling of Papists as to satisfactions is blasphemy.
In whom we have redemption – Who has paid down the redemption price, even his own blood, that our sins might be cancelled, and we made fit to be partakers of the inheritance among the saints in light.
The clause, δια του αιματος αυτου, Through his blood, is omitted by ABCDEFG, and by most others of weight and importance; by the Syriac, Arabic of Erpen, Coptic, Ethiopic, Sahidic, some copies of the Vulgate and by the Itala; and by most of the Greek fathers. Griesbach has left it out of the text. It is likely that the reading here is not genuine; yet that we have redemption any other way than through the sacrifice of Christ, the Scriptures declare not. The same phrase is used Eph_1:7, where there is no various reading in any of the MSS., versions, or fathers.
The forgiveness of sins – Αφεσιν των αμαρτιων· The taking away of sins; all the power, guilt, and infection of sin. All sin of every kind, with all its influence and consequences.
In whom we have redemption – On the meaning of the word here rendered “redemption” – (απολύτρωσις apolutrosis) – see the notes at Rom_3:24:
Through the redemption – διὰ της απολυτρώσεως dia tes apolutroseos. The word used here occurs only 10 times in the New Testament, Luk_21:28; Rom_3:24; Rom_8:23; 1Co_1:30; Eph_1:7, Eph_1:14; Eph_4:30; Col_1:14; Heb_9:15; Heb_11:35. Its root (λύτρον lutron) properly denotes the price which is paid for a prisoner of war; the ransom, or stipulated purchase-money, which being paid, the captive is set free. The word used here is then employed to denote liberation from bondage, captivity, or evil of any kind, usually keeping up the idea of a price, or a ransom paid, in consequence of which the delivery is effected. It is sometimes used in a large sense, to denote simple deliverance by any means, without reference to a price paid, as in Luk_21:28; Rom_8:23; Eph_1:14. That this is not the sense here, however, is apparent. For the apostle in the next verse proceeds to specify the price which has been paid, or the means by which this redemption has been effected. The word here denotes that deliverance from sin, and from the evil consequences of sin, which has been effected by the offering of Jesus Christ as a propitiation; Rom_3:25.
Through his blood – By means of the atonement which he has made; see this phrase fully explained in the notes at Rom_3:25.
The forgiveness of sins – We obtain through his blood, or through the atonement which he has made, the forgiveness of sins. We are not to suppose that this is all the benefit which we receive from his death, or that this is all that constitutes redemption. It is the main, and perhaps the most important thing. But we also obtain the hope of heaven, the influences of the Holy Spirit, grace to guide us and to support us in trial, peace in death, and perhaps many more benefits. Still “forgiveness” is so prominent and important, that the apostle has mentioned that as if it were all.
According to the riches of his grace – According to his rich grace; see a similar phrase explained in the notes at Rom_2:4. The word “riches,” in the form in which it is used here, occurs also in several other places in this Epistle; Eph_1:18; Eph_2:7; Eph_3:8, Eph_3:16. It is what Paley (Horae Paul) calls “a cant phrase,” and occurs often in the writings of Paul; see Rom_2:4; Rom_9:23; Rom_11:12, Rom_11:33; Phi_4:19; Col_1:27; Col_2:2. It is not found in any of the other writings of the New Testament, except once in a sense somewhat similar, in James Jam_2:5, “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world “rich” in faith,” and Dr. Paley from this fact has constructed an argument to prove that this Epistle was written by Paul. It is unique to him, and marks his style in a manner which cannot be mistaken. An impostor, or a forger of the Epistle, would not have thought of introducing it, and yet it is just such a phrase as would naturally be used by Paul.
Col 1:15 The first  born of every creature. St. John Chrysostom takes notice against the Arians, that the apostle calls Christ the first-begotten, or first-born, not the first created, because he was not created at all. And the sense is, that he was before all creatures, proceeding from all eternity from the Father; though some expound the words of Christ as man, and that he was greater in dignity. See Romans viii. 29. (Witham)
15. Who is the image of the invisible God.He mounts up higher in discoursing as to the glory of Christ. He calls him the image of the invisible God,meaning by this, that it is in him alone that God, who is otherwise invisible, is manifested to us, in accordance with what is said in Joh_1:18, — No man hath ever seen God: the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, hath himself manifested him to us.
I am well aware in what manner the ancients were accustomed to explain this; for having a contest to maintain with Arians, they insist upon the equality of the Son with the Father, and his (ὁμοουσίαν) identity of essence, while in the mean time they make no mention of what is the chief point — in what manner the Father makes himself known to us in Christ. As to Chrysostom’s laying the whole stress of his defense on the term image,by contending that the creature cannot be said to be the image of the Creator, it is excessively weak; nay more, it is set aside by Paul in 1Co_11:7, whose words are — The man is the IMAGE and glory of God.
That, therefore, we may not receive anything but what is solid, let us take notice, that the term imageis not made use of in reference to essence, but has a reference to us; for Christ is called the image of God on this ground — that he makes God in a manner visible to us. At the same time, we gather also from this his (ὁμοουσία) identity of essence, for Christ would not truly represent God, if he were not the essential Word of God, inasmuch as the question here is not as to those things which by communication are suitable also to creatures, but the question is as to the perfect wisdom, goodness, righteousness, and power of God, for the representing of which no creature were competent. We shall have, therefore, in this term, a powerful weapon in opposition to the Arians, but, notwithstanding, we must begin with that reference that I have mentioned; we must not insist upon the essence alone. The sum is this — that God in himself, that is, in his naked majesty, is invisible, and that not to the eyes of the body merely, but also to the understandings of men, and that he is revealed to us in Christ alone, that we may behold him as in a mirror. For in Christ he shews us his righteousness, goodness, wisdom, power, in short, his entire self. We must, therefore, beware of seeking him elsewhere, for everything that would set itself off as a representation of God, apart from Christ, will be an idol.
The first-born of every creature.The reason of this appellation is immediately added — For in him all things are created, as he is, three verses afterwards, called the first-begotten from the dead, because by him we all rise again. Hence, he is not called the first-born, simply on the ground of his having preceded all creatures in point of time, but because he was begotten by the Father, that they might be created by him, and that he might be, as it were, the substance or foundation of all things. It was then a foolish part that the Arians acted, who argued from this that he was, consequently, a creature. For what is here treated of is, not what he is in himself, but what he accomplishes in others.
Who is the image of the invisible God – The counterpart of God Almighty, and if the image of the invisible God, consequently nothing that appeared in him could be that image; for if it could be visible in the Son, it could also be visible in the Father; but if the Father be invisible, consequently his image in the Son must be invisible also. This is that form of God of which he divested himself; the ineffable glory in which he not only did not appear, as to its splendor and accompaniments, but concealed also its essential nature; that inaccessible light which no man, no created being, can possibly see. This was that Divine nature, the fullness of the Godhead bodily, which dwelt in him.
The first-born of every creature – I suppose this phrase to mean the same as that, Phi_2:9 : God hath given him a name which is above every name; he is as man at the head of all the creation of God; nor can he with any propriety be considered as a creature, having himself created all things, and existed before any thing was made. If it be said that God created him first, and that he, by a delegated power from God, created all things, this is most flatly contradicted by the apostle’s reasoning in the 16th and 17th verses. As the Jews term Jehovah בכורו של עולם becoro shel olam, the first-born of all the world, or of all the creation, to signify his having created or produced all things; (see Wolfius in loc.) so Christ is here termed, and the words which follow in the 16th and 17th verses are the proof of this. The phraseology is Jewish; and as they apply it to the supreme Being merely to denote his eternal pre-existence, and to point him out as the cause of all things; it is most evident that St. Paul uses it in the same way, and illustrates his meaning in the following words, which would be absolutely absurd if we could suppose that by the former he intended to convey any idea of the inferiority of Jesus Christ.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
They who have experienced in themselves “redemption” (Col_1:14), know Christ in the glorious character here described, as above the highest angels to whom the false teachers (Col_2:18) taught worship was to be paid. Paul describes Him: (1) in relation to God and creation (Col_1:15-17); (2) in relation to the Church (Col_1:18-20). As the former regards Him as the Creator (Col_1:15, Col_1:16) and the Sustainer (Col_1:17) of the natural world; so the latter, as the source and stay of the new moral creation.
