SalutationColossians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Paul Thanks God for the Colossians3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the Gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The Supremacy of Christ (Cp Jn 1.1—5)15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— 23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the Gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this Gospel.
Paul’s Interest in the Colossians24 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25 I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
29 For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.
Colossians 2:1 For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face. 2 I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
Fullness of Life in Christ6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
Paul here brings together two different aspects of the saving work of Christ’s cross, namely the forgiveness of our sins and the cosmic overthrow of the principalities and powers. He illustrates the freeness and graciousness of God’s forgiveness (charizomai) from the ancient custom of cancelling debts. ‘The written code, with its regulations, that was against us’ can hardly be a reference to the law in itself, since Paul regarded it as ‘holy, righteous and good’ (Rom. 7:12); it must rather refer to the broken law, which on that account was ‘against us and stood opposed to us’ with its judgment. The word Paul uses for this ‘written code’ is cheirographon, which was ‘a hand-written document, specifically a certificate of indebtedness, a bond’ (AG) or a ‘signed confession of indebtedness, which stood as a perpetual witness against us’. (The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)) The apostle then employs three verbs to describe how God has dealt with our debts. He ‘cancelled’ the bond by ‘wiping’ it clean (as exaleiphō literally means) and then ‘took it away, nailing it to the cross’. Jeremias thinks the allusion is to the titulus, the tablet fixed over a crucified person’s head on which his crimes were written, and that on Jesus’ titulus it was our sins, not his, which were inscribed. (The Central Message of the New Testament) In any case, God frees us from our bankruptcy only by paying our debts on Christ’s cross. More than that. He has ‘not only cancelled the debt, but also destroyed the document on which it was recorded’. (Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 44, Colossians-Philemon) The Cross of Christ16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
Warnings against False Teachers20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.
The New Life in ChristColossians 3:1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Please see "Having a "Peace" About It" in What I'm reading below) 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Rules for Christian Households (Cp Eph 5.21—6.9)18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. (Is this not the first commandment with a promise? How often are the parents placed behind or below what seems more important? If there is a blessing for honoring your parents what is there for dishonoring parents? You say you want the mind of Christ? Do you really?) 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart. 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, 24 since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality.
Colossians 4:1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
Further Instructions2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, 4 so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should.
5 Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.
Final Greetings and Benediction (Cp Eph 6.21—22)7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me; he is a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts; 9 he is coming with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him. 11 And Jesus who is called Justus greets you. These are the only ones of the circumcision among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills. 13 For I testify for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books [New Revised Standard Version]
What I'm Reading
1 Paul an Apostle. I have already, in repeated instances, explained the design of such inscriptions. As, however, the Colossians had never seen him, and on that account his authority was not as yet so firmly established among them as to make his private name by itself sufficient, he premises that he is an Apostle of Christ set apart by the will of God. From this it followed, that he did not act rashly in writing to persons that were not known by him, inasmuch as he was discharging an embassy with which God had intrusted him. For he was not bound to one Church merely, but his Apostleship extended to all. The term saints which he applies to them is more honorable, but in calling them faithful brethren, he allures them more willingly to listen to him. As for other things, they may be found explained in the foregoing Epistles.
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.
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, (Genesis 9:6;) but in respect of degrees, it will begin with those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10.)
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 — it the true word of the gospel. 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
6 As 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 evil workers, (Philippians 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.
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 love is 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.
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 spiritual by 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. (1 Corinthians 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.
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.
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. (Isaiah 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.
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, (Hebrews 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.
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 Isaiah 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. (1 John 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 Matthew 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.
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 first place, he says that we have redemption 300 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.
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 John 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, 303 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 1 Corinthians 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 image is 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.
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 thrones that 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, 308 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.
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.
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 head some 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. (Colossians 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, 310 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 then do 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. (1 Corinthians 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.
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 John 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.
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. 312 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. (2 Corinthians 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 314 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, 315 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.
21. And whereas ye were formerly. The general doctrine which he had set forth he now applies particularly to them, that they may feel that they are guilty of very great ingratitude, if they allow themselves to be drawn away from Christ to new inventions. And this arrangement must be carefully observed, because the particular application of a doctrine, so to speak, affects the mind more powerfully. Farther, he leads their views to experience, that they may recognize in themselves the benefit of that redemption of which he had made mention. “You are yourselves a sample of that grace which I declare to have been offered to mankind through Christ. For ye were alienated, that is, from God. Ye were enemies; now ye are received into favor: whence comes this? It is because God, being appeased by the death of Christ, has become reconciled to you.” At the same time, there is in this statement a change of person, for what he has previously declared as to the Father, he now affirms respecting Christ; for we must necessarily explain it thus, in the body of HIS flesh
The term διανοίας (thought) I explain, as employed by way of amplification, as though he had said, that they were altogether, and in the whole of their mental system, alienated from God, that no one may imagine, after the manner of philosophers, that the alienation is merely in a particular part, as Popish theologians restrict it to the lower appetites. “Nay,” says Paul, “what made you odious to God, had taken possession of your whole mind.” In fine, he meant to intimate, that man, whatever he may be, is wholly at variance with God, and is an enemy to him. The old interpreter renders it (sensum) sense. Erasmus renders it mentem, (mind.) I have made use of the term cogitationis, to denote what the French call intention. For such is the force of the Greek word, and Paul’s meaning requires that it should be rendered so.
Farther, while the term enemies has a passive as well as active signification, it is well suited to us in both respects, so long as we are apart from Christ. For we are born children of wrath, and every thought of the flesh is enmity against God. (Romans 8:7.)
In wicked works. He shews from its effects the inward hatred which lies hid in the heart. For as mankind endeavor to free themselves from all blame, until they have been openly convicted, God shews them their impiety by outward works, as is more amply treated of in Romans 1:19. Farther, what is told us here as to the Colossians, is applicable to us also, for we differ nothing in respect of nature. There is only this difference, that some are called from their mother’s womb, whose malice God anticipates, so as to prevent them from breaking forth into open fruits, while others, after having wandered during a great part of their life, are brought back to the fold. We all, however, stand in need of Christ as our peace maker, because we are the slaves of sin, and where sin is, there is enmity between God and men.
22. In the body of his flesh. The expression is in appearance absurd, but the body of his flesh means that human body, which the Son of God had in common with us. He meant, therefore, to intimate, that the Son of God had put on the same nature with us, that he took upon him this vile earthly body, subject to many infirmities, that he might be our Mediator. When he adds, by death, he again calls us back to sacrifice. For it was necessary that the Son of God should become man, and be a partaker of our flesh, that he might be our brother: it was necessary that he should by dying become a sacrifice, that he might make his Father propitious to us.
That he might present us holy. Here we have the second and principal part of our salvation — newness of life. For the entire blessing of redemption consists mainly in these two things, remission of sins, and spiritual regeneration. (Jeremiah 31:33.) What he has already spoken of was a great matter, that righteousness has been procured for us through the death of Christ, so that, our sins being remitted, we are acceptable to God. Now, however, he teaches us, that there is in addition to this another benefit equally distinguished — the gift of the Holy Spirit, by which we are renewed in the image of God. This, also, is a passage worthy of observation, as shewing that a gratuitous righteousness is not conferred upon us in Christ, without our being at the same time regenerated by the Spirit to the obedience of righteousness, as he teaches us elsewhere, that Christ is made to us righteousness and sanctification. (1 Corinthians. 1:30.)
The former we obtain by a gratuitous acceptance; and the latter by the gift of the Holy Spirit, when we are made new creatures. There is however an inseparable connection between these two blessings of grace.
Let us, however, take notice, that this holiness is nothing more than begun in us, and is indeed every day making progress, but will not be perfected until Christ shall appear for the restoration of all things. For the Cœlestinians and the Pelagians in ancient times mistakingly perverted this passage, so as to shut out the gracious benefit of the remission of sins. For they conceived of a perfection in this world which could satisfy the judgment of God, so that mercy was not needed. Paul, however, does not by any means shew us here what is accomplished in this world, but what is the end of our calling, and what blessings are brought to us by Christ.
23. If ye continue. Here we have an exhortation to perseverance, by which he admonishes them that all the grace that had been conferred upon them hitherto would be vain, unless they persevered in the purity of the gospel. And thus he intimates, that they are still only making progress, and have not yet reached the goal. For the stability of their faith was at that time exposed to danger through the stratagems of the false apostles. Now he paints in lively colors assurance of faith when he bids the Colossians be grounded and settled in it. For faith is not like mere opinion, which is shaken by various movements, but has a firm steadfastness, which can withstand all the machinations of hell. Hence the whole system of Popish theology will never afford even the slightest taste of true faith, which holds it as a settled point, that we must always be in doubt respecting the present state of grace, as well as respecting final perseverance. He afterwards takes notice also of a relationship which subsists between faith and the gospel, when he says that the Colossians will be settled in the faith only in the event of their not falling back from the hope of the gospel; that is, the hope which shines forth upon us through means of the gospel, for where the gospel is, there is the hope of everlasting salvation. Let us, however, bear in mind, that the sum of all is contained in Christ. Hence he enjoins it upon them here to shun all doctrines which lead away from Christ, so that the minds of men are otherwise occupied.
Which ye have heard. As the false apostles themselves, who tear and rend Christ in pieces, are accustomed proudly to glory in the name of the gospel, and as it is a common artifice of Satan to trouble men’s consciences under a false pretext of the gospel, that the truth of the gospel may be brought into confusion, Paul, on this account, expressly declares, that that was the genuine, that the undoubted gospel, which the Colossians had heard, namely, from Epaphras, that they might not lend an ear to doctrines at variance with it. He adds, besides, a confirmation of it, that it is the very same as was preached over the whole world. It is, I say, no ordinary confirmation when they hear that they have the whole Church agreeing with them, and that they follow no other doctrine than what the Apostles had alike taught and was everywhere received.
It is, however, a ridiculous boasting of Papists, in respect of their impugning our doctrine by this argument, that it is not preached everywhere with approbation and applause, inasmuch as we have few that assent to it. For though they should burst, they will never deprive us of this — that we at this day teach nothing but what was preached of old by Prophets and Apostles, and is obediently received by the whole band of saints. For Paul did not mean that the gospel should be approved of by the consent of all ages in such a way that, if it were rejected, its authority would be shaken. He had, on the contrary, an eye to that commandment of Christ,
Go, preach the gospel to every creature; (Mark 16:15;)
which commandment depends on so many predictions of the Prophets, foretelling that the kingdom of Christ would be spread over the whole world. What else then does Paul mean by these words than that the Colossians had also been watered by those living streams, which, springing forth from Jerusalem, were to flow out through the whole world? (Zechariah 14:8.)
We also do not glory in vain, or without remarkable fruit and consolation, that we have the same gospel, which is preached among all nations by the commandment of the Lord, which is received by all the Churches, and in the profession of which all pious persons have lived and died. It is also no common help for fortifying us against so many assaults, that we have the consent of the whole Church — such, I mean, as is worthy of so distinguished a title. We also cordially subscribe to the views of Augustine, who refutes the Donatists by this argument particularly, that they bring forward a gospel that is in all the Churches unheard of and unknown. This truly is said on good grounds, for if it is a true gospel that is brought forward, while not ratified by any approbation on the part of the Church, it follows, that vain and false are the many promises in which it is predicted that the preaching of the gospel will be carried through the whole world, and which declare that the sons of God shall be gathered from all nations and countries, etc. (Hosea 1:10-11.) But what do Papists do? Having bid farewell to Prophets and Apostles, and passing by the ancient Church, they would have their revolt from the gospel be looked upon as the consent of the universal Church. Where is the resemblance? Hence, when there is a dispute as to the consent of the Church, let us return to the Apostles and their preaching, as Paul does here. Farther, lest any one should explain too rigidly the term denoting universality, Paul means simply, that it had been preached everywhere far and wide.
Of which I am made. He speaks also of himself personally, and this was very necessary, for we must always take care, that we do not rashly intrude ourselves into the office of teaching. He accordingly declares, that this office was appointed him, that he may secure for himself right and authority. And, indeed, he so connects his apostleship with their faith, that they may not have it in their power to reject his doctrine otherwise than by abandoning the gospel which they had embraced.
24. I now rejoice. He has previously claimed for himself authority on the ground of his calling. Now, however, he provides against the honor of his apostleship being detracted from by the bonds and persecutions, which he endured for the sake of the gospel. For Satan, also, perversely turns these things into occasions of rendering the servants of God the more contemptible. Farther, he encourages them by his example not to be intimidated by persecutions, and he sets forth to their view his zeal, that he may have greater weight. Nay more, he gives proof of his affection towards them by no common pledge, when he declares that he willingly bears for their sake the afflictions which he endures. “But whence,” some one will ask, “arises this joy?” From his seeing the fruit that springs from it. “The affliction that I endure on your account is pleasant to me, because I do not suffer it in vain.” In the same manner, in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians, he says, that he rejoiced in all necessities and afflictions, on the ground of what he had heard as to their faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:6, 7.)
And fill up what is wanting. The particle and I understand as meaning for, for he assigns a reason why he is joyful in his sufferings, because he is in this thing a partner with Christ, and nothing happier can be desired than this partnership. He also brings forward a consolation common to all the pious, that in all tribulations, especially in so far as they suffer anything for the sake of the gospel, they are partakers of the cross of Christ, that they may enjoy fellowship with him in a blessed resurrection.
Nay more, he declares that there is thus filled up what is wanting in the affliction of Christ. For as he speaks in Romans 8:29,
Whom God elected, he also hath predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, that he may be the first-born among the brethren.
Farther, we know that there is so great a unity between Christ and his members, that the name of Christ sometimes includes the whole body, as in 1 Corinthians. 12:12, for while discoursing there respecting the Church, he comes at length to the conclusion, that in Christ the same thing holds as in the human body. As, therefore, Christ has suffered once in his own person, so he suffers daily in his members, and in this way there are filled up those sufferings which the Father hath appointed for his body by his decree. Here we have a second consideration, which ought to bear up our minds and comfort them in afflictions, that it is thus fixed and determined by the providence of God, that we must be conformed to Christ in the endurance of the cross, and that the fellowship that we have with him extends to this also.
He adds, also, a third reason — that his sufferings are advantageous, and that not merely to a few, but to the whole Church. He had previously stated that he suffered in behalf of the Colossians, and he now declares still farther, that the advantage extends to the whole Church. This advantage has been spoken of in Philippians 1:12. What could be clearer, less forced, or more simple, than this exposition, that Paul is joyful in persecution, because he considers, in accordance with what he writes elsewhere, that we must carry about with us in our body the mortification of Christ, that his life may be manifested in us? (2 Corinthians 4 10.)
He says also in Timothy,
If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him: if we die with him, we shall also live with him, (2 Timothy 2:11-12) and thus the issue will be blessed and glorious. Farther, he considers that we must not refuse the condition which God has appointed for his Church, that the members of Christ may have a suitable correspondence with the head; and, thirdly, that afflictions must be cheerfully endured, inasmuch as they are profitable to all the pious, and promote the welfare of the whole Church, by adorning the doctrine of the gospel.
Papists, however, disregarding and setting aside all these things, have struck out a new contrivance in order that they may establish their system of indulgences. They give the name of indulgences to a remission of punishments, obtained by us through the merits of the martyrs. For, as they deny that there is a gratuitous remission of sins, and allege that they are redeemed by satisfactory deeds, when the satisfactions do not fill up the right measure, they call into their help the blood of the martyrs, that it may, along with the blood of Christ, serve as an expiation in the judgment of God. And this mixture they call the treasure of the Church, the keys of which they afterwards intrust to whom they think fit. Nor are they ashamed to wrest this passage, with the view of supporting so execrable a blasphemy, as if Paul here affirmed that his sufferings are of avail for expiating the sins of men.
They urge in their support the term ὑστερήματα, (things wanting,) as if Paul meant to say, that the sufferings which Christ has endured for the redemption of men were insufficient. There is no one, however, that does not see that Paul speaks in this manner, because it is necessary, that by the afflictions of the pious, the body of the Church should be brought to its perfection, inasmuch as the members are conformed to their head. I should also be afraid of being suspected of calumny in repeating things so monstrous, if their books did not bear witness that I impute nothing to them groundlessly. They urge, also, what Paul says, that he suffers for the Church. It is surprising that this refined interpretation had not occurred to any of the ancients, for they all interpret it as we do, to mean, that the saints suffer for the Church, inasmuch as they confirm the faith of the Church. Papists, however, gather from this that the saints are redeemers, because they shed their blood for the expiation of sins. That my readers, however, may perceive more clearly their impudence, allow that the martyrs, as well as Christ, suffered for the Church, but in different ways, as I am inclined to express in Augustine’s words rather than in my own. For he writes thus in his 84th treatise on John: “Though we brethren die for brethren, yet there is no blood of any martyr that is poured out for the remission of sins. This Christ did for us. Nor has he in this conferred upon us matter of imitation, but ground of thanksgiving.” Also, in the fourth book to Bonifacius: “As the only Son of God became the Son of man, that he might make us sons of God, so he has alone, without offense, endured punishment for us, that we may through him, without merit, obtain undeserved favor.” Similar to these is the statement of Leo Bishop of Rome; “The righteous received crowns, did not give them; and for the fortitude of believers there have come forth examples of patience, not gifts of righteousness. For their deaths were for themselves, and no one by his latter end paid the debt of another.”
Now, that this is the meaning of Paul’s words is abundantly manifest from the context, for he adds, that he suffers according to the dispensation that was given to him. And we know that the ministry was committed to him, not of redeeming the Church, but of edifying it; and he himself immediately afterwards expressly acknowledges this. This is also what he writes to Timothy, that he endures all things for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:10.)
Also, in 2 Corinthians 1:4, that
he willingly endures all things for their consolation and salvation.
Let, therefore, pious readers learn to hate and detest those profane sophists, who thus deliberately corrupt and adulterate the Scriptures, in order that they may give some color to their delusions.
25. Of which I am made a minister. Mark under what character he suffers for the Church — as being a minister, not to give the price of redemption, (as Augustine dexterously and piously expresses himself,) but to proclaim it. He calls himself, however, in this instance, a minister of the Church on a different ground from that on which he called himself elsewhere, (1 Corinthians 4:1,) a minister of God, and a little ago, (Colossians 1:23,) a minister of the gospel. For the Apostles serve God and Christ for the advancement of the glory of both: they serve the Church, and administer the gospel itself, with a view to promote salvation. There is, therefore, a different reason for the ministry in these expressions, but the one cannot subsist without the other. He says, however, towards you, that they may know that his office has a connection also with them.
To fulfill the word. He states the end of his ministry — that the word of God may be effectual, as it is, when it is obediently received. For this is the excellence of the gospel, that it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. (Romans 1:16.)
God, therefore, gives efficacy and influence to his word through means of the Apostles. For although preaching itself, whatever may be its issue, is the fulfilling of the word, yet it is the fruit that shews at length that the seed has not been sown in vain.
26. Hidden mystery. Here we have a commendation of the gospel — that it is a wonderful secret of God. It is not without good reason that Paul so frequently extols the gospel by bestowing upon it the highest commendations in his power; for he saw that it was a stumblingblock to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks. (1 Corinthians 1:23.)
We see also at this day, in what hatred it is held by hypocrites, and how haughtily it is contemned by the world. Paul, accordingly, with the view of setting aside judgments so unfair and perverse, extols in magnificent terms the dignity of the gospel as often as an opportunity presents itself, and for that purpose he makes use of various arguments, according to the connection of the passage. Here he calls it a sublime secret, which was hid from ages and generations, that is, from the beginning of the world, through so many revolutions of ages. Now, that it is of the gospel that he speaks, is evident from Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:9, and other similar passages.
The reason, however, why it is so called, is demanded. Some, in consequence of Paul’s making express mention of the calling of the Gentiles, are of opinion, that the sole reason why it is so called is, that the Lord had, in a manner, contrary to all expectation, poured out his grace upon the Gentiles, whom he had appeared to have shut out for ever from participation in eternal life. Any one, however, that will examine the whole passage more narrowly, will perceive that this is the third reason, not the only one, in so far, I mean, as relates to the passage before us, and that other in the Romans, to which I have referred. For the first is — that whereas God had, previously to the advent of Christ, governed his Church under dark coverings, both of words and of ceremonies, he has suddenly shone forth in full brightness by means of the doctrine of the gospel. The second is — that whereas nothing was previously seen but external figures, Christ has been exhibited, bringing with him the full truth, which had lain concealed. The third is, what I have mentioned — that the whole world, which had up to this time been estranged from God, is called to the hope of salvation, and the same inheritance of eternal life is offered to all. An attentive consideration of these things constrains us to reverence and adore this mystery which Paul proclaims, however it may be held in contempt by the world, or even in derision.
Which is now revealed. Lest any one should turn aside to another meaning the term mystery, as though he were speaking of a thing that was still secret and unknown, he adds, that it has now at length been published, that it might be known by mankind. What, therefore, was in its own nature secret, has been made manifest by the will of God. Hence, there is no reason why its obscurity should alarm us, after the revelation that God has made of it. He adds, however, to the saints, for God’s arm has not been revealed to all, (Isaiah 53:1,) that they might understand his counsel.
27. To whom God was pleased to make known. Here he puts a bridle upon the presumption of men, that they may not allow themselves to be wise, or to inquire beyond what they ought, but may learn to rest satisfied with this one thing that it has so pleased God. For the good pleasure of God ought to be perfectly sufficient for us as a reason. This, however, is said principally for the purpose of commending the grace of God; for Paul intimates, that mankind did by no means furnish occasion for God’s making them participants of this secret, when he teaches that he was led to this of his own accord, and because he was pleased to do so. For it is customary for Paul to place the good pleasure of God in opposition to all human merits and external causes.
What are the riches. We must always take notice, in what magnificent terms he speaks in extolling the dignity of the gospel. For he was well aware that the ingratitude of men is so great, that notwithstanding that this treasure is inestimable, and the grace of God in it is so distinguished, they, nevertheless, carelessly despise it, or at least think lightly of it. Hence, not resting satisfied with the term mystery, he adds glory, and that, too, not trivial or common. For riches, according to Paul, denote, as is well known, amplitude. He states particularly, that those riches have been manifested among the Gentiles; for what is more wonderful than that the Gentiles, who had during so many ages been sunk in death, so as to appear to be utterly ruined, are all on a sudden reckoned among the sons of God, and receive the inheritance of salvation?
Which is Christ in you. What he had said as to the Gentiles generally he applies to the Colossians themselves, that they may more effectually recognize in themselves the grace of God, and may embrace it with greater reverence. He says, therefore, which is Christ, meaning by this, that all that secret is contained in Christ, and that all the riches of heavenly wisdom are obtained by them when they have Christ, as we shall find him stating more openly a little afterwards. He adds, in you, because they now possess Christ, from whom they were lately so much estranged, that nothing could exceed it. Lastly, he calls Christ the hope of glory, that they may know that nothing is wanting to them for complete blessedness when they have obtained Christ. This, however, is a wonderful work of God, that in earthen and frail vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7) the hope of heavenly glory resides.
28. Whom we preach. Here he applies to his own preaching everything that he has previously declared as to the wonderful and adorable secret of God; and thus he explains what he had already touched upon as to the dispensation which had been committed to him; for he has it in view to adorn his apostleship, and to claim authority for his doctrine: for after having extolled the gospel in the highest terms, he now adds, that it is that divine secret which he preaches. It was not, however, without good reason that he had taken notice a little before, that Christ is the sum of that secret, that they might know that nothing can be taught that has more of perfection than Christ.
The expressions that follow have also great weight. He represents himself as the teacher of all men; meaning by this, that no one is so eminent in respect of wisdom as to be entitled to exempt himself from tuition. “God has placed me in a lofty position, as a public herald of his secret, that the whole world, without exception, may learn from me.”
In all wisdom. This expression is equivalent to his affirming that his doctrine is such as to conduct a man to a wisdom that is perfect, and has nothing wanting; and this is what he immediately adds, that all that shew themselves to be true disciples will become perfect. See the second chapter of First Corinthians. (1 Corinthians 2:6.) Now, what better thing can be desired than what confers upon us the highest perfection? He again repeats, in Christ, that they may not desire to know anything but Christ alone. From this passage, also, we may gather a definition of true wisdom — that by which we are presented perfect in the sight of God, and that in Christ, and nowhere else.
29. For which thing. He enhances, by two circumstances, the glory of his apostleship and of his doctrine. In the first place, he makes mention of his aim, which is a token of the difficulty that he felt; for those things are for the most part the most excellent that are the most difficult. The second has more strength, inasmuch as he mentions that the power of God shines forth in his ministry. He does not speak, however, merely of the success of his preaching, (though in that too the blessing of God appears,) but also of the efficacy of the Spirit, in which God manifestly shewed himself; for on good grounds he ascribes his endeavors, inasmuch as they exceeded human limits, to the power of God, which, he declares, is seen working powerfully in this matter.
1. I would have you know. He declares his affection towards them, that he may have more credit and authority; for we readily believe those whom we know to be desirous of our welfare. It is also an evidence of no ordinary affection, that he was concerned about them in the midst of death, that is, when he was in danger of his life; and that he may express the more emphatically the intensity of his affection and concern, he calls it a conflict. I do not find fault with the rendering of Erasmus — anxiety; but, at the same time, the force of the Greek word is to be noticed, for ἀγών is made use of to denote contention. By the same proof he confirms his statement, that his ministry is directed to them; for whence springs so anxious a concern as to their welfare, but from this, that the Apostle of the Gentiles was under obligation to embrace in his affection and concern even those who were unknown to him? As, however, there is commonly no love between those who are unknown to each other, he speaks slightingly of the acquaintance that is contracted from sight, when he says, as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; for there is among the servants of God a sight different from that of the flesh, which excites love. As it is almost universally agreed that the First Epistle to Timothy was written from Laodicea, some, on this account, assign to Galatia that Laodicea of which Paul makes mention here, while the other was the metropolis of Phrygia Pacatiana. It seems to me, however, to be more probable that that inscription is incorrect, as will be noticed in its proper place.
2. That their hearts may receive consolation. He now intimates what he desires for them, and shews that his affection is truly apostolic; for he declares that nothing else is desired by him than that they may be united together in faith and love. He shews, accordingly, that it was by no unreasonable affection (as happens in the case of some) that he had been led to take upon himself so great a concern for the Colossians and others, but because the duty of his office required it.
The term consolation is taken here to denote that true quietness in which they may repose. This he declares they will at length come to enjoy in the event of their being united in love and faith. From this it appears where the chief good is, and in what things it consists — when mutually agreed in one faith, we are also joined together in mutual love. This, I say, is the solid joy of a pious mind — this is the blessed life. As, however, love is here commended from its effect, because it fills the mind of the pious with true joy; so, on the other hand, the cause of it is pointed out by him, when he says, in all fullness of understanding. The bond also of holy unity is the truth of God, when we embrace it with one consent; for peace and agreement with men flow forth from that fountain.
Riches of the assurance of understanding. As many, contenting themselves with a slight taste, have nothing but a confused and evanescent knowledge, he makes mention expressly of the riches of understanding. By this phrase he means full and clear perception; and at the same time admonishes them, that according to the measure of understanding they must make progress also in love.
In the term assurance, he distinguishes between faith and mere opinion; for that man truly knows the Lord who does not vacillate or waver in doubt, but stands fast in a firm and constant persuasion. This constancy and stability Paul frequently calls (πληροφορίαν) full assurance, (which term he makes use of here also,) and always connects it with faith, as undoubtedly it can no more be separated from it than heat or light can be from the sun. The doctrine, therefore, of the schoolmen is devilish, inasmuch as it takes away assurance, and substitutes in its place moral conjecture, as they term it.
Is an acknowledgment of the mystery. This clause must be read as added by way of apposition, for he explains what that knowledge is, of which he has made mention — that it is nothing else than the knowledge of the gospel. For the false apostles themselves endeavor to set off their impostures under the title of wisdom, but Paul retains the sons of God within the limits of the gospel exclusively, that they may desire to know nothing else. (1 Corinthians 2:2.) Why he uses the term mystery to denote the gospel, has been already explained. Let us, however, learn from this, that the gospel can be understood by faith alone — not by reason, nor by the perspicacity of the human understanding, because otherwise it is a thing that is hid from us.
The mystery of God I understand in a passive signification, as meaning — that in which God is revealed, for he immediately adds — and of the Father, and of Christ — by which expression he means that God cannot be known otherwise than in Christ, as, on the other hand, the Father must necessarily be known where Christ is known. For John affirms both:
He that hath the Son, hath the Father also: he that hath not the Son, hath also not the Father. (1 John 2:23.)
Hence all that think that they know anything of God apart from Christ, contrive to themselves an idol in the place of God; as also, on the other hand, that man is ignorant of Christ, who is not led by him to the Father, and who does not in him embrace God wholly. In the mean time, it is a memorable passage for proving Christ’s divinity, and the unity of his essence with the Father. For having spoken previously as to the knowledge of God, he immediately applies it to the Son, as well as to the Father, whence it follows, that the Son is God equally with the Father.
3. In whom are all the treasures. The expression in quo (in whom, or in which) may either have a reference collectively to everything he has said as to the acknowledgment of the mystery, or it may relate simply to what came immediately before, namely, Christ. While there is not much difference between the one or the other, I rather prefer the latter view, and it is the one that is more generally received. The meaning, therefore, is, that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ — by which he means, that we are perfect in wisdom if we truly know Christ, so that it is madness to wish to know anything besides Him. For since the Father has manifested himself wholly in Him, that man wishes to be wise apart from God, who is not contented with Christ alone. Should any one choose to interpret it as referring to the mystery, the meaning will be, that all the wisdom of the pious is included in the gospel, by means of which God is revealed to us in his Son.
He says, however, that the treasures are hidden, because they are not seen glittering with great splendor, but do rather, as it were, lie hid under the contemptible abasement and simplicity of the cross. For the preaching of the cross is always foolishness to the world, as we found stated in Corinthians. (1 Corinthians 1:18.) I do not reckon that there is any great difference between wisdom and understanding in this passage, for the employment of two different terms serves only to give additional strength, as though he had said, that no knowledge, erudition, learning, wisdom, can be found elsewhere.
4. This I say, that no man may deceive you. As the contrivances of men have (as we shall afterwards see) an appearance of wisdom, the minds of the pious ought to be preoccupied with this persuasion — that the knowledge of Christ is of itself amply sufficient. And, unquestionably, this is the key that can close the door against all base errors. For what is the reason why mankind have involved themselves in so many wicked opinions, in so many idolatries, in so many foolish speculations, but this — that, despising the simplicity of the gospel, they have ventured to aspire higher? All the errors, accordingly, that are in Popery, must be reckoned as proceeding from this ingratitude — that, not resting satisfied with Christ alone, they have given themselves up to strange doctrines.
With propriety, therefore, does the Apostle act in writing to the Hebrews, inasmuch as, when wishing to exhort believers not to allow themselves to be led astray by strange or new doctrines, he first of all makes use of this foundation —
Christ yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8.)
By this he means, that those are out of danger who remain in Christ, but that those who are not satisfied with Christ are exposed to all fallacies and deceptions. So Paul here would have every one, that would not be deceived, be fortified by means of this principle — that it is not lawful for a Christian man to know anything except Christ. Everything that will be brought forward after this, let it have ever so imposing an appearance, will, nevertheless, be of no value. In fine, there will be no persuasiveness of speech that can turn aside so much as the breadth of a finger the minds of those that have devoted their understanding to Christ. It is a passage, certainly, that ought to be singularly esteemed. For as he who has taught men to know nothing except Christ, has provided against all wicked doctrines, so there is the same reason why we should at this day destroy the whole of Popery, which, it is manifest, is built on ignorance of Christ.
5. For though I am absent in body. Lest any one should object that the admonition was unseasonable, as coming from a place so remote, he says, that his affection towards them made him be present with them in spirit, and judge of what is expedient for them, as though he were present. By praising, also, their present condition, he admonishes them not to fall back from it, or turn aside.
Rejoicing, says he, And seeing, that is — “Because I see.” For and means for, as is customary among the Latins and Greeks. “Go on as you have begun, for I know that hitherto you have pursued the right course, inasmuch as distance of place does not prevent me from beholding you with the eyes of the mind.”
Order and steadfastness. He mentions two things, in which the perfection of the Church consists — order among themselves, and faith in Christ. By the term order, he means — agreement, no less than duly regulated morals, and entire discipline. He commends their faith, in respect of its constancy and steadfastness, meaning that it is an empty shadow of faith, when the mind wavers and vacillates between different opinions.
6. As ye have received. To commendation he adds exhortation, in which he teaches them that their having once received Christ will be of no advantage to them, unless they remain in him. Farther, as the false apostles held forth Christ’s name with a view to deceive, he obviates this danger twice, by exhorting them to go on as they had been taught, and as they had received Christ. For in these words he admonishes them, that they must adhere to the doctrine which they had embraced, as delivered to them by Epaphras, with so much constancy, as to be on their guard against every other doctrine and faith, in accordance with what Isaiah said,
This is the way, walk ye in it. (Isaiah 30 21.)
And, unquestionbly, we must act in such a manner, that the truth of the gospel, after it has been manifested to us, may be to us as a brazen wall 353 for keeping back all impostures.
Now he intimates by three metaphors what steadfastness of faith he requires from them. The first is in the word walk. For he compares the pure doctrine of the gospel, as they had learned it, to a way that is sure, so that if any one will but keep it he will be beyond all danger of mistake. He exhorts them, accordingly, if they would not go astray, not to turn aside from the course on which they have entered.
The second is taken from trees. For as a tree that has struck its roots deep has a sufficiency of support for withstanding all the assaults of winds and storms, so, if any one is deeply and thoroughly fixed in Christ, as in a firm root, it will not be possible for him to be thrown down from his proper position by any machinations of Satan. On the other hand, if any one has not fixed his roots in Christ, he will easily be carried about with every wind of doctrine, (Ephesians 4:14,) just as a tree that is not supported by any root.
The third metaphor is that of a foundation, for a house that is not supported by a foundation quickly falls to ruins. The case is the same with those who lean on any other foundation than Christ, or at least are not securely founded on him, but have the building of their faith suspended, as it were, in the air, in consequence of their weakness and levity.
These two things are to be observed in the Apostle’s words — that the stability of those who rely upon Christ is immovable, and their course is not at all wavering, or liable to error, (and this is an admirable commendation of faith from its effect;) and, secondly, that we must make progress in Christ aye and until we have taken deep root in him. From this we may readily gather, that those who do not know Christ only wander into bypaths, and are tossed about in disquietude.
7. And confirmed in the faith. He now repeats without a figure the same thing that he had expressed by metaphors, — that the prosecution of the way, the support of the root, and of the foundation, is firmness and steadfastness of faith. And observe, that this argument is set before them in consequence of their having been well instructed, in order that they may safely and confidently secure their footing in the faith with which they had been made acquainted.
Abounding. He would not have them simply remain immovable, but would have them grow every day more and more. When he adds, with thanksgiving, he would have them always keep in mind from what source faith itself proceeds, that they may not be puffed up with presumption, but may rather with fear repose themselves in the gift of God. And, unquestionably, ingratitude is very frequently the reason why we are deprived of the light of the gospel, as well as of other divine favors.
8. Beware lest any one plunder you. He again instructs them as to the poison, which the antidote presented by him should be made use of to counteract. For although this, as we have stated, is a common remedy against all the impostures of the devil, it had, nevertheless, at that time a peculiar advantage among the Colossians, to which it required to be applied. Beware, says he, lest any one plunder you. He makes use of a very appropriate term, for he alludes to plunderers, who, when they cannot carry off the flock by violence, drive away some of the cattle fraudulently. Thus he makes Christ’s Church a sheep-fold, and the pure doctrine of the gospel the enclosures of the fold. He intimates, accordingly, that we who are the sheep of Christ repose in safety when we hold the unity of the faith, while, on the other hand, he likens the false apostles to plunderers that carry us away from the folds. Would you then be reckoned as belonging to Christ’s flock? Would you remain in his folds? Do not deviate a nail’s breadth from purity of doctrine. For unquestionably Christ will act the part of the good Shepherd by protecting us if we but hear his voice, and reject those of strangers. In short, the tenth chapter of John is the exposition of the passage before us. [John 10]
Through philosophy. As many have mistakingly imagined that philosophy is here condemned by Paul, we must point out what he means by this term. Now, in my opinion, he means everything that men contrive of themselves when wishing to be wise through means of their own understanding, and that not without a specious pretext of reason, so as to have a plausible appearance. For there is no difficulty in rejecting those contrivances of men which have nothing to set them off, 360 but in rejecting those that captivate men’s minds by a false conceit of wisdom. Or should any one prefer to have it expressed in one word, philosophy is nothing else than a persuasive speech, which insinuates itself into the minds of men by elegant and plausible arguments. Of such a nature, I acknowledge, will all the subtleties of philosophers be, if they are inclined to add anything of their own to the pure word of God. Hence philosophy will be nothing else than a corruption of spiritual doctrine, if it is mixed up with Christ. Let us, however, bear in mind, that under the term philosophy Paul has merely condemned all spurious doctrines which come forth from man’s head, whatever appearance of reason they may have. What immediately follows, as to vain deceit, I explain thus; “Beware of philosophy, which is nothing else than vain deceit,” so that this is added by way of apposition.
According to the tradition of men. He points out more precisely what kind of philosophy he reproves, and at the same time convicts it of vanity on a twofold account — because it is not according to Christ, but according to the inclinations of men; 362 and because it consists in the elements of the world. Observe, however, that he places Christ in opposition to the elements of the world, equally as to the tradition of men, by which he intimates, that whatever is hatched in man’s brain is not in accordance with Christ, who has been appointed us by the Father as our sole Teacher, that he might retain us in the simplicity of his gospel. Now, that is corrupted by even a small portion of the leaven of human traditions. He intimates also, that all doctrines are foreign to Christ that make the worship of God, which we know to be spiritual, according to Christ’s rule, to consist in the elements of the world, 363 and also such as fetter the minds of men by such trifles and frivolities, while Christ calls us directly to himself.
But what is meant by the phrase — elements of the world? 364 There can be no doubt that it means ceremonies. For he immediately afterwards adduces one instance by way of example — circumcision. The reason why he calls them by such a name is usually explained in two ways. Some think that it is a metaphor, so that the elements are the rudiments of children, which do not lead forward to mature doctrine. Others take it in its proper signification, as denoting things that are outward and are liable to corruption, which avail nothing for the kingdom of God. The former exposition I rather approve of, as also in Galatians 4:3
9. For in him dwelleth. Here we have the reason why those elements of the world, which are taught by men, do not accord with Christ — because they are additions for supplying a deficiency, as they speak. Now in Christ there is a perfection, to which nothing can be added. Hence everything that mankind of themselves mix up, is at variance with Christ’s nature, because it charges him with imperfection. This argument of itself will suffice for setting aside all the contrivances of Papists. For to what purpose do they tend, but to perfect what was commenced by Christ? Now this outrage upon Christ is not by any means to be endured. They allege, it is true, that they add nothing to Christ, inasmuch as the things that they have appended to the gospel are, as it were, a part of Christianity, but they do not effect an escape by a cavil of this kind. For Paul does not speak of an imaginary Christ, but of a Christ preached, who has revealed himself by express doctrine.
Further, when he says that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, he means simply, that God is wholly found in him, so that he who is not contented with Christ alone, desires something better and more excellent than God. The sum is this, that God has manifested himself to us fully and perfectly in Christ.
Interpreters explain in different ways the adverb bodily. For my part, I have no doubt that it is employed — not in a strict sense — as meaning substantially. 369 For he places this manifestation of God, which we have in Christ, to all others that have ever been made. For God has often manifested himself to men, but it has been only in part. In Christ, on the other hand, he communicates himself to us wholly. He has also manifested himself to us otherwise, but it is in figures, or by power and grace. In Christ, on the other hand, he has appeared to us essentially. Thus the statement of John holds good:
He that hath the Son, hath the Father also. (1 John 2 23.)
For those who possess Christ have God truly present, and enjoy Him wholly.
10. And ye are complete in him. He adds, that this perfect essence of Deity, which is in Christ, is profitable to us in this respect, that we are also perfect in him. “As to God’s dwelling wholly in Christ, it is in order that we, having obtained him, may posses in him an entire perfection.” Those, therefore, who do not rest satisfied with Christ alone, do injury to God in two ways, for besides detracting from the glory of God, by desiring something above his perfection, they are also ungrateful, inasmuch as they seek elsewhere what they already have in Christ. Paul, however, does not mean that the perfection of Christ is transfused into us, but that there are in him resources from which we may be filled, that nothing may be wanting to us.
Who is the head. He has introduced this clause again on account of the angels, meaning that the angels, also, will be ours, if we have Christ. But of this afterwards. In the mean time, we must observe this, that we are hemmed in, above and below, with railings, that our faith may not deviate even to the slightest extent from Christ.
11. In whom ye also are circumcised. From this it appears, that he has a controversy with the false apostles, who mixed the law with the gospel, and by that means made Christ have, as it were, two faces. He specifies, however, one instance by way of example. He proves that the circumcision of Moses is not merely unnecessary, but is opposed to Christ, because it destroys the spiritual circumcision of Christ. For circumcision was given to the Fathers that it might be the figure of a thing that was absent: those, therefore, who retain that figure after Christ’s advent, deny the accomplishment of what it prefigures. Let us, therefore, bear in mind that outward circumcision is here compared with spiritual, just as a figure with the reality. The figure is of a thing that is absent: hence it puts away the presence of the reality. What Paul contends for is this — that, inasmuch as what was shadowed forth by a circumcision made with hands, has been completed in Christ, there is now no fruit or advantage from it. Hence he says, that the circumcision which is made in the heart is the circumcision of Christ, and that, on this account, that which is outward is not now required, because, where the reality exists, that shadowy emblem vanishes, inasmuch as it has no place except in the absence of the reality.
By the putting off of the body. He employs the term body, by an elegant metaphor, to denote a mass, made up of all vices. For as we are encompassed by our bodies, so we are surrounded on all sides by an accumulation of vices. And as the body is composed of various members, each of which has its own actings and offices, so from that accumulation of corruption all sins take their rise as members of the entire body. There is a similar manner of expression in Romans 6:13.
He takes the term flesh, as he is wont, to denote corrupt nature. The body of the sins of the flesh, therefore, is the old man with his deeds; only, there is a difference in the manner of expression, for here he expresses more properly the mass of vices which proceed from corrupt nature. He says that we obtain this through Christ, so that unquestionably an entire regeneration is his benefit. It is he that circumcises the foreskin of our heart, or, in other words, mortifies all the lusts of the flesh, not with the hand, but by his Spirit. Hence there is in him the reality of the figure.
12. Buried with him, in baptism. He explains still more clearly the manner of spiritual circumcision — because, being buried with Christ, we are partakers of his death. He expressly declares that we obtain this by means of baptism, that it may be the more clearly apparent that there is no advantage from circumcision under the reign of Christ. For some one might otherwise object: “Why do you abolish circumcision on this pretext — that its accomplishment is in Christ? Was not Abraham, also, circumcised spiritually, and yet this did not hinder the adding of the sign to the reality? Outward circumcision, therefore, is not superfluous, although that which is inward is conferred by Christ.” Paul anticipates an objection of this kind, by making mention of baptism. Christ, says he, accomplishes in us spiritual circumcision, not through means of that ancient sign, which was in force under Moses, but by baptism. Baptism, therefore, is a sign of the thing that is presented to us, which while absent was prefigured by circumcision. The argument is taken from the economy which God has appointed; for those who retain circumcision contrive a mode of dispensation different from that which God has appointed.
When he says that we are buried with Christ, this means more than that we are crucified with him; for burial expresses a continued process of mortification. When he says, that this is done through means of baptism, as he says also in Romans 6:4, he speaks in his usual manner, ascribing efficacy to the sacrament, that it may not fruitlessly signify what does not exist. By baptism, therefore, we are buried with Christ, because Christ does at the same time accomplish efficaciously that mortification, which he there represents, that the reality may be conjoined with the sign.
In which also ye are risen. He magnifies the grace which we obtain in Christ, as being greatly superior to circumcision. “We are not only,” says he, “ingrafted into Christ’s death, but we also rise to newness of life:” hence the more injury is done to Christ by those who endeavor to bring us back to circumcision. He adds, by faith, for unquestionably it is by it that we receive what is presented to us in baptism. But what faith? That of his efficacy or operation, by which he means, that faith is founded upon the power of God. As, however, faith does not wander in a confused and undefined contemplation, as they speak, of divine power, he intimates what efficacy it ought to have in view — that by which God raised Christ from the dead. He takes this, however, for granted, that, inasmuch as it is impossible that believers should be severed from their head, the same power of God, which shewed itself in Christ, is diffused among them all in common.
13. And you, when ye were dead. He admonishes the Colossians to recognize, what he had treated of in a general way, as applicable to themselves, which is by far the most effectual way of teaching. Farther, as they were Gentiles when they were converted to Christ, he takes occasion from this to shew them how absurd it is to pass over from Christ to the ceremonies of Moses. Ye were, says he, dead in Uncircumcision. This term, however, may be understood either in its proper signification, or figuratively. If you understand it in its proper sense, the meaning will be, “Uncircumcision is the badge of alienation from God; for where the covenant of grace is not, there is pollution, and, consequently, curse and ruin. But God has called you to himself from uncircumcision, and, therefore, from death.” In this way he would not represent uncircumcision as the cause of death, but as a token that they were estranged from God. We know, however, that men cannot live otherwise than by cleaving to their God, who alone is their life. Hence it follows, that all wicked persons, however they may seem to themselves to be in the highest degree lively and flourishing, are, nevertheless, spiritually dead. In this manner this passage will correspond with Ephesians 2:11, where it is said,
Remember that, in time past, when ye were Gentiles, and called uncircumcision, by that circumcision which is made with hands in the flesh, ye were at that time without Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the promises.
Taking it metaphorically, there would, indeed, be an allusion to natural uncircumcision, but at the same time Paul would here be speaking of the obstinacy of the human heart, in opposition to God, and of a nature that is defiled by corrupt affections. I rather prefer the former exposition, because it corresponds better with the context; for Paul declares that uncircumcision was no hinderance in the way of their becoming partakers of Christ’s life. Hence it follows, that circumcision derogated from the grace of God, which they had already obtained.
As to his ascribing death to uncircumcision, this is not as though it were the cause of it, but as being the badge of it, as also in that other passage in the Epistle to the Ephesians, which we have quoted. It is also customary in Scripture to denote deprivation of the reality by deprivation of the sign, as in Genesis 3:22, —
Lest peradventure Adam eat of the fruit of life, and live.
For the tree did not confer life, but its being taken away was a sign of death. 378 Paul has in this place briefly expressed both. He says that these were dead in sins: this is the cause, for our sins alienate us from God. He adds, in the uncircumcision of your flesh. This was outward pollution, an evidence of spiritual death.
By forgiving you. God does not quicken us by the mere remission of sins, but he makes mention here of this particularly, because that free reconciliation with God, which overthrows the righteousness of works, is especially connected with the point in hand, where he treats of abrogated ceremonies, as he discourses of more at large in the Epistle to the Galatians. For the false apostles, by establishing ceremonies, bound them with a halter, from which Christ has set them free.
14. Having blotted out the hand-writing which was against us. He now contends with the false apostles in close combat. For this was the main point in question, — whether the observance of ceremonies was necessary under the reign of Christ? Now Paul contends that ceremonies have been abolished, and to prove this he compares them to a hand-writing, by which God holds us as it were bound, that we may not be able to deny our guilt. He now says, that we have been freed from condemnation, in such a manner, that even the hand-writing is blotted out, that no remembrance of it might remain. For we know that as to debts the obligation is still in force, so long as the hand-writing remains; and that, on the other hand, by the erasing, or tearing of the handwriting, the debtor is set free. Hence it follows, that all those who still urge the observance of ceremonies, detract from the grace of Christ, as though absolution were not procured for us through him; for they restore to the hand-writing its freshness, so as to hold us still under obligation.
This, therefore, is a truly theological reason for proving the abrogation of ceremonies, because, if Christ has fully redeemed us from condemnation, he must have also effaced the remembrance of the obligation, that consciences may be pacified and tranquil in the sight of God, for these two things are conjoined. While interpreters explain this passage in various ways, there is not one of them that satisfies me. Some think that Paul speaks simply of the moral law, but there is no ground for this. For Paul is accustomed to give the name of ordinances to that department which consists in ceremonies, as he does in the Epistle to the Ephesians, (Ephesians 2:15,) and as we shall find he does shortly afterwards. More especially, the passage in Ephesians shews clearly, that Paul is here speaking of ceremonies.
Others, therefore, do better, in restricting it to ceremonies, but they, too, err in this respect, that they do not add the reason why it is called hand-writing, or rather they assign a reason different from the true one, and they do not in a proper manner apply this similitude to the context. Now, the reason is, that all the ceremonies of Moses had in them some acknowledgment of guilt, which bound those that observed them with a firmer tie, as it were, in the view of God’s judgment. For example, what else were washings than an evidence of pollution? Whenever any victim was sacrificed, did not the people that stood by behold in it a representation of his death? For when persons substituted in their place an innocent animal, they confessed that they were themselves deserving of that death. In fine, in proportion as there were ceremonies belonging to it, just so many exhibitions were there of human guilt, and hand-writings of obligation.
Should any one object that they were sacraments of the grace of God, as Baptism and the Eucharist are to us at this day, the answer is easy. For there are two things to be considered in the ancient ceremonies — that they were suited to the time, and that they led men forward to the kingdom of Christ. Whatever was done at that time shewed in itself nothing but obligation. Grace was in a manner suspended until the advent of Christ — not that the Fathers were excluded from it, but they had not a present manifestation of it in their ceremonies. For they saw nothing in the sacrifices but the blood of beasts, and in their washings nothing but water. Hence, as to present view, condemnation remained; nay more, the ceremonies themselves sealed the condemnation. The Apostle speaks, also, in this manner in the whole of his Epistle to the Hebrews, because he places Christ in direct opposition to ceremonies. But how is it now? The Son of God has not only by his death delivered us from the condemnation of death, but in order that absolution might be made more certain, he abrogated those ceremonies, that no remembrance of obligation might remain. This is full liberty — that Christ has by his blood not only blotted out our sins, but every hand-writing which might declare us to be exposed to the judgment of God. Erasmus in his version has involved in confusion the thread of Paul’s discourse, by rendering it thus — “which was contrary to us by ordinances.” Retain, therefore, the rendering which I have given, as being the true and genuine one.
Took it out of the way, fastening it to his cross. He shews the manner in which Christ has effaced the hand-writing; for as he fastened to the cross our curse, our sins, and also the punishment that was due to us, so he has also fastened to it that bondage of the law, and everything that tends to bind consciences. For, on his being fastened to the cross, he took all things to himself, and even bound them upon him, that they might have no more power over us.
15. Spoiling principalities. There is no doubt that he means devils, whom Scripture represents as acting the part of accusing us before God. Paul, however, says that they are disarmed, so that they cannot bring forward anything against us, the attestation of our guilt being itself destroyed. Now, he expressly adds this with the view of shewing, that the victory of Christ, which he has procured for himself and us over Satan, is disfigured by the false apostles, and that we are deprived of the fruit of it when they restore the ancient ceremonies. For if our liberty is the spoil which Christ has rescued from the devil, what do others, who would bring us back into bondage, but restore to Satan the spoils of which he had been stript bare?
Triumphing over them in it. The expression in the Greek allows, it is true, of our reading — in himself; nay more, the greater part of the manuscripts have ἐν αὑτῳ with an aspirate. The connection of the passage, however, imperatively requires that we read it otherwise; for what would be meagre as applied to Christ, suits admirably as applied to the cross. For as he had previously compared the cross to a signal trophy or show of triumph, in which Christ led about his enemies, so he now also compares it to a triumphal car, in which he shewed himself conspicuously to view. For although in the cross there is nothing but curse, it was, nevertheless, swallowed up by the power of God in such a way, that it has put on, as it were, a new nature. For there is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguished, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, the prince of death; nay more, has utterly trodden them under his feet.
16. Let no one therefore judge you. What he had previously said of circumcision he now extends to the difference of meats and days. For circumcision was the first introduction to the observance of the law, other things 384 followed afterwards. To judge means here, to hold one to be guilty of a crime, or to impose a scruple of conscience, so that we are no longer free. He says, therefore, that it is not in the power of men to make us subject to the observance of rites which Christ has by his death abolished, and exempts us from their yoke, that we may not allow ourselves to be fettered by the laws which they have imposed. He tacitly, however, places Christ in contrast with all mankind, lest any one should extol himself so daringly as to attempt to take away what he has given him.
In respect of a festival-day. Some understand τὸ μέρος to mean participation. Chrysostom, accordingly, thinks that he used the term part, because they did not observe all festival days, nor did they even keep holidays strictly, in accordance with the appointment of the law. This, however, is but a poor interpretation. Consider whether it may not be taken to mean separation, for those that make a distinction of days, separate, as it were, one from another. Such a mode of partition was suitable for the Jews, that they might celebrate religiously the days that were appointed, by separating them from others. Among Christians, however, such a division has ceased.
But some one will say, “We still keep up some observance of days.” I answer, that we do not by any means observe days, as though there were any sacredness in holidays, or as though it were not lawful to labor upon them, but that respect is paid to government and order — not to days. And this is what he immediately adds.
17. Which are a shadow of things to come. The reason why he frees Christians from the observance of them is, that they were shadows at a time when Christ was still, in a manner, absent. For he contrasts shadows with revelation, and absence with manifestation. Those, therefore, who still adhere to those shadows, act like one who should judge of a man’s appearance from his shadow, while in the mean time he had himself personally before his eyes. For Christ is now manifested to us, and hence we enjoy him as being present. The body, says he, is of Christ, that is, IN Christ. For the substance of those things which the ceremonies anciently prefigured is now presented before our eyes in Christ, inasmuch as he contains in himself everything that they marked out as future. Hence, the man that calls back the ceremonies into use, either buries the manifestation of Christ, or robs Christ of his excellence, and makes him in a manner void. Accordingly, should any one of mortals assume to himself in this matter the office of judge, let us not submit to him, inasmuch as Christ, the only competent Judge, sets us free. For when he says, Let no man judge you, he does not address the false apostles, but prohibits the Colossians from yielding their neck to unreasonable requirements. To abstain, it is true, from swine’s flesh, is in itself harmless, but the binding to do it is pernicious, because it makes void the grace of Christ.
Should any one ask, “What view, then, is to be taken of our sacraments? Do they not also represent Christ to us as absent?” I answer, that they differ widely from the ancient ceremonies. For as painters do not in the first draught bring out a likeness in vivid colors, and (εἰκονικῶς) expressively, but in the first instance draw rude and obscure lines with charcoal, so the representation of Christ under the law was unpolished, and was, as it were, a first sketch, but in our sacraments it is seen drawn out to the life. Paul, however, had something farther in view, for he contrasts the bare aspect of the shadow with the solidity of the body, and admonishes them, that it is the part of a madman to take hold of empty shadows, when it is in his power to handle the solid substance. Farther, while our sacraments represent Christ as absent as to view and distance of place, it is in such a manner as to testify that he has been once manifested, and they now also present him to us to be enjoyed. They are not, therefore, bare shadows, but on the contrary symbols of Christ’s presence, for they contain that Yea and Amen of all the promises of God, (2 Corinthians 1:20,) which has been once manifested to us in Christ.
18. Let no one take from you the palm. He alludes to runners, or wrestlers, to whom the palm was assigned, on condition of their not giving way in the middle of the course, or after the contest had been commenced. He admonishes them, therefore, that the false apostles aimed at nothing else than to snatch away from them the palm, inasmuch as they draw them aside from the rectitude of their course. Hence it follows that they must be shunned as the most injurious pests. The passage is also carefully to be marked as intimating, that all those who draw us aside from the simplicity of Christ cheat us out of the prize of our high calling. (Philippians 3:14.)
Desirous in humility. Something must be understood; hence I have, inserted in the text id facere, (to do it.) For he points out the kind of danger which they required to guard against. All are desirous to defraud you of the palm, who, under the pretext of humility, recommend to you the worship of angels. For their object is, that you may wander out of the way, leaving the one object of aim. I read humility and worship of angels conjointly, for the one follows the other, just as at this day the Papists make use of the same pretext when philosophizing as to the worship of saints. For they reason on the ground of man’s abasement, that we must, therefore, seek for mediators to help us. But for this very reason has Christ humbled himself — that we might directly betake ourselves to him, however miserable sinners we may be.
I am aware that the worship of angels is by many interpreted otherwise, as meaning such as has been delivered to men by angels; for the Devil has always endeavored to set off his impostures under this title. The Pope at this day boasts, that all the trifles with which he has adulterated the pure worship of God are revelations. In like manner the Theurgians of old alleged that all the superstitions that they contrived were delivered over to them by angels, as if from hand to hand. They, accordingly, think that Paul here condemns all fanciful kinds of worship that are falsely set forth under the authority of angels. But, in my opinion, he rather condemns the contrivance as to the worshipping of angels. It is on this account that he has so carefully applied himself to this in the very commencement of the Epistle, to bring angels under subjection, lest they should obscure the splendor of Christ. In fine, as he had in the first chapter prepared the way for abolishing the ceremonies, so he had also for the removal of all other hinderances which draw us away from Christ alone. In this class is the worship of angels
Superstitious persons have from the beginning worshipped angels, 396 that through means of them there might be free access to God. The Platonists infected the Christian Church also with this error. For although Augustine sharply inveighs against them in his tenth book “On the City of God,” and condemns at great length all their disputations as to the worship of angels, we see nevertheless what has happened. Should any one compare the writings of Plato with Popish theology, he will find that they have drawn wholly from Plato their prattling as to the worship of angels. The sum is this, that we must honor angels, whom Plato calls demons, χάριν τὢς εὐφήμου διαπορείας (for the sake of their auspicious intercession.) He brings forward this sentiment in Epinomis, and he confirms it in Cratylus, and many other passages. In what respect do the Papists differ at all from this? “But,” it will be said, “they do not deny that the Son of God is Mediator.” Neither did those with whom Paul contends; but as they imagined that God must be approached by the assistance of the angels, and that, consequently, some worship must be rendered to them, so they placed angels in the seat of Christ, and honored them with Christ’s office. Let us know, then, that Paul here condemns all kinds of worship of human contrivance, which are rendered either to angels or to the dead, as though they were mediators, rendering assistance after Christ, or along with Christ. For just so far do we recede from Christ, when we transfer the smallest part of what belongs to him to any others, whether they be angels or men.
Intruding into those things which he hath not seen. The verb ἐμβατεύειν, the participle of which Paul here makes use of, has various significations. The rendering which Erasmus, after Jerome, has given to it, walking proudly, would not suit ill, were there an example of such a signification in any author of sufficient note. For we see every day with how much confidence and pride rash persons pronounce an opinion as to things unknown. Nay, even in the very subject of which Paul treats, there is a remarkable illustration. For when the Sorbonnic divines put forth their trifles respecting the intercession of saints or angels, they declare, as though it were from an oracle, that the dead know and behold our necessities, inasmuch as they see all things in the reflex light of God. And yet, what is less certain? Nay more, what is more obscure and doubtful? But such, truly, is their magisterial freedom, that they fearlessly and daringly assert what is not only not known by them, but cannot be known by men.
This meaning, therefore, would be suitable, if that signification of the term were usual. It is, however, among the Greeks taken simply as meaning to walk. It also sometimes means to inquire. Should any one choose to understand it thus in this passage, Paul will, in that case, reprove a foolish curiosity in the investigation of things that are obscure, and such as are even hid from our view and transcend it. It appears to me, however, that I have caught Paul’s meaning, and have rendered it faithfully in this manner — intruding into those things which he hath not seen. For that is the common signification of the word ἐμβατεύειν — to enter upon an inheritance, or to take possession, or to set foot anywhere. Accordingly, Budaeus renders this passage thus: — “Setting foot upon, or entering on the possession of those things which he has not seen.” I have followed his authority, but have selected a more suitable term. For such persons in reality break through and intrude into secret things, of which God would have no discovery as yet made to us. The passage ought to be carefully observed, for the purpose of reproving the rashness of those who inquire farther than is allowable.
Puffed up in vain by a fleshly mind. He employs the expression fleshly mind to denote the perspicuity of the human intellect, however great it may be. For he places it in contrast with that spiritual wisdom which is revealed to us from heaven in accordance with that statement — Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee. (Matthew 16:17.)
Whoever; therefore, depends upon his own reason, inasmuch as the acuteness of the flesh is wholly at work in him, Paul declares him to be puffed up in vain. And truly all the wisdom that men have from themselves is mere wind: hence there is nothing solid except in the word of God and the illumination of the Spirit. And observe, that those are said to be puffed up who insinuate themselves under a show of humility. For it happens, as Augustine elegantly writes to Paulinus, by wonderful means, as to the soul of man, that it is more puffed up from a false humility than if it were openly proud.
19. Not holding the Head. He condemns in the use of one word whatever does not bear a relation to Christ. He also confirms his statement on the ground that all things flow from him, and depend upon him. Hence, should any one call us anywhere else than to Christ, though in other respects he were big with heaven and earth, he is empty and full of wind: let us, therefore, without concern, bid him farewell. Observe, however, of whom he is speaking, namely, of those who did not openly reject or deny Christ, but, not accurately understanding his office and power, by seeking out other helps and means of salvation, (as they commonly speak,) were not firmly rooted in him.
From whom the whole body by joints. He simply means this, that the Church does not stand otherwise than in the event of all things being furnished to her by Christ, the Head, and, accordingly, that her entire safety 411 consists in him. The body, it is true, has its nerves, its joints, and ligaments, but all these things derive their vigor solely from the Head, so that the whole binding of them together is from that source. What, then, must be done? The constitution of the body will be in a right state, if simply the Head, which furnishes the several members with everything that they have, is allowed, without any hinderance, to have the pre-eminence. This Paul speaks of as the increase of God, by which he means that it is not every increase that is approved by God, but only that which has a relation to the Head. For we see that the kingdom of the Pope is not merely tall and large, but swells out into a monstrous size. As, however, we do not there see what Paul here requires in the Church, what shall we say, but that it is a humpbacked body, and a confused mass that will fall to pieces of itself.
20. If ye are dead. He had previously said, that the ordinances were fastened to the cross of Christ. (Colossians 2:14.) He now employs another figure of speech — that we are dead to them, as he teaches us elsewhere, that we are dead to the law, and the law, on the other hand, to us. (Galatians 2:19.) The term death means abrogation, but it is more expressive and more emphatic, (καὶ ἐμφατικώτερον.) He says, therefore, that the Colossians, have nothing to do with ordinances. Why? Because they have died with Christ to ordinances; that is, after they died with Christ by regeneration, they were, through his kindness, set free from ordinances, that they may not belong to them any more. Hence he concludes that they are by no means bound by the ordinances, which the false apostles endeavored to impose upon them.
21. Eat not, taste not. Hitherto this has been rendered — Handle not, but as another word immediately follows, which signifies the same thing, every one sees how cold and absurd were such a repetition. Farther, the verb ἅπτεσθαι is employed by the Greeks, among its other significations, in the sense of eating, in accordance with the rendering that I have given. Plutarch makes use of it in the life of Caesar, when he relates that his soldiers, in destitution of all things, ate animals which they had not been accustomed previously to use as food. And this arrangement is both in other respects natural and is also most in accordance with the connection of the passage; for Paul points out, (μιμητικῶς,) by way of imitation, to what length the waywardness of those who bind consciences by their laws is wont to proceed. From the very commencement they are unduly rigorous: hence he sets out with their prohibition — not simply against eating, but even against slightly partaking. After they have obtained what they wish they go beyond that command, so that they afterwards declare it to be unlawful to taste of what they do not wish should be eaten. At length they make it criminal even to touch. In short, when persons have once taken upon them to tyrannize over men’s souls, there is no end of new laws being daily added to old ones, and new enactments starting up from time to time. How bright a mirror there is as to this in Popery! Hence Paul acts admirably well in admonishing us that human traditions are a labyrinth, in which consciences are more and more entangled; nay more, are snares, which from the beginning bind in such a way that in course of time they strangle in the end.
22. All which things tend to corruption. He sets aside, by a twofold argument, the enactments of which he has made mention — because they make religion consist in things outward and frail, which have no connection with the spiritual kingdom of God; and secondly, because they are from men, not from God. He combats the first argument, also, in Romans 14:17, when he says, The kingdom of God is not in meat and drink; likewise in 1 Corinthians. 6 13, Meat for the belly, and the belly for meats: God will destroy both. Christ also himself says, Whatever entereth into the mouth defileth not the man, because it goes down into the belly, and is cast forth. (Matthew 15:11.)
The sum is this — that the worship of God, true piety, and the holiness of Christians, do not consist in drink, and food, and clothing, which are things that are transient and liable to corruption, and perish by abuse. For abuse is properly applicable to those things which are corrupted by the use of them. Hence enactments are of no value in reference to those things which tend to excite scruples of conscience. But in Popery you would scarcely find any other holiness, than what consists in little observances of corruptible things.
A second refutation is added — that they originated with men, and have not God as their Author; and by this thunderbolt he prostrates and swallows up all traditions of men. For why? This is Paul’s reasoning: “Those who bring consciences into bondage do injury to Christ, and make void his death. For whatever is of human invention does not bind conscience.”
23. Which have indeed a show. Here we have the anticipation of an objection, in which, while he concedes to his adversaries what they allege, he at the same time reckons it wholly worthless. For it is as though he had said, that he does not regard their having a show of wisdom. But show is placed in contrast with reality, for it is an appearance, as they commonly speak, which deceives by resemblance.
Observe, however, of what colors this show consists, according to Paul. He makes mention of three — self-invented worship, humility, and neglect of the body. Superstition among the Greeks receives the name of ἐθελοβρησκεία — the term which Paul here makes use of. He has, however, an eye to the etymology of the term, for ἐθελοβρησκεία literally denotes a voluntary service, which men choose for themselves at their own option, without authority from God. Human traditions, therefore, are agreeable to us on this account, that they are in accordance with our understanding, for any one will find in his own brain the first outlines of them. This is the first pretext.
The second is humility, inasmuch as obedience both to God and men is pretended, so that men do not refuse even unreasonable burdens. And for the most part traditions of this kind are of such a nature as to appear to be admirable exercises of humility.
They allure, also, by means of a third pretext, inasmuch as they seem to be of the greatest avail for the mortification of the flesh, while there is no sparing of the body. Paul, however, bids farewell to those disguises, for what is in high esteem among men is often an abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15.)
Farther, that is a treacherous obedience, and a perverse and sacrilegious humility, which transfers to men the authority of God; and neglect of the body is not of so great importance, as to be worthy to be set forth to admiration as the service of God.
Some one, however, will feel astonished, that Paul does not take more pains in pulling off those masks. I answer, that he on good grounds rests contented with the simple term show. For the principles which he had taken as opposed to this are incontrovertible — that the body is in Christ, and that, consequently, those do nothing but impose upon miserable men, who set before them shadows. Secondly, the spiritual kingdom of Christ is by no means taken up with frail and corruptible elements. Thirdly, by the death of Christ such observances were put an end to, that we might have no connection with them; and, fourthly, God is our only Lawgiver. (Isaiah 33:22.) Whatever may be brought forward on the other side, let it have ever so much splendor, is fleeting show.
Secondly, he reckoned it enough to admonish the Colossians, not to be deceived by the putting forth of empty things. There was no necessity for dwelling at greater length in reproving them. For it should be a settled point among all the pious, that the worship of God ought not to be measured according to our views; and that, consequently, any kind of service is not lawful, simply on the ground that it is agreeable to us. This, also, ought to be a commonly received point — that we owe to God such humility as to yield obedience simply to his commands, so as not to lean to our own understanding, etc., (Proverbs 3:5,) — and that the limit of humility towards men is this — that each one submit himself to others in love. Now, when they contend that the wantonness of the flesh is repressed by abstinence from meats, the answer is easy — that we must not therefore abstain from any particular food as being unclean, but must eat sparingly of what we do eat of, both in order that we may soberly and temperately make use of the gifts of God, and that we may not, impeded by too much food and drink, forget those things that are God’s. Hence it was enough to say that these were masks, that the Colossians, being warned, might be on their guard against false pretexts.
Thus, at the present day, Papists are not in want of specious pretexts, by which to set forth their own laws, however they may be — some of them impious and tyrannical, and others of them silly and trifling. When, however, we have granted them everything, there remains, nevertheless, this refutation by Paul, which is of itself more than sufficient for dispelling all their smoky vapours; not to say how far removed they are from so honorable an appearance as that which Paul describes. The principal holiness of the Papacy, at the present day, consists in monkhood, and of what nature that is, I am ashamed and grieved to make mention, lest I should stir up so abominable an odour. Farther, it is of importance to consider here, how prone, nay, how forward the mind of man is to artificial modes of worship. For the Apostle here graphically describes the state of the old system of monkhood, which came into use a hundred years after his death, as though he had never spoken a word. The zeal of men, therefore, for superstition is surpassingly mad, which could not be restrained by so plain a declaration of God from breaking forth, as historical records testify.
Not in any honor. Honor means care, according to the usage of the Hebrew tongue. Honour widows, (1 Timothy 5:3,) that is, take care of them. Now Paul finds fault with this, that they 428 teach to leave off care for the body. For as God forbids us to indulge the body unduly, so he commands that these be given it as much as is necessary for it. Hence Paul, in Romans 13:14, does not expressly condemn care for the flesh, but such as indulges lusts. Have no care, says he, for the flesh, to the gratifying of its lusts. What, then, does Paul point out as faulty in those traditions of which he treats? It is that they gave no honor to the body for the satisfying the flesh, that is, according to the measure of necessity. For satisfying here means a mediocrity, which restricts itself to the simple use of nature, and thus stands in opposition to pleasure and all superfluous delicacies; for nature is content with little. Hence, to refuse what it requires for sustaining the necessity of life, is not less at variance with piety, than it is inhuman.
To those fruitless exercises which the false apostles