Colossians 1

Verse 21. Who shall change our vile body] Οςμετασχηματισει

τοσωματηςταπεινωσεςημων. Who will refashion, or alter the

fashion and condition of, the body of our humiliation; this body

that is dead-adjudged to death because of sin, and must be

putrefied, dissolved, and decomposed.

That it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body] ειςτο

γενεσθαιαυτοσυμμορφοντωσωματιτηςδοξηςαυτου. That it may

bear a similar form to the body of his glory. That is: the bodies

of true believers shall be raised up at the great day in the same

likeness, immortality, and glory, of the glorified humanity of

Jesus Christ; and be so thoroughly changed, as to be not only

capable through their immortality of eternally existing, but also

of the infinite spiritual enjoyments at the right hand of God.

According to the working] κατατηνενεργειαν. According to

that energy, by which he can bring all things under subjection to

himself. Thus we find that the resurrection of the body is

attributed to that power which governs and subdues all things, for

nothing less than the energy that produced the human body at the

beginning, can restore it from its lapsed and degraded state into

that state of glory which it had at its creation, and render it

capable of enjoying God throughout eternity. The thought of this

glorious consummation was a subject of the highest joy and

confidence amongst the primitive Christian. This earth was not

their home; and they passed through things temporal so as not to

lose those which were eternal.

1. THE preceding chapter, to which the first verse of the

succeeding should be joined, contains a fund of matter the most

interesting that can well be conceived. The apostle seems to

stand on the verge of eternity, and to have both worlds opened to

his view. The one he sees to be the place in which a preparation

for the other is to be attained. In the one he sees the starting

place, where the Christian is to commence his race; in the other

the goal at which his course terminates, and the prize which he is

there to obtain. One is the place from and over which the

Christian is to run; the other is that to which he is to direct

his course, and in which he is to receive infinite blessedness.

In the one he sees all manner of temptations and hinderances, and

dangers standing thick through all the ground; in the other he

sees the forerunner, the Lord Jesus, who has entered into the

heaven of heavens for him, through whom God calls him from above,

τηςανωκλησεωςτουθεον, Php 3:14: for what he hears in the

Gospel, and what he sees by faith, is the calling of God from

above; and therefore he departs from this, for this is not his

rest.

2. The nearer a faithful soul comes to the verge of eternity,

the more the light and influence of heaven are poured out upon it:

time and life are fast sinking away into the shades of death and

darkness; and the effulgence of the dawning glory of the eternal

world is beginning to illustrate the blessed state of the genuine

Christian, and to render clear and intelligible those counsels of

God, partly displayed in various inextricable providences, and

partly revealed and seen as through a glass darkly in his own

sacred word. Unutterable glories now begin to burst forth; pains,

afflictions, persecutions, wants, distresses, sickness, and death,

in any or all of its forms, are exhibited as the way to the

kingdom, and as having in the order of God an ineffable glory for

their result. Here are the wisdom, power, and mercy of God!

Here, the patience, perseverance, and glory of the saints!

Reader, is not earth and its concerns lost in the effulgence of

this glory? Arise and depart, for this is not thy rest.

THE

EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE

TO THE

COLOSSIANS.

Chronological Notes relative to this Epistle.

Usherian year of the world, 4066.

-Alexandrian era of the world, 5564.

-Antiochian era of the world, 5554.

-Constantinopolitan era of the world, 5570.

-Year of the Eusebian epocha of the Creation, 4290.

-Year of the Julian period, 4772.

-Year of the minor Jewish era of the world, 3822.

-Year of the Greater Rabbinical era of the world, 4421.

-Year from the Flood, according to Archbishop Usher, and the

English Bible, 2410.

-Year of the Cali yuga, or Indian era of the Deluge, 3164.

-Year of the era of Iphitus, or since the first commencement of

the Olympic games, 1002.

-Year of the Nabonassarean era, 809.

-Year of the era of the Seleucidae, 374.

-Year of the Spanish era, 100.

-Year of the Actiac or Actian era, 93.

-Year from the birth of Christ, 66.

-Year of the vulgar era of Christ's nativity, 62.

-Year from the building of Rome, according to Varro, 814.

-Year of the CCXth Olympiad, 2.

-Jesus, high priest of the Jews.

-Common Golden Number, 6.

-Jewish Golden Number, 3.

-Year of the Solar Cycle, 15.

-Dominical Letter, C.

-Jewish Passover, April 10th.

-Easter Sunday, April 11th.

-Epact, or the moon's age on the 22d of March, or the Xth of the

Calends of April, 25.

-Year of the reign of Nero Caesar, the sixth emperor of the

Romans, 9.

-In the first year of Albinus, governor of the Jews.

-Year of Vologesus, king of the Parthians, 12.

-Year of Domitius Corbulo, governor of Syria, 3.

-Roman Consuls, P. Marius Celsus, and L. Asinius Gallus, from

Jan. 1st to July 1st; and L. Annaeus Seneca, the philosopher,

and Trebellius Maximus, for the remainder of the year.

CHAPTER I.

The salutation of Paul and Timothy to the Church at Colosse,

1, 2.

They give thanks to God for the good estate of that Church, and

the wonderful progress of the Gospel in every place, 3-6;

having received particulars of their state from Epaphroditus,

which not only excited their gratitude, but led them to pray to

God that they might walk worthy of the Gospel; and they give

thanks to Him who had made them meet for an inheritance among

the saints in light, 7-12.

This state is described as a deliverance from the power of

darkness, and being brought into the kingdom of God's dear Son,

13, 14.

The glorious character of Jesus Christ, and what He has done for

mankind, 15-20.

The salvation which the Colossians had received, and of which

the apostle had been the minister and dispenser, 21-26.

The sum and substance of the apostle's preaching, and the manner

in which he executed his ministry, 27-29.

NOTES ON CHAP. I.

Verse 1. Paul, an apostle-by the will of God] As the word

αποστολος, apostle, signifies one sent, an envoy or messenger,

any person or persons may be the senders: but the word is

particularly restrained to the messengers of the everlasting

Gospel, sent immediately from God himself; and this is what St.

Paul particularly remarks here when he calls himself an apostle by

the will of God; signifying that he had derived his commission

from an express volition or purpose of the Almighty.

And Timotheus] Though Timothy is here joined in the salutation,

yet he has never been understood as having any part in composing

this epistle. He has been considered as the amanuensis or scribe

of the apostle.

Verse 2. To the saints] Those who professed Christianity.

See Clarke on Eph 1:1.

Which are at Colosse] Instead of ενκολοσσαις, at Colosse, or

among the Colossians, ABC, and many other excellent MSS., with

both the Syriac, Coptic, Slavonic, Origen, Gregory Nyssen,

Amphilochus, Theodoret, Damascenus, Theophylact, and others, read

ενκολασσαις in Colassa, or among the Colassians; and this is

most probably the true reading. That this city perished by an

earthquake, a short time after the date of this epistle, we have

the testimony of Eusebius. That which at present is supposed to

occupy the site of this ancient city is called Konos. For other

particulars see the preface to this epistle. See Clarke on Col 1:1

Grace be unto you] See Clarke on Ro 1:7.

And the Lord Jesus Christ.] This clause is omitted by many

MSS., several versions, and some of the fathers. Griesbach has

left it out of the text, not, in my opinion, on sufficient

evidence.

Verse 3. We give thanks to God] Who is the author of all good;

and from whom the grace, which has produced your conversion, has

sprung by his mission of Christ Jesus.

See the note on Eph 1:15, 16.

Verse 4. Since we heard of your faith] This is very similar to

Eph 1:15. And it is certain that the apostle seems to have

considered the Church at Ephesus, and that at Colassa to have been

nearly in the same state, as the two epistles are very similar in

their doctrine and phraseology.

Verse 6. Which is come unto you] The doctrine of the Gospel is

represented as a traveller, 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 traveller 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 traveller 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 labour 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 honour

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,

AEthiopic, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, and Itala, together with

many of the fathers, add καιαυξανομενον, 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.

Verse 7. 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, οεξυμων. 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.

Verse 8. Your love in the Spirit.] So we preached, and so ye

believed. The heavenly flame in the heart of this minister

communicated itself to those who heard him; it was like priest

like people. They enjoyed a spiritual, energetic ministry, and

they were a spiritual people; they had a loving spirit, and love

through the Spirit of God which dwelt in them. And of this love

of theirs in the Spirit, and particularly towards the apostle,

Epaphras gave full proof, not only by describing to the apostle

the affection they felt for him, but in presenting to him those

supplies which their love to him caused them to furnish.

Verse 9. For this cause] See on Eph 1:15, 16, where the same

sentiment occurs.

That ye might be filled] Nothing could satisfy the apostle,

either for himself or his hearers, but the fulness of the blessing

of the Gospel of peace. The Colossians had knowledge, but they

must have more; it is their privilege to be filled with it. As

the bright shining of the sun in the firmament of heaven fills the

whole world with light and heat, so the light of the Sun of

righteousness is to illuminate their whole souls, and fill them

with Divine splendour, so that they might know the will of God, in

all wisdom and spiritual understanding; in a word, that they might

have such a knowledge of Divine things as the Spirit of truth can

teach to the soul of man.

Verse 10. That ye might walk worthy of the Lord] Suitably to

your Christian profession, exemplifying its holy doctrines by a

holy and useful life.

See Clarke on Eph 4:1; and on "Php 1:27".

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 Clarke on Col 1:6.

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.

Verse 11. Strengthened with all might] That they might be able

to walk worthy of the Lord, bring forth fruit, &c.

See Clarke on Eph 3:13, &c.

According to his glorious power] According to that sufficiency

of strength which may be expected from him who has all power both

in the heavens and in the earth.

Unto all patience] Relieving, hoping, and enduring all things.

With joyfulness] Feeling the continual testimony that ye please

God, which will be a spring of perpetual comfort.

See Clarke on Eph 4:2.

Verse 12. 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, &c. 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] ειςτηνμεριδατουκληρου. 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

honour 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.

Verse 13. 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, &c.] 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,

υιουτηςαγαπηςαυτου, 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.

Verse 14. 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, διατουαιματοςαυτου, Through his blood, is omitted

by ABCDEFG, and by most others of weight and importance; by the

Syriac, Arabic of Erpen, Coptic, AEthiopic, 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] αφεσιντωναμαρτιων. The taking away

of sins; all the power, guilt, and infection of sin. All sin of

every kind, with all its influence and consequences.

Verse 15. 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 splendour 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 fulness of the Godhead

bodily, which dwelt in him.

The first-born of every creature] I suppose this phrase to mean

the same as that, Php 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. Col 1:16, 17

As the Jews term Jehovah 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 Col 1:16, 17 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.

Verse 16. & 17. For by him were all things created, &c.] These

two verses contain parts of the same subject. I shall endeavour

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.

Verse 17. See Clarke on Col 1:16

Verse 18. He is the head of the body] What the apostle has

said in the two preceding verses refers to the Divine nature of

Jesus Christ; he now proceeds to speak of his human nature, and to

show how highly that is exalted beyond all created things, and

how, in that, he is head of the Church-the author and dispenser of

light, life, and salvation, to the Christian world; or, in other

words, that from him, as the man in whom the fulness of the

Godhead bodily dwelt, all the mercy and salvation of the Gospel

system is to be received.

The beginning, the first-born from the dead] In 1Co 15:20,

Christ is called the first-fruits of them that slept; and here,

the chief and first-born from the dead; he being the first that

ever resumed the natural life, with the employment of all its

functions, never more to enter the empire of death, after having

died a natural death, and in such circumstances as precluded the

possibility of deception. The αρχη, chief, head, or first,

answers in this verse to the απαρχη, or first-fruits, 1Co 15:20.

Jesus Christ is not only the first who rose from the dead to die

no more, but he is the first-fruits of human beings; for as surely

as the first-fruits were an indication and pledge of the harvest,

so surely was the resurrection of Christ the proof that all

mankind should have a resurrection from the dead.

That in all-he might have the pre-eminence] That he might be

considered, in consequence of his mediatorial office, as

possessing the first place in and being chief over all the

creation of God; for is it to be wondered at that the human

nature, with which the great Creator condescended to unite

himself, should be set over all the works of his hands?

Verse 19. For it pleased the Father that in him should all

fulness dwell] As the words, the Father are not in the text, some

have translated the verse thus: For in him it seemed right that

all fulness should dwell; that is, that the majesty, power, and

goodness of God should be manifested in and by Christ Jesus, and

thus by him the Father reconciles all things to himself. The

πληρωμα, or fulness, must refer here to the Divine nature

dwelling in the man Christ Jesus.

Verse 20. 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 Clarke on 2Co 5:19, &c.

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.

Verse 21. And you, that were sometime alienated] All men are

alienated from God, and all are enemies in their minds to him, and

show it by their wicked works; but this is spoken particularly of

the Gentiles. The word απαλλοτριοω, which we render to alienate,

to give to another, to estrange, expresses the state of the

Gentiles: while the Jews were, at least by profession, dedicated

to God, the Gentiles were alienated, that is, given up to others;

they worshipped not the true God, but had gods many and lords

many, to whom they dedicated themselves, their religious service,

and their property. The verb αλλοτριοω, to alienate, being

compounded here with the preposition απο, from, signifies to

abalienate, to estrange utterly, to be wholly the property of

another. Thus the Gentiles had alienated themselves from God, and

were alienated or rejected by him, because of their wickedness and

idolatry.

Enemies in your mind] They had the carnal mind, which is enmity

against God; and this was expressed in their outward conduct by

wicked works. See Clarke on Ro 5:10. The mind is taken

here for all the soul, heart, affections, passions, &c.

Verse 22. In the body of his flesh] By Christ's assumption of

a human body, and dying for man, he has made an atonement for sin,

through which men become reconciled to God and to each other.

To present you holy] Having saved you from your sins.

Unblamable] Having filled you with his Spirit, and written his

law in your hearts, so that his love, shed abroad in your hearts,

becomes the principle and motive to every action. The tree

therefore being good, the fruit is also good.

And unreprovable] For, being filled with love, joy, peace,

meekness, gentleness, and goodness, against these there is no law;

and as they were called to love God with all their heart, soul,

mind, and strength, and their neighbour as themselves, the whole

spirit and design of the law was fulfilled in them, for love is

the fulfilling of the law.

In his sight] At the day of judgment. None can enjoy heaven

who have not been reconciled to God here, and shown forth the

fruits of that reconciliation in being made holy and unblamable,

that, when they come to be judged, they may be found unreprovable.

Verse 23. If ye continue in the faith] This will be the case

if you, who have already believed in Christ Jesus, continue in

that faith, grounded in the knowledge and love of God, and

settled-made firm and perseveringly steadfast, in that state of

salvation.

And be not moved away] Not permitting yourselves to be seduced

by false teachers.

The hope of the Gospel] The resurrection of the body, and the

glorification of it and the soul together, in the realms of

blessedness. This is properly the Gospel HOPE.

To every creature which is under heaven] A Hebraism for the

whole human race, and particularly referring to the two grand

divisions of mankind, the Jews and Gentiles; to both of these the

Gospel had been preached, and to each, salvation by Christ had

been equally offered. And as none had been excluded from the

offers of mercy, and Jesus Christ had tasted death for every man,

and the Jews and Gentiles, in their great corporate capacity, had

all been invited to believe the Gospel; therefore, the apostle

concludes that the Gospel was preached to every creature under

heaven, as being offered without restrictions or limitations to

these two grand divisions of mankind, including the whole human

race.

Verse 24. Rejoice in my sufferings for you] St. Paul always

considers his persecutions, as far as the Jews were concerned in

them, as arising from this simple circumstance-his asserting that

God had chosen the Gentiles, and called them to enjoy the very

same privileges with the Jews, and to constitute one Church with

them.

It was on this account that the Jews attempted his life at

Jerusalem, when, in order to save it, he was obliged to appeal to

Caesar; the consequences of which persecution he was now suffering

in his imprisonment in Rome. See Clarke on Col 4:2.

That which is behind of the afflictions of Christ] I have still

some afflictions to pass through before my race of glory be

finished; afflictions which fall on me on account of the Gospel;

such as Christ bore from the same persecuting people.

It is worthy of remark that the apostle does not say παθηματα,

the passion of Christ, but simply θλιψεις, the afflictions; such

as are common to all good men who bear a testimony against the

ways and fashions of a wicked world. In these the apostle had his

share, in the passion of Christ he could have none. He trod the

wine press alone, of the people there were none with him.

His body's sake] Believers, both of Jews and Gentiles, who form

that one body, of which Christ is the head.

Verse 25. Whereof I am made a minister] Having received

especial commission from God to preach salvation to the Gentiles.

According to the dispensation] κατατηνοικονομιαν. According

to the Gospel economy or institution; the scheme or plan of

salvation by Christ crucified.

To fulfil the word of God] The Greek πληρωσαιθονλογοντου

θεου may be translated, fully to preach the doctrine of God. See

Ro 15:19, and the note there. Were we to take the word in its

common meaning, it might signify to accomplish the purpose of God,

as predicted by the prophets.

Verse 26. The mystery which hath been hid] The mystery is

this: that God had designed to grant the Gentiles the same

privileges with the Jews, and make them his people who were not

his people. That this is what St. Paul means by the mystery, see

Eph 3:3, &c.

Made manifest to his saints] It is fully known to all who have

embraced the doctrine of Christ crucified; to all Christians.

Verse 27. The riches of the glory] God manifests to these how

abundantly glorious this Gospel is among the Gentiles; and how

effectual is this doctrine of Christ crucified to the salvation of

multitudes.

Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory] In this and the

following verse there are several remarkable particulars:-

I. We find here the sum and substance of the apostle's

preaching.

1. He preached Christ, as the only Saviour of sinners.

2. He proclaimed this Christ as being in them; for the design of

the Gospel is to put men in possession of the Spirit and power of

Christ, to make them partakers of the Divine nature, and thus

prepare them for an eternal union with himself. Should it be said

that the preposition εν should be translated among, it amounts to

the same; for Christ was among them, to enlighten, quicken,

purify, and refine them, and this he could not do without dwelling

in them.

3. He preached this present and indwelling Christ as the hope of

glory; for no man could rationally hope for glory who had not the

pardon of his sins, and whose nature was not sanctified; and none

could have pardon but through the blood of his cross; and none

could have glorification but through the indwelling, sanctifying

Spirit of Christ.

II. We see the manner in which the apostles preached.

1. They warned every one-they showed every man his danger; they

proved that both Jews and Gentiles were under sin; and that the

wrath of God was revealed against all ungodliness and

unrighteousness of men; that time and life were uncertain; and

that now was the day of salvation.

2. They taught every man in all wisdom-they considered the world

in a state of ignorance and darkness, every man being through sin

ignorant of himself and God; and the apostles taught them to know

themselves, viz., that they were sinners, wretched, helpless, and

perishing; and they taught them to know God, in his purity,

justice, and truth, and in his mercy through Christ Jesus. Thus

they instructed men in all wisdom; for the knowledge of a man's

self and his God constitutes all that is essentially necessary to

be known for present and eternal happiness.

III. The end which the apostles had in view in thus preaching

Christ: to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. The words

τελειονενχριστω, perfect in or through Christ, signify two

things: 1. That they should be thoroughly instructed in the

doctrines of Christianity, so that they should know the truth as

it is in Jesus. 2. That they should be made partakers of the

grace of the Gospel, so that they might be saved from all their

sins, and be filled with His fulness. The succeeding chapter

amply proves that nothing less than this entered into the

apostle's design. Men may dispute as they please about Christian

perfection, but without it no soul shall ever see God. He who is

not saved from all sin here, cannot, to his joy, see God

hereafter. This perfection of which the apostle speaks, and to

which he laboured to bring all men, was something to be attained

in and through Christ. The apostles preached Christ in the

people; and they preached him as crucified for mankind. He who

died for them was to live in them, and fill their whole souls with

his own purity. No indwelling sin can be tolerated by an

indwelling Christ; for he came into the world to save his people

from their sins.

IV. We see who were the objects of the apostle's ministry: the

Jews and Gentiles; πανταανθρωπον, every man, the whole human

race. Every man had sinned; and for every sinner Christ had died;

and he died for them that they might be saved from all their sins.

The apostles never restrained the offers of salvation; they made

them frankly to all, believing that it was the will of God that

all should believe and be saved: hence they warned and taught

every man that they might, at the day of judgment, present every

man perfect in Christ Jesus; for, although their own personal

ministry could not reach all the inhabitants of the earth, yet it

is by the doctrines which they preached, and by the writings which

they have left on record, that the earth is to be filled with the

knowledge and glory of God, and the souls of men brought to the

enjoyment of the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of peace.

Verse 29. Whereunto I also labour] In order to accomplish this

end, I labour with the utmost zeal and earnestness; and with all

that strength with which God has most powerfully furnished me.

Whoever considers the original words, αγωνιζομενοςκατατην

ενεργειαναυτουτηνενεργουμενηνενδυναμει, will find that no

verbal translation can convey their sense. God worked

energetically in St. Paul, and he wrought energetically with God;

and all this was in reference to the salvation of mankind.

1. THE preceding chapter contains the highest truths in the

Christian religion, conveyed in language peculiar to this apostle;

a language never taught by man, clothing ideas as vast as the

human mind can grasp, and both coming immediately from that

inspiration of the Almighty which giveth understanding.

2. What the apostle says on the Godhead of Christ has already

been distinctly noted; and from this we must conclude that, unless

there be some secret way of understanding the 16th and 17th

verses, Col 1:16, 17 which God has nowhere revealed, taken in

their sober and rational sense and meaning they must for ever

settle this very important point. Let any man of common sense and

reason hear these words, whose mind had not been previously warped

by any sentiment on the subject, and who only knew, in religious

matters, this one great truth, that there is a God, and that he

made and governs all things; and then let him be asked, Of whom

doth the apostle speak this? Would he not immediately answer, He

speaketh of God? As to the difficulties on this subject, we must

consider them difficulties rather to our limited intellect, than

as belonging to the subject. We can know but little of an

infinite and eternal Being; nothing, properly speaking, but what

himself is pleased to reveal. Let us receive, this with gratitude

and reverence. See my discourse on the sum and substance of

apostolic preaching.

Copyright information for Clarke