image — exact likeness and perfect Representative. Adam was made “in the image of God” (Gen_1:27). But Christ, the second Adam, perfectly reflected visibly “the invisible God” (1Ti_1:17), whose glories the first Adam only in part represented. “Image” (eicon) involves “likeness” (homoiosis); but “likeness” does not involve “image.” “Image” always supposes a prototype, which it not merely resembles, but from which it is drawn: the exact counterpart, as the reflection of the sun in the water: the child the living image of the parent. “Likeness” implies mere resemblance, not the exact counterpart and derivation as “image” expresses; hence it is nowhere applied to the Son, while “image” is here, compare 1Co_11:7 [Trench]. (Joh_1:18; Joh_14:9; 2Co_4:4; 1Ti_3:16; Heb_1:3). Even before His incarnation He was the image of the invisible God, as the Word (Joh_1:1-3) by whom God created the worlds, and by whom God appeared to the patriarchs. Thus His essential character as always “the image of God,” (1) before the incarnation, (2) in the days of His flesh, and (3) now in His glorified state, is, I think, contemplated here by the verb “is.”
first-born of every creature — (Heb_1:6), “the first-begotten”: “begotten of His Father before all worlds” [Nicene Creed]. Priority and superlative dignity is implied (Psa_89:27). English Version might seem to favor Arianism, as if Christ were a creature. Translate, “Begotten (literally, ‘born’) before every creature,” as the context shows, which gives the reason why He is so designated. “For,” etc. (Col_1:16, Col_1:17) [Trench]. This expression is understood by Origen (so far is the Greek from favoring Socinian or Arian views) as declaring the Godhead of Christ, and is used by Him as a phrase to mark that Godhead, in contrast with His manhood [Book 2, sec. Against Celsus]. The Greek does not strictly admit Alford’s translation, “the first-born of all creation.”
Who is the image of the invisible God – εικὼν του Θεου του αοράτου eikon tou Theou tou aoratou. The objects. here, as it is in the parallel place in Eph_1:20-23, is to give a just view of the exaltation of the Redeemer. It is probable that, in both cases, the design is to meet some erroneous opinion on this subject that prevailed in those churches, or among those that claimed to be teachers there. See the Introduction to this Epistle, and compare the notes at Eph_1:20-23. For the meaning of the phrase occurring here, “the image of the invisible God,” see the Heb_1:3, note, and 2Co_4:4, note. The meaning is, that he represents to mankind the perfections of God, as an image, figure, or drawing does the object which it is made to resemble. See the word “image” – εικὼν eikon – explained in the notes at Heb_10:1. It properly denotes that which is a copy or delineation of a thing; which accurately and fully represents it, in contradistinction from a rough sketch, or outline; compare Rom_8:29; 1Co_11:7; 1Co_15:49.
The meaning here is, that the being and perfections of God are accurately and fully represented by Christ. In what respects particularly he was thus a representative of God, the apostle proceeds to state in the following verses, to wit, in his creative power, in his eternal existence, in his heirship over the universe, in the fulness that dwelt in him. This cannot refer to him merely as incarnate, for some of the things affirmed of him pertained to him before his incarnation; and the idea is, that in all things Christ fairly represents to us the divine nature and perfections. God is manifest to us through him; 1Ti_3:16. We see God in him as we see an object in that which is in all respects an exact copy of it. God is invisible. No eye has seen him, or can see him; but in what Christ is, and has done in the works of creation and redemption, we have a fair and full representation of what God is; see the notes at Joh_1:18; Joh_14:9, note.
The first-born of every creature – Among all the creatures of God, or over all his creation, occupying the rank and pro-eminence of the first-born. The first-born, or the oldest son, among the Hebrews as elsewhere, had special privileges. He was entitled to a double portion of the inheritance. It has been, also, and especially in oriental countries, a common thing for the oldest son to succeed to the estate and the title of his father. In early times, the first-born son was the officiating priest in the family, in the absence or on the death of the father. There can be no doubt that the apostle here has reference to the usual distinctions and honors conferred on the first-born, and means to say that, among all the creatures of God, Christ occupied a pre-eminence similar to that. He does not say that, in all respects, he resembled the first-born in a family; nor does he say that he himself was a creature, for the point of his comparison does not turn on these things, and what he proceeds to affirm respecting him is inconsistent with the idea of his being a created being himself.
He that “created all things that are in heaven and that are in earth,” was not himself created. That the apostle did not mean to represent him as a creature, is also manifest from the reason which he assigns why he is called the first-born. “He is the image of God, and the first-born of every creature, for – ότι hoti – by him were all things created.” That is, he sustains the elevated rank of the first-born, or a high eminence over the creation, because by him “all things were created in heaven and in earth.” The language used here, also, does not fairly imply that he was a creature, or that he was in nature and rank one of those in relation to whom it is said he was the first-born. It is true that the word “first-born” – πρωτότοκος prototokos – properly means the first-born child of a father or mother, Mat_1:25; Luk_2:7; or the first-born of animals. But two things are also to be remarked in regard to the use of the word:
(1) It does not necessarily imply that anyone is born afterward in the family, for it would be used of the first-born, though an only child; and,
(2) it is used to denote one who is chief, or who is highly distinguished and pre-eminent. Thus, it is employed in Rom_8:29, “That he might be the first-born among many brethren.” So, in Col_1:18, it is said that he was “the first-born from the dead;” not that he was literally the first that was raised from the dead, which was not the fact, but that he might be pre-eminent among those that are raised; compare Exo_4:22. The meaning, then, is, that Christ sustains the most exalted rank in the universe; he is pre-eminent above all others; he is at the head of all things. The expression does not mean that he was “begotten before all creatures,” as it is often explained, but refers to the simple fact that he sustains the highest rank over the creation. He is the Son of God. He is the heir of all things. All other creatures are also the “offspring of God;” but he is exalted as the Son of God above all.
(This clause has been variously explained. The most commonly received, and, as we think, best supported opinion, is that which renders πρωτοτοκος πασης κτισεως prototokos pases ktiseos; “begotten before all creation.” This most natural and obvious sense would have been more readily admitted, had it not been supposed hostile to certain views on the sonship of Christ. Some explain πρωτότοκος prototokos actively, and render “first begetter or producer of all things,” which gives, at all events, a sense consistent with truth and with the context, which immediately assigns as the reason of Christ being styled πρωτότοκος prototokos, the clause beginning οτι εν αυτω εκτισθη hoti en auto ektisthe, “For by him were all things created.” Others, with the author explain the word figuratively, of pre-eminence or lordship. To this view however, there are serious objections.
It seems not supported by sufficient evidence. No argument can be drawn from Col_1:18 until it is proved that “firstborn from the dead,” does not mean the first that was raised to die no more, which Doddridge affirms to be “the easiest, surest, most natural sense, in which the best commentators are agreed.” Nor is the argument from Rom_8:29 satisfactory. “Πρωτότοκος Prototokos,” says Bloomfield, at the close of an admirable note on this verse, “is not well taken by Whitby and others, in a figurative sense, to denote ‘Lord of all things, since the word is never so used, except in reference to primogeniture. And although, in Rom_8:29, we have τον ρωτοτοκος εν πολλοις αδελφοις ton prototokos en pollois adelphois, yet there his followers are represented not as his creatures, but as his brethren. On which, and other accounts, the interpretation, according to which we have here a strong testimony to the eternal filiation of our Saviour is greatly preferable; and it is clear that Col_1:15, Col_1:18 are illustrative of the nature, as Col_1:16-17 are an evidence of the pre-existence and divinity of Christ.”)
The image (eikon). In predicate and no article. On eikon, see 2Co_4:4; 2Co_3:18; Rom_8:29; Col_3:10. Jesus is the very stamp of God the Father as he was before the Incarnation (Joh_17:5) and is now (Phi_2:5-11; Heb_1:3).
Of the invisible God (tou theou tou aoratou). But the one who sees Jesus has seen God (Joh_14:9). See this verbal adjective (a privative and horao) in Rom_1:20.
The first born (prototokos). Predicate adjective again and anarthrous. This passage is parallel to the Logos passage in John 1:1-18 and to Heb_1:1-4 as well as Phi_2:5-11 in which these three writers (John, author of Hebrews, Paul) give the high conception of the Person of Christ (both Son of God and Son of Man) found also in the Synoptic Gospels and even in Q (the Father, the Son). This word (lxx and N.T.) can no longer be considered purely “Biblical” (Thayer), since it is found In inscriptions (Deissmann, Light, etc., p. 91) and in the papyri (Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, etc.). See it already in Luk_2:7 and Aleph for Mat_1:25; Rom_8:29. The use of this word does not show what Arius argued that Paul regarded Christ as a creature like “all creation” (pases ktiseos, by metonomy the act regarded as result). It is rather the comparative (superlative) force of protos that is used (first-born of all creation) as in Col_1:18; Rom_8:29; Heb_1:6; Heb_12:23; Rev_1:5. Paul is here refuting the Gnostics who pictured Christ as one of the aeons by placing him before “all creation” (angels and men). Like eikon we find prototokos in the Alexandrian vocabulary of the Logos teaching (Philo) as well as in the lxx. Paul takes both words to help express the deity of Jesus Christ in his relation to the Father as eikon (Image) and to the universe as prototokos (First-born).
16. Visible and invisible. Both of these kinds were included in the foregoing distinction of heavenly and earthly things; but as Paul meant chiefly to make that affirmation in reference to Angels, he now makes mention of things invisible. Not only, therefore, have those heavenly creatures which are visible to our eyes, but spiritual creatures also, been created by the Son of God. What immediately follows, whether thrones, etc., is as though he had said — “by whatever name they are called.”
By thrones some understand Angels. I am rather, however, of opinion, that the heavenly palace of God’s majesty is meant by the term, which we are not to imagine to be such as our mind can conceive of, but such as is suitable to God himself. We see the sun and moon, and the whole adorning of heaven, but the glory of God’s kingdom is hid from our perception, because it is spiritual, and above the heavens. In fine, let us understand by the term thronesthat seat of blessed immortality which is exempted from all change.
By the other terms he undoubtedly describes the angels. He calls them powers, principalities,and dominions,not, as if they swayed any separate kingdom, or were endowed with peculiar power, but because they are the ministers of Divine power and dominion. It is customary, however, that, in so far as God manifests his power in creatures, his names are, in that proportion, transferred to them. Thus he is himself alone Lord and Father, but those are also called lords and fathers whom he dignifies with this honor. Hence it comes that angels, as well as judges, are called gods. Hence, in this passage also, angels are signalized by magnificent titles, which intimate, not what they can do of themselves, or apart from God, but what God does by them, and what functions he has assigned to them. These things it becomes us to understand in such a manner as to detract nothing from the glory of God alone; for he does not communicate his power to angels as to lessen his own; he does not work by them in such a manner as to resign his power to them; he does not desire that his glory should shine forth in them, so as to be obscured in himself. Paul, however, designedly extols the dignity of angels in terms thus magnificent, that no one may think that it stands in the way of Christ alone having the pre-eminence over them. He makes use, therefore, of these terms, as it were by way of concession, as though he had said, that all their excellence detracts nothing from Christ, however honorable the titles with which they are adorned. As for those who philosophize on these terms with excessive subtlety, that they may draw from them the different orders of angels, let them regale themselves with their dainties, but they are assuredly very remote from Paul’s design.
For by him were all things created, etc – These two verses contain parts of the same subject. I shall endeavor to distinguish the statements of the apostle, and reason from them in such a way as the premises shall appear to justify, without appealing to any other scripture in proof of the doctrine which I suppose these verses to vindicate.
Four things are here asserted:
1. That Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe; of all things visible and invisible; of all things that had a beginning, whether they exist in time or in eternity.
2. That whatsoever was created was created For himself; that he was the sole end of his own work.
3. That he was prior to all creation, to all beings, whether in the visible or invisible world.
4. That he is the preserver and governor of all things; for by him all things consist.
Now, allowing St. Paul to have understood the terms which he used, he must have considered Jesus Christ as being truly and properly God.
I. Creation is the proper work of an infinite, unlimited, and unoriginated Being; possessed of all perfections in their highest degrees; capable of knowing, willing, and working infinitely, unlimitedly, and without control: and as creation signifies the production of being where all was absolute nonentity, so it necessarily implies that the Creator acted of and from himself; for as, previously to this creation, there was no being, consequently he could not be actuated by any motive, reason, or impulse, without himself; which would argue there was some being to produce the motive or impulse, or to give the reason. Creation, therefore, is the work of him who is unoriginated, infinite, unlimited, and eternal. But Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things, therefore Jesus Christ must be, according to the plain construction of the apostle’s words, truly and properly God.
II. As, previously to creation, there was no being but God, consequently the great First Cause must, in the exertion of his creative energy, have respect to himself alone; for he could no more have respect to that which had no existence, than he could be moved by nonexistence, to produce existence or creation. The Creator, therefore, must make every thing For himself.
Should it be objected that Christ created officially or by delegation, I answer: This is impossible; for, as creation requires absolute and unlimited power, or omnipotence, there can be but one Creator; because it is impossible that there can be two or more Omnipotents, Infinites, or Eternals. It is therefore evident that creation cannot be effected officially, or by delegation, for this would imply a Being conferring the office, and delegating such power; and that the Being to whom it was delegated was a dependent Being; consequently not unoriginated and eternal; but this the nature of creation proves to be absurd.
1. The thing being impossible in itself, because no limited being could produce a work that necessarily requires omnipotence.
2. It is impossible, because, if omnipotence be delegated, he to whom it is delegated had it not before, and he who delegates it ceases to have it, and consequently ceases to be God; and the other to whom it was delegated becomes God, because such attributes as those with which he is supposed to be invested are essential to the nature of God. On this supposition God ceases to exist, though infinite and eternal, and another not naturally infinite and eternal becomes such; and thus an infinite and eternal Being ceases to exist, and another infinite and eternal Being is produced in time, and has a beginning, which is absurd. Therefore, as Christ is the Creator, he did not create by delegation, or in any official way.
Again, if he had created by delegation or officially, it would have been for that Being who gave him that office, and delegated to him the requisite power; but the text says that all things were made By him and For him, which is a demonstration that the apostle understood Jesus Christ to be truly and essentially God.
III. As all creation necessarily exists in time, and had a commencement, and there was an infinite duration in which it did not exist, whatever was before or prior to that must be no part of creation; and the Being who existed prior to creation, and before all things – all existence of every kind, must be the unoriginated and eternal God: but St. Paul says, Jesus Christ was before all things; ergo, the apostle conceived Jesus Christ to be truly and essentially God.
IV. As every effect depends upon its cause, and cannot exist without it; so creation, which is an effect of the power and skill of the Creator, can only exist and be preserved by a continuance of that energy that first gave it being. Hence, God, as the Preserver, is as necessary to the continuance of all things, as God the Creator was to their original production. But this preserving or continuing power is here ascribed to Christ, for the apostle says, And by him do all things consist; for as all being was derived from him as its cause, so all being must subsist by him, as the effect subsists by and through its cause. This is another proof that the apostle considered Jesus Christ to be truly and properly God, as he attributes to him the preservation of all created things, which property of preservation belongs to God alone; ergo, Jesus Christ is, according to the plain obvious meaning of every expression in this text, truly, properly, independently, and essentially God.
Such are the reasonings to which the simple letter of these two verses necessarily leads me. I own it is possible that I may have misapprehended this awful subject, for humanum est errare et nescire; but I am not conscious of the slightest intentional flaw in the argument. Taking, therefore, the apostle as an uninspired man, giving his own view of the Author of the Christian religion, it appears, beyond all controversy, that himself believed Christ Jesus to be God; but considering him as writing under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, then we have, from the plain grammatical meaning of the words which he has used, the fullest demonstration (for the Spirit of God cannot lie) that he who died for our sins and rose again for our justification, and in whose blood we have redemption, was God over all. And as God alone can give salvation to men, and God only can remit sin; hence with the strictest propriety we are commanded to believe on the Lord Jesus, with the assurance that we shall be saved. Glory be to God for this unspeakable gift! See my discourse on this subject.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
For — Greek, “Because.” This gives the proof that He is not included in the things created, but is the “first-begotten” before “every creature” (Col_1:15), begotten as “the Son of God’s love” (Col_1:13), antecedently to all other emanations: “for” all these other emanations came from Him, and whatever was created, was created by Him.
by him — rather as Greek, “in Him”: as the conditional element, pre-existent and all-including: the creation of all things BY Him is expressed afterwards, and is a different fact from the present one, though implied in it [Alford]. God revealed Himself in the Son, the Word of the Father, before all created existence (Col_1:15). That Divine Word carries IN Himself the archetypes of all existences, so that “IN Him all things that are in heaven and earth have been created.” The “in Him” indicates that the Word is the ideal ground of all existence; the “by Him,” below, that He is the instrument of actually realizing the divine idea [Neander]. His essential nature as the Word of the Father is not a mere appendage of His incarnation, but is the ground of it. The original relation of the Eternal Word to men “made in His image” (Gen_1:27), is the source of the new relation to them by redemption, formed in His incarnation, whereby He restores them to His lost image. “In Him” implies something prior to “by” and “for Him” presently after: the three prepositions mark in succession the beginning, the progress, and the end [Bengel].
all things — Greek, “the universe of things.” That the new creation is not meant in this verse (as Socinians interpret), is plain; for angels, who are included in the catalogue, were not new created by Christ; and he does not speak of the new creation till Col_1:18. The creation “of the things that are in the heavens” (so Greek) includes the creation of the heavens themselves: the former are rather named, since the inhabitants are more noble than their dwellings. Heaven and earth and all that is m them (1Ch_29:11; Neh_9:6; Rev_10:6).
invisible — the world of spirits.
thrones, or dominions — lordships: the thrones are the greater of the two.
principalities, or powers — rather, “rules, or authorities”: the former are stronger than the latter (compare Note, see on Eph_1:21). The latter pair refer to offices in respect to God’s creatures: “thrones and dominions” express exalted relation to God, they being the chariots on which He rides displaying His glory (Psa_68:17). The existence of various orders of angels is established by this passage.
all things — Greek, “the whole universe of things.”
were — rather, to distinguish the Greek aorist, which precedes from the perfect tense here, “have been created.” In the former case the creation was viewed as a past act at a point of time, or as done once for all; here it is viewed, not merely as one historic act of creation in the past, but as the permanent result now and eternally continuing.
by him — as the instrumental Agent (Joh_1:3).
for him — as the grand End of creation; containing in Himself the reason why creation is at all, and why it is as it is [Alford]. He is the final cause as well as the efficient cause. Lachmann’s punctuation of Col_1:15-18 is best, whereby “the first-born of every creature” (Col_1:15) answers to “the first-born from the dead” (Col_1:18), the whole forming one sentence with the words (“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”) intervening as a parenthesis. Thus Paul puts first, the origination by Him of the natural creation; secondly, of the new creation. The parenthesis falls into four clauses, two and two: the former two support the first assertion, “the first-born of every creature”; the latter two prepare us for “the first-born from the dead”’; the former two correspond to the latter two in their form – “All things by Him … and He is,” and “By Him all things … and He is.”
For by him were all things created – This is one of the reasons why he is called “the image of God,” and the “first-born.” He makes God known to us by his creative power, and by the same power in creation shows that he is exalted over all things as the Son of God. The phrase which is used here by the apostle is universal. He does not declare that he created all things in the spiritual kingdom of God, or that he arranged the events of the gospel dispensation, as Socinians suppose (see Crellius); but that every thing was created by him. A similar form of expression occurs in Joh_1:3; see the notes at that verse. There could not possibly be a more explicit declaration that the universe was created by Christ, than this. As if the simple declaration in the most comprehensive terms were not enough, the apostle goes into a specification of things existing in heaven and earth, and so varies the statement as if to prevent the possibility of mistake.
That are in heaven – The division of the universe into “heaven and earth” is natural and obvious, for it is the one that is apparent; see Gen_1:1. Heaven, then, according to this division, will embrace all the universe, except the earth; and will include the heavenly bodies and their inhabitants, the distant worlds, as well as heaven, more strictly so called, where God resides. The declaration, then, is, that all things that were in the worlds above us were the work of his creative power.
And that are in earth – All the animals, plants, minerals, waters, hidden fires, etc. Everything which the earth contains.
Visible and invisible – We see but a small part of the universe. The angels we cannot see. The inhabitants of distant worlds we cannot see. Nay, there are multitudes of worlds which, even with the best instruments, we cannot see. Yet all these things are said to have been created by Christ.
Whether they be thrones – Whether those invisible things be thrones. The reference is to the ranks of angels, called here thrones, dominions, etc.; see the notes at Eph_1:21. The word “thrones” does not occur in the parallel place in Ephesians; but there can be no doubt that the reference is to an order of angelic beings, as those to whom dominion and power were intrusted. The other orders enumerated here are also mentioned in Eph_1:21.
All things were created by him – The repetition, and the varied statement here, are designed to express the truth with emphasis, and so that there could not be the possibility of mistake or misapprehension; compare the notes at Joh_1:1-3. The importance of the doctrine, and the fact that it was probably denied by false teachers, or that they held philosophical opinions that tended to its practical denial, are the reasons why the apostle dwells so particularly on this point.
And for him – For his glory; for such purposes as he designed. There was a reference to himself in the work of creation, just as, when a man builds a house, it is with reference to some important purposes which he contemplates, pertaining to himself. The universe was built by the Greater to be his own property; to be the theater on which he would accomplish his purposes, and display his perfections. Particularly the earth was made by the Son of God to be the place where he would become incarnate, and exhibit the wonders of redeeming love. There could not be a more positive declaration than this, that the universe was created by Christ; and, if so, he is divine. The work of creation is the exertion of the highest power of which we can form a conception, and is often appealed to in the Scriptures by God to prove that he is divine, in contradistinction from idols. If, therefore, this passage be understood literally, it settles the question about the divinity of Christ. Accordingly, Unitarians have endeavored to show that the creation here referred to is a moral creation; that it refers to the arrangement of affairs in the Christian church, or to the kingdom of God on earth, and not to the creation of the material universe. This interpretation has been adopted even by Grotius, who supposes that it refers to the arrangement by which all things are fitted up in the new creation, and by which angels and men are reconciled. By “the things in heaven and in earth,” some Unitarian expositors have understood the Jews and the Gentiles, who are reconciled by the gospel; others, by the things in heaven, understand the angels, and, by the things on earth, men, who are brought into harmony by the gospel plan of salvation. But the objections to this interpretation are insuperable:
(1) The word “created” is not used in this sense properly, and cannot be. That it may mean to arrange, to order, is true; but it is not used in the sense of reconciling, or of bringing discordant things into harmony. To the great mass of men, who have no theory to support, it would be understood in its natural and obvious sense, as denoting the literal creation.
(2) the assertion is, that the “creative” power of Christ was exerted on “all things.” It is not in reference to angels only, or to men, or to Jews, or to Gentiles; it is in relation to “everything in heaven and in earth;” that is, to the whole universe. Why should so universal a declaration be supposed to denote merely the intelligent creation?
(3) with what propriety, or in what tolerable sense, can the expression “things in heaven and things in earth” be applied to the Jews and Gentiles? In what sense can it be said that they are “visible and invisible?” And, if the language could be thus used, how can the fact that Christ is the means of reconciling them be a reason why he should be called “the image of the invisible God?”
(4) if it be understood of a moral creation, of a renovation of things, of a change of nature, how can this be applied to the angels? Has Christ created them anew? Has he changed their nature and character? Good angels cannot need a spiritual renovation; and Christ did not come to convert fallen angels, and to bring them into harmony with the rest of the universe.
(5) the phrase here employed, of “creating all things in heaven and on earth,” is never used elsewhere to denote a moral or spiritual creation. It appropriately expresses the creation of the universe. It is language strikingly similar to that used by Moses, Gen_1:1; and it would be so understood by the great mass of mankind. If this be so, then Christ is divine, and we can see in this great work a good reason why he is called “the image of the invisible God,” and why he is at the head of the universe – the first-born of the creation. It is because, through him, God is made known to us in the work of creation; and because, being the great agent in that work, there is a propriety that he should occupy this position at the head of all things.
By him (εν αυτω)
Rev., in Him. In is not instrumental but local; not denying the instrumentality, but putting the fact of creation with reference to its sphere and center. In Him, within the sphere of His personality, resides the creative will and the creative energy, and in that sphere the creative act takes place. Thus creation was dependent on Him. In Christ is a very common phrase with Paul to express the Church’s relation to Him. Thus “one body in Christ,” Rom_12:5; “fellow-workers in Jesus Christ,” Rom_16:3. Compare Rom_16:7, Rom_16:9, Rom_16:11; 1Co_1:30; 1Co_4:15, etc.
All things (τὰ πάντα)
The article gives a collective sense – the all, the whole universe of things. Without the article it would be all things severally.
Were created (εκτίσθη)
See on Joh_1:3. The aorist tense, denoting a definite historical event.
Visible – invisible
Not corresponding to earthly and heavenly. There are visible things in heaven, such as the heavenly bodies, and invisible things on earth, such as the souls of men.
Thrones, dominions, principalities, powers (θρόνοι, κυριότητες, αρχαὶ, εξουσίαι)
Compare Eph_1:21; Eph_3:10; Eph_6:12; 1Co_15:24; Rom_8:38; Col_2:10, Col_2:15; Tit_3:1. In Tit_3:1, they refer to earthly dignities, and these are probably included in 1Co_15:24. It is doubtful whether any definite succession of rank is intended. At any rate it is impossible to accurately define the distinctions. It has been observed that wherever principalities (αρχαὶ) and powers (εξουσίαι) occur together, principalities always precedes, and that δύναμις power (see Eph_1:21) when occurring with either of the two, follows it; or, when occurring with both, follows both. The primary reference is, no doubt, to the celestial orders; but the expressions things on earth, and not only in this world in the parallel passage, Eph_1:21, indicate that it may possibly include earthly dignities. Principalities and powers are used of both good and evil powers. See Eph_3:10; Eph_6:12; Col_2:15. The passage is aimed at the angel-worship of the Colossians (see Introduction); showing that while they have been discussing the various grades of angels which fill the space between God and men, and depending on them as media of communion with God, they have degraded Christ who is above them all, and is the sole mediator. Compare Heb_1:5-14, where the ideas of the Son as Creator and as Lord of the angels are also combined. Thrones occurs only here in enumerations of this kind. It seems to indicate the highest grade. Compare Rev_4:4, θρόνοι thrones, A.V. seats, and see note. Thrones here probably means the enthroned angels. Dominions or dominations, also Eph_1:21. Principalities or princedoms. In Rom_8:38, this occurs without powers which usually accompanies it.
All things (τὰ πάντα)
Recapitulating. Collectively as before.
Were created (έκτισται)
Rev., correctly, have been created. The perfect tense instead of the aorist, as at the beginning of the verse. “The latter describes the definite, historical act of creation; the former the continuous and present relations of creation to the Creator” (Lightfoot). So Joh_1:3. “Without Him did not any thing come into being (εγένετο, aorist) which hath come into being” (and exists, γέγονεν, see note).
By Him and for Him (δι’ αυτου καὶ εις αυτὸν)
Rev., better, through Him and unto Him. See on Rom_11:36. Compare in Him at the beginning of the verse. There Christ was represented as the conditional cause of all things. All things came to pass within the sphere of His personality and as dependent upon it. Here He appears as the mediating cause; through Him, as 1Co_8:6. Unto Him. All things, as they had their beginning in Him, tend to Him as their consummation, to depend on and serve Him. Compare Rev_22:13; and Heb_2:10; “for whose sake (δι’ ὸν) and through whose agency (δι’ ου) are all things” Rev., “for whom and through whom.” See also Eph_1:10, Eph_1:23; Eph_4:10; Phi_2:9-11; 1Co_15:28. The false teachers maintained that the universe proceeded from God indirectly, through a succession of emanations. Christ, at best, was only one of these. As such, the universe could not find its consummation in Him.
17. All things were created by him, and for him.He places angels in subjection to Christ, that they may not obscure his glory, for four reasons: In the first place, because they were created by him; secondly, because their creation ought to be viewed as having a relation to him, as their legitimate end; thirdly, because he himself existed always, prior to their creation; fourthly, because he sustains them by his power, and upholds them in their condition. At the same time, he does not affirm this merely as to angels, but also as to the whole world. Thus he places the Son of God in the Highest seat of honor, that he may have the pre-eminence over angels as well as men, and may bring under control all creatures in heaven and in earth.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
(Joh_8:58.) Translate as Greek, “And He Himself (the great HE) is (implying divine essential being) before all things,” in time, as well as in dignity. Since He is before all things, He is before even time, that is, from eternity. Compare “the first-born of every creature” (Col_1:15).
by him — Greek, “IN Him” (as the conditional element of existence, Col_1:16) [Alford].
consist — “subsist.” Not only are called into being from nothing, but are maintained in their present state. The Son of God is the Conserver, as well as the Creator of all things [Pearson]. Bengel less probably explains, “All things in Him come together into one system: the universe found its completion in Him” (Isa_41:4; Rev_22:13). Compare as to God, Rom_11:36 : similar language; therefore Christ must be God.
And he is before all things – As he must be, if he created all things. Those who regard this as referring to a moral creation, interpret it as meaning that he has the pre-eminence over all things; not as referring to his pre-existence. But the fair and proper meaning of the word “before” (πρὸ pro) is, that he was before all things in the order of existence; compare Mat_8:29; Joh_11:55; Joh_13:1; Act_5:36; Act_21:38; 2Co_12:2. It is equivalent to saying that he was eternal – for he that had an existence before any thing was created, must be eternal. Thus, it is equivalent to the phrase, “In the beginning;” Gen_1:1; compare the notes at Joh_1:1.
And by him all things subsist – Or are sustained; see the notes at Heb_1:3. The meaning is, that they are kept in the present state; their existence, order, and arrangement are continued by his power. If unsupported by him, they would fall into disorder, or sink back to nothing. If this be the proper interpretation, then it is the ascription to Christ of infinite power – for nothing less could be sufficient to uphold the universe; and of infinite wisdom – for this is needed to preserve the harmonious action of the suns and systems of which it is composed. None could do this but one who is divine; and hence we see the reason why he is represented as the image of the invisible God. He is the great and glorious and everactive agent by whom the perfections of God are made known.
He is (αυτὸς έστιν)
Both words are emphatic. Έστιν is, is used as in Joh_8:58 (see note), to express Christ’s absolute existence. “He emphasizes the personality, is the preexistence” (Lightfoot). For similar emphasis on the pronoun, see Eph_2:14; Eph_4:10, Eph_4:11; 1Jo_2:2; Rev_19:15.
Before all things
By Him (εν αυτω)
In Him as Col_1:16. So Rev.
Cohere, in mutual dependence. Compare Act_27:28; Heb_1:3. For other meanings of the verb, see on Rom_3:5. Christ not only creates, but maintains in continuous stability and productiveness. “He, the All-powerful, All-holy Word of the Father, spreads His power over all things everywhere, enlightening things seen and unseen, holding and binding all together in Himself. Nothing is left empty of His presence, but to all things and through all, severally and collectively, He is the giver and sustainer of life…. He, the Wisdom of God, holds the universe in tune together. He it is who, binding all with each, and ordering all things by His will and pleasure, produces the perfect unity of nature and the harmonious reign of law. While He abides unmoved forever with the Father, He yet moves all things by His own appointment according to the Father’s will” (Athanasius).
18. The head of the body. Having discoursed in a general way of Christ’s excellence, and of his sovereign dominion over all creatures, he again returns to those things which relate peculiarly to the Church. Under the term headsome consider many things to be included. And, unquestionably, he makes use afterwards, as we shall find, of the same metaphor in this sense — that as in the human body it serves as a root, from which vital energy is diffused through all the members, so the life of the Church flows out from Christ, etc. (Col_2:19.) Here, however, in my opinion, he speaks chiefly of government. He shews, therefore, that it is Christ that alone has authority to govern the Church, that it is he to whom alone believers ought to have an eye, and on whom alone the unity of the body depends.
Papists, with the view of supporting the tyranny of their idol, allege that the Church would be (ἀκέφαλον) without a head, if the Pope did not, as a head, exercise rule in it. Paul, however, does not allow this honor even to angels, and yet he does not maim the Church, by depriving her of her head; for as Christ claims for himself this title, so he truly exercises the office. I am also well aware of the cavil by which they attempt to escape — that the Pope is a ministerial head. The name, however, of head is too august to be rightfully transferred to any mortal man, under any pretext, especially without the command of Christ. Gregory shews greater modesty, who says (in his 92nd Epistle, 4th Book) that Peter was indeed one of the chief members of the Church, but that he and the other Apostles were members under one head.
He is the beginning. As ἀρχὴ is sometimes made use of among the Greeks to denote the end, to which all things bear a relation, we might understand it as meaning, that Christ is in this sense (ἀρχὴ) the end. I prefer, however, to explain Paul’s words thus — that he is the beginning, because he is the first-born from the dead; for in the resurrection there is a restoration of all things, and in this manner the commencement of the second and new creation, for the former had fallen to pieces in the ruin of the first man. As, then, Christ in rising again had made a commencement of the kingdom of God, he is on good grounds called the beginning; for thendo we truly begin to have a being in the sight of God, when we are renewed, so as to be new creatures. He is called the first-begotten from the dead, not merely because he was the first that rose again, but because he has also restored life to others, as he is elsewhere called the first-fruits of those that rise again. (1Co_15:20.)
That he may in all things. From this he concludes, that supremacy belongs to him in all things. For if he is the Author and Restorer of all things, it is manifest that this honor is justly due to him. At the same time the phrase in omnibus(in all things) may be taken in two ways — either over all creatures, or, in everything. This, however, is of no great importance, for the simple meaning is, that all things are subjected to his sway.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Revelation of Christ to the Church and the new creation, as the Originator of both.
he — emphatical. Not angels in opposition to the false teachers’ doctrine concerning angel-worship, and the power of Oeons or (imaginary) spirit emanations from God (Col_2:10, Col_2:18).
head of the body, the church — The Church is His body by virtue of His entering into communion corporeally with human nature [Neander], (Eph_1:22). The same One who is the Head of all things and beings by creation, is also, by virtue of being “the first-born from the dead,” and so “the first-fruits” of the new creation among men, the Head of the Church.
who is — that is, in that He is the Beginning [Alford]. Rather, this is the beginning of a new paragraph. As the former paragraph, which related to His originating the physical creation, began with “Who is” (Col_1:15); so this, which treats of His originating the new creation, begins with “who is”; a parenthesis preceding, which closes the former paragraph, that parenthesis (see on Col_1:16), including from “all things were created by Him,” to “Head of the body, the Church.” The head of kings and high priests was anointed, as the seat of the faculties, the fountain of dignity, and original of all the members (according to Hebrew etymology). So Jesus by His unction was designated as the Head of the body, the Church.
the beginning — namely, of the new creation, as of the old (Pro_8:22; Joh_1:1; compare Rev_1:8): the beginning of the Church of the first-born (Heb_12:23), as being Himself the “first-born from the dead” (Act_26:23; 1Co_15:20, 1Co_15:23). Christ’s primogeniture is threefold: (1) From eternity the “first-begotten” of the Father (Col_1:15); (2) As the first-born of His mother (Mat_1:25); (3) As the Head of the Church, mystically begotten of the Father, as it were to a new life, on the day of His resurrection, which is His “regeneration,” even as His people’s coming resurrection will be their “regeneration” (that is, the resurrection which was begun in the soul, extended to the body and to the whole creation, Rom_8:21, Rom_8:22) (Mat_19:28; Act_13:33; Rev_1:5). Sonship and resurrection are similarly connected (Luk_20:36; Rom_1:4; Rom_8:23; 1Jo_3:2). Christ by rising from the dead is the efficient cause (1Co_15:22), as having obtained the power, and the exemplary cause, as being the pattern (Mic_2:13; Rom_6:5; Phi_3:21), of our resurrection: the resurrection of “the Head” involves consequentially that of the members.
that in all things — He resumes the “all things” (Col_1:20).
he might have the pre-eminence — Greek, “He HIMSELF may (thus) become the One holding the first place,” or, “take the precedency.” Both ideas are included, priority in time and priority in dignity: now in the regenerated world, as before in the world of creation (Col_1:15). “Begotten before every creature, or “first-born of every creature” (Psa_89:27; Joh_3:13).
And he is the head of the body, the church – Notes Eph_1:22; Eph_5:23, note.
Who is the beginning – In all things – alike in the work of creation and in the church. He is the fountain of authority and power, and commences everything that is designed to uphold the order of the universe, and to save the world.
The first-born from the dead – At the head of those who rise from their graves. This does not mean literally that he was the first who rose from the dead for he himself raised up Lazarus and others, and the bodies of saints arose at his crucifixion; but it means that he had the pre-eminence among them all; he was the most illustrious of those who will be raised from the dead, and is the head over them all. Especially, he had this pre-eminence in the resurrection in this respect, that he was the first who rose from death to immortality. Others who were raised undoubtedly died again. Christ rose to die no more; see the notes at 1Co_15:20.
That in all things – Margin, “among all.” The Greek will bear either construction, and either will accord with the scope of the apostle’s remarks. If the former, it means that he is at the head of all things – the universe; if the latter, that he is chief among those who rose from the dead. Each of these is true, but the scope of the passage seems rather to require us to understand this of everything, and to mean that all the arrangements respecting him were such as to give him supremacy over the universe.
He might have the pre-eminence – Greek, “might be first” – πρωτεύων proteuon. That is, might be first in rank, dignity, honor, power. He has the pre-eminence:
(1) as over the universe which he has formed – as its Creator and Proprietor;
(2) as chief among those who shall rise from the dead – since he first rose to die no more, and their resurrection depends on him;
(3) as head of the church – all synods, councils, and governments being subject to him, and he alone having a right to give law to his people; and,
(4) in the affections of his friends – being in their affections and confidence superior to all others.
The head of the body (he kephale tou somatos). Jesus is first also in the spiritual realm as he is in nature (Col_1:18-20). Paul is fond of the metaphor of the body (soma) for believers of which body Christ is the head (kephale) as seen already in 1Co_11:3; 1Co_12:12, 1Co_12:27; Rom_12:5. See further Col_1:24 : Col_2:19; Eph_1:22.; Eph_4:2, Eph_4:15; Eph_5:30.
The church (tes ekklesias) Genitive case in explanatory apposition with tou somatos. This is the general sense of ekklesia, not of a local body, assembly, or organization. Here the contrast is between the realm of nature (ta panta) in Col_1:15-17 and the realm of spirit or grace in Col_1:18-20. A like general sense of ekklesia occurs in Eph_1:22.; Eph_5:24-32; Heb_12:23. In Eph_2:11-22 Paul uses various figures for the kingdom of Christ (commonwealth politeia, Col_1:12, one new man eis hena kainon anthropon, Col_1:15, one body en heni somati, Col_1:16, family of God oikeioi tou theou, Col_1:19, building or temple oikodome and naos, Col_1:20-22).
Who (hos). Causal use of the relative, “in that he is.”
The beginning (he arche). It is uncertain if the article (he) is genuine. It is absolute without it. Christ has priority in time and in power. See note on Rev_3:14 for his relation as arche to creation and 1Co_15:20, 1Co_15:23 for aparche used of Christ and the resurrection and Act_3:14 for archegos used of him as the author of life and Heb_2:10 of Jesus and salvation and Heb_12:2 of Jesus as the pioneer of faith.
That in all things he might have the preeminence (hina genetai en pasin autos proteuon). Purpose clause with hina and the second aorist middle subjunctive of ginomai, “that he himself in all things (material and spiritual) may come to (genetai, not ei, be) hold the first place” (proteuon, present active participle of proteuo, old verb, to hold the first place, here only in the N.T.). Christ is first with Paul in time and in rank. See note on Rev_1:5 for this same use of prototokos with ton nekron (the dead).
19. Because it hath pleased the Father that in him.With the view of confirming what he has declared respecting Christ, he now adds, that it was so arranged in the providence of God. And, unquestionably, in order that we may with reverence adore this mystery, it is necessary that we should be led back to that fountain. “This,” says he, “has been in accordance with the counsel of God, that all fullness may dwell in him.” Now, he means a fullness of righteousness, wisdom, power, and every blessing. For whatever God has he has conferred upon his Son, that he may be glorified in him, as is said in Joh_5:20. He shews us, however, at the same time, that we must draw from the fullness of Christ everything good that we desire for our salvation, because such is the determination of God — not to communicate himself, or his gifts to men, otherwise than by his Son. “Christ is all things to us: apart from him we have nothing.” Hence it follows, that all that detract from Christ, or that impair his excellence, or rob him of his offices, or, in fine, take away a drop from his fullness, overturn, so far as is in their power, God’s eternal counsel.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Greek, “(God) was well pleased,” etc.
in him — that is, in the Son (Mat_3:17).
all fulness — rather as Greek, “all the fullness,” namely, of God, whatever divine excellence is in God the Father (Col_2:9; Eph_3:19; compare Joh_1:16; Joh_3:34). The Gnostics used the term “fullness,” for the assemblage of emanations, or angelic powers, coming from God. The Spirit presciently by Paul warns the Church, that the true “fullness” dwells in Christ alone. This assigns the reason why Christ takes precedence of every creature (Col_1:15). For two reasons Christ is Lord of the Church: (1) Because the fullness of the divine attributes (Col_1:19) dwells in Him, and so He has the power to govern the universe; (2) Because (Col_1:20) what He has done for the Church gives Him the right to preside over it.
should … dwell — as in a temple (Joh_2:21). This indwelling of the Godhead in Christ is the foundation of the reconciliation by Him [Bengel]. Hence the “and” (Col_1:20) connects as cause and effect the two things, the Godhead in Christ, and the reconciliation by Christ.
For it pleased the Father – The words “the Father” are not in the original, but they are not improperly supplied. Some word must be understood, and as the apostle in Col_1:12 referred to “the Father” as having a claim to the thanks of his people for what he had done, and as the great favor for which they ought to be thankful is that which he immediately specifies – the exaltation of Christ, it is not improper to suppose that this is the word to be understood here. The meaning is, that he chose to confer on his Son such a rank, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence, and that there might be in him “all fulness.” Hence, by his appointment, he was the agent in creation, and hence he is placed over all things as the head of the church.
That in him should all fulness dwell – That in him there should be such dignity, authority, power, and moral excellence as to be fitted to the work of creating the world, redeeming his people, and supplying everything needful for their salvation. On the word “fullness,” see Joh_1:14, note, 16, note; compare Rom_11:12, Rom_11:25; Gal_4:4; Eph_1:23; Eph_3:19; Col_2:9. This is to us a most precious truth. We have a Saviour who is in no respect deficient in wisdom, power, and grace to redeem and save us. There is nothing necessary to be done in our salvation which he is not qualified to do; there is nothing which we need to enable us to perform our duties, to meet temptation, and to bear trial, which he is not able to impart. In no situation of trouble and danger will the church find that there is a deficiency in him; in no enterprise to which she can put her hands will there be a lack of power in her great Head to enable her to accomplish what he calls her to. We may go to him in all our troubles, weaknesses temptations, and needs, and may be supplied from his fullness – just as, if we were thirsty, we might go to an ocean of pure water and drink.
For it was the good pleasure of the Father (hoti eudokesen). No word in the Greek for “the Father,” though the verb calls for either ho theos or ho pater as the subject. This verb eudokeo is common in the N.T. for God’s will and pleasure (Mat_3:17; 1Co_10:5).
All the fulness (pan to pleroma). The same idea as in Col_2:9 pan to pleroma tes theotetos (all the fulness of the Godhead). “A recognized technical term in theology, denoting the totality of the Divine powers and attributes” (Lightfoot). It is an old word from pleroo, to fill full, used in various senses as in Mar_8:20 of the baskets, Gal_4:10 of time, etc. The Gnostics distributed the divine powers among various aeons. Paul gathers them all up in Christ, a full and flat statement of the deity of Christ.
Should dwell (katoikesai). First aorist active infinitive of katoikeo, to make abode or home. All the divine attributes are at home in Christ (en autoi).
20. And by him to reconcile all things to himself. This, also, is a magnificent commendation of Christ, that we cannot be joined to God otherwise than through him. In the first place, let us consider that our happiness consists in our cleaving to God, and that, on the other hand, there is nothing more miserable than to be alienated from him. He declares, accordingly, that we are blessed through Christ alone, inasmuch as he is the bond of our connection with God, and, on the other hand, that, apart from him, we are most miserable, because we are shut out from God. Let us, however, bear in mind, that what he ascribes to Christ belongs peculiarly to him, that no portion of this praise may be transferred to any other. Hence we must consider the contrasts to these things to be understood — that if this is Christ’s prerogative, it does not belong to others. For of set purpose he disputes against those who imagined that the angels were pacificators, through whom access to God might be opened up.
Making peace through the blood of his cross. He speaks of the Father, — that he has been made propitious to his creatures by the blood of Christ. Now he calls it the blood of the cross, inasmuch as it was the pledge and price of the making up of our peace with God, because it was poured out upon the cross. For it was necessary that the Son of God should be an expiatory victim, and endure the punishment of sin, that we might be the righteousness of God in him. (2Co_5:21.) The blood of the cross,therefore, means the blood of the sacrifice which was offered upon the cross for appeasing the anger of God.
In adding by him,he did not mean to express anything new, but to express more distinctly what he had previously stated, and to impress it still more deeply on their minds — that Christ alone is the author of reconciliation, as to exclude all other means. For there is no other that has been crucified for us. Hence it is he alone, by whom and for whose sake we have God propitious to us.
Both upon earth and in heaven. If you are inclined to understand this as referring merely to rational creatures, it will mean, men and angels. There were, it is true, no absurdity in extending it to all without exception; but that I may not be under the necessity of philosophizing with too much subtlety, I prefer to understand it as referring to angels and men; and as to the latter, there is no difficulty as to their having need of a peace maker in the sight of God. As to angels, however, there is a question not easy of solution. For what occasion is there for reconciliation, where there is no discord or hatred? Many, influenced by this consideration, have explained the passage before us in this manner — that angels have been brought into agreement with men, and that by this means heavenly creatures have been restored to favor with earthly creatures. Another meaning, however, is conveyed by Paul’s words, that God hath reconciled to himself. That explanation, therefore, is forced.
It remains, that we see what is the reconciliation of angels and men. I say that men have been reconciled to God, because they were previously alienated from him by sin, and because they would have had him as a Judge to their ruin, had not the grace of the Mediator interposed for appeasing his anger. Hence the nature of the peace making between God and men was this, that enmities have been abolished through Christ, and thus God becomes a Father instead of a Judge.
Between God and angels the state of matters is very different, for there was there no revolt, no sin, and consequently no separation. It was, however, necessary that angels, also, should be made to be at peace with God, for, being creatures, they were not beyond the risk of falling, had they not been confirmed by the grace of Christ. This, however, is of no small importance for the perpetuity of peace with God, to have a fixed standing in righteousness, so as to have no longer any fear of fall or revolt. Farther, in that very obedience which they render to God, there is not such absolute perfection as to give satisfaction to God in every respect, and without the need of pardon. And this beyond all doubt is what is meant by that statement in Job_4:18, He will find iniquity in his angels. For if it is explained as referring to the devil, what mighty thing were it? But the Spirit declares there, that the greatest purity is vile, if it is brought into comparison with the righteousness of God. We must, therefore, conclude, that there is not on the part of angels so much of righteousness as would suffice for their being fully joined with God. They have, therefore, need of a peace maker, through whose grace they may wholly cleave to God. Hence it is with propriety that Paul declares, that the grace of Christ does not reside among mankind alone, and on the other hand makes it common also to angels. Nor is there any injustice done to angels, in sending them to a Mediator, that they may, through his kindness, have a well grounded peace with God.
Should any one, on the pretext of the universality of the expression, move a question in reference to devils, whether Christ be their peace maker also? I answer, No, not even of wicked men: though I confess that there is a difference, inasmuch as the benefit of redemption is offered to the latter, but not to the former. This, however, has nothing to do with Paul’s words, which include nothing else than this, that it is through Christ alone, that, all creatures, who have any connection at all with God, cleave to him.
And, having made peace through the blood of his cross – Peace between God and man; for man being in a sinful state, and there being no peace to the wicked, it required a reconciliation to be made to restore peace between heaven and earth; but peace could not be made without an atonement for sin, and the consequence shows that the blood of Christ shed on the cross was necessary to make this atonement.
To reconcile all things unto himself – The enmity was on the part of the creature; though God is angry with the wicked every day, yet he is never unwilling to be reconciled. But man, whose carnal mind is enmity to God, is naturally averse from this reconciliation; it requires, therefore, the blood of the cross to atone for the sin, and the influence of the Spirit to reconcile the transgressor to him against whom he has offended! See the notes on 2Co_5:19, etc.
Things in earth, or things in heaven – Much has been said on this very obscure clause; but, as it is my object not to write dissertations but notes, I shall not introduce the opinions of learned men, which have as much ingenuity as variety to recommend them. If the phrase be not a kind of collective phrase to signify all the world, or all mankind, as Dr. Hammond supposed the things in heaven may refer, according to some, to those persons who died under the Old Testament dispensation, and who could not have a title to glory but through the sacrificial death of Christ: and the apostle may have intended these merely to show that without this sacrifice no human beings could be saved, not only those who were then on the earth, and to whom in their successive generations the Gospel should be preached, but even those who had died before the incarnation; and, as those of them that were faithful were now in a state of blessedness, they could not have arrived there but through the blood of the cross, for the blood of calves and goats could not take away sin. After all, the apostle probably means the Jews and the Gentiles; the state of the former being always considered a sort of Divine or celestial state, while that of the latter was reputed to be merely earthly, without any mixture of spiritual or heavenly good. It is certain that a grand part of our Lord’s design, in his incarnation and death, was to reconcile the Jews and the Gentiles, and make them one fold under himself, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls. That the enmity of the Jews was great against the Gentiles is well known, and that the Gentiles held them in supreme contempt is not less so. It was therefore an object worthy of the mercy of God to form a scheme that might reconcile these two grand divisions of mankind; and, as it was his purpose to reconcile and make them one, we learn from this circumstance, as well as from many others, that his design was to save the whole human race.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
The Greek order is, “And through Him (Christ) to reconcile again completely (see on Eph_2:16) all things (Greek, ‘the whole universe of things’) unto Himself (unto God the Father, 2Co_5:19), having made peace (God the Father having made peace) through the blood of His (Christ’s) cross,” that is, shed by Christ on the cross: the price and pledge of our reconciliation with God. The Scripture phrase, “God reconciles man to Himself,” implies that He takes away by the blood of Jesus the barrier which God’s justice interposes against man’s being in union with God (compare Note, see on Rom_5:10; 2Co_5:18). So the Septuagint, 1Sa_29:4, “Wherewith should he reconcile himself unto his master,” that is, reconcile his master unto him by appeasing his wrath. So Mat_5:23, Mat_5:24.
by him — “through Him” (the instrumental agent in the new creation, as in the original creation): emphatically repeated, to bring the person of Christ, as the Head of both creations alike, into prominence.
things in earth … in heaven — Good angels, in one sense, do not need reconciliation to God; fallen angels are excluded from it (Jud_1:6). But probably redemption has effects on the world of spirits unknown to us. Of course, His reconciling us, and His reconciling them, must be by a different process, as He took not on Him the nature of angels, so as to offer a propitiation for them. But the effect of redemption on them, as He is their Head as well as ours, is that they are thereby brought nearer God, and so gain an increase of blessedness [Alford], and larger views of the love and wisdom of God (Eph_3:10). All creation subsists in Christ, all creation is therefore affected by His propitiation: sinful creation is strictly “reconciled” from its enmity; sinless creation, comparatively distant from His unapproachable purity (Job_4:18; Job_15:15; Job_25:5), is lifted into nearer participation of Him, and in this wider sense is reconciled. Doubtless, too, man’s fall, following on Satan’s fall, is a segment of a larger circle of evil, so that the remedy of the former affects the standing of angels, from among whom Satan and his host fell. Angels thereby having seen the magnitude of sin, and the infinite cost of redemption, and the exclusion of the fallen angels from it, and the inability of any creature to stand morally in his own strength, are now put beyond the reach of falling. Thus Bacon’s definition of Christ’s Headship holds good: “The Head of redemption to man; the Head of preservation to angels.” Some conjecture that Satan, when unfallen, ruled this earth and the pre-Adamic animal kingdom: hence his malice against man who succeeded to the lordship of this earth and its animals, and hence, too, his assumption of the form of a serpent, the subtlest of the animal tribes. Luk_19:38 states expressly “peace in heaven” as the result of finished redemption, as “peace on earth” was the result of its beginning at Jesus’ birth (Luk_2:14). Bengel explains the reconciliation to be that of not only God, but also angels, estranged from men because of man’s enmity against God. Eph_1:10 accords with this: This is true, but only part of the truth: so Alford’s view also is but part of the truth. An actual reconciliation or restoration of peace in heaven, as well as on earth, is expressed by Paul. As long as that blood of reconciliation was not actually shed, which is opposed (Zec_3:8, Zec_3:9) to the accusations of Satan, but was only in promise, Satan could plead his right against men before God day and night (Job_1:6; Rev_12:10); hence he was in heaven till the ban on man was broken (compare Luk_10:18). So here; the world of earth and heaven owe to Christ alone the restoration of harmony after the conflict and the subjugation of all things under one Head (compare Heb_11:23). Sin introduced discord not only on earth, but also in heaven, by the fall of demons; it brought into the abodes of holy angels, though not positive, yet privative loss, a retardation of their highest and most perfect development, harmonious gradation, and perfect consummation. Angels were no more able than men by themselves to overcome the peace disturbers, and cast out the devils; it is only “by,” or “through HIM,” and “the blood of HIS cross,” that peace was restored even in heaven; it is only after Christ has obtained the victory fully and legally, that Michael (Rev_12:7-10) and his angels can cast out of heaven Satan and his demons (compare Col_2:15). Thus the point of Paul’s argument against angel-worship is, that angels themselves, like men, wholly depend on Christ, the sole and true object of worship [Auberlen].
And having made peace – Margin, “making.” The Greek will bear either. The meaning is, that by his atonement he produces reconciliation between those who were alienated from each other; see the notes at Eph_2:14. It does not mean here that he had actually effected peace by his death, but that he had laid the foundation for it; he had done that which would secure it.
By the blood of his cross – By his blood shed on the cross. That blood, making atonement for sin, was the means of making reconciliation between God and man. On the meaning of the word “blood,” as used in this connection, see the notes at Rom_3:25.
By him to reconcile all things to himself – On the meaning of the word reconcile, see the Mat_5:24, note; Rom_5:10, note, and 2Co_5:18, note. When it is said that “it pleased the Father by Christ to reconcile all things to himself,” the declaration must be understood with some limitation.
(1) it relates only to those things which are in heaven and earth – for those only are specified. Nothing is said of the inhabitants of hell, whether fallen angels, or the spirits of wicked men who are there.
(2) it cannot mean that all things are actually reconciled – for that never has been true. Multitudes on earth have remained alienated from God, and have lived and died his enemies.
(3) it can mean then, only, that he had executed a plan that was adapted to this; that if fairly and properly applied, the blood of the cross was fitted to secure entire reconciliation between heaven and earth. There was no enemy which it was not fitted to reconcile to God; there was no guilt, now producing alienation, which it could not wash away.
Whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven – That is, to produce harmony between the things in heaven and in earth; so that all things shall be reconciled to him, or so that there shalt be harmony between heaven and earth. The meaning is not, that “the things in heaven” were alienated from God, but that there was alienation in the universe which affected heaven, and the object was to produce again universal concord and love. Substantially the same sentiment is found in Eph_1:10; see the notes at that verse. Much has been written on the meaning of this expression, and a great variety of opinions have been entertained of it. It is best, always, unless necessity require a different interpretation, to take words in their usual signification. If that rule be adopted here,” things in heaven” will refer to God and the angels, and perhaps may include the principles of the divine government, “Things on earth,” will embrace men, and the various things on earth which are now at variance with God and with heaven. Between these, it is designed to produce harmony by the blood of the cross, or by the atonement. As in heaven nothing is wrong; as it is not desirable that anything should he changed there, all the change that is to take place in order to produce reconciliation, is to be on the part of men and the things of this world. The only effect of the blood of the atonement on the “things” of heaven in effecting the reconciliation is, to render it consistent for God to be at peace with sinners. The effect on earth is, to dispose the sinner to a willingness to be reconciled; to lead him to lay aside his enmity; to change his heart, and to effect a change in the views and principles prevailing on earth which are now at variance with God and his government. When this shall be done there will be harmony between heaven and earth, and an alienated world will be brought into conformity with the laws and government of the Creator.
Through him (di’ autou). As the sufficient and chosen agent in the work of reconciliation (apokatallaxai, first aorist active infinitive of apokatallasso, further addition to eudokesen, was pleased). This double compound (apo, kata with allasso) occurs only here, Col_1:22; Eph_2:16, and nowhere else so far as known. Paul’s usual word for “reconcile” is katallasso (2Co_5:18-20; Rom_5:10), though diallasso (Mat_5:24) is more common in Attic. The addition of apo here is clearly for the idea of complete reconciliation. See note on 2Co_5:18-20 for discussion of katallasso, Paul’s great word. The use of ta panta (the all things, the universe) as if the universe were somehow out of harmony reminds us of the mystical passage in Rom_8:19-23 which see for discussion. Sin somehow has put the universe out of joint. Christ will set it right.
Unto himself (eis auton). Unto God, though auton is not reflexive unless written hauton.
Having made peace (eirenopoiesas). Late and rare compound (Pro_10:10 and here only in N.T.) from eirenopoios, peacemaker (Mat_5:9; here only in N.T.). In Eph_2:15 we have poion eirenen (separate words) making peace. Not the masculine gender, though agreeing with the idea of Christ involved even if pleroma be taken as the subject of eudokesen, a participial anacoluthon (construction according to sense as in Col_2:19). If theos be taken as the subject of eudokesen the participle eirenopoiesas refers to Christ, not to theos (God).
Through the blood of his cross (dia tou haimatos tou staurou autou). This for the benefit of the Docetic Gnostics who denied the real humanity of Jesus and as clearly stating the causa medians (Ellicott) of the work of reconciliation to be the Cross of Christ, a doctrine needed today.
Or things in the heavens (eite ta en tois ouranois). Much needless trouble has been made over this phrase as if things in heaven were not exactly right. It is rather a hypothetical statement like Col_1:16 not put in categorical form (Abbott), universitas rerum (Ellicott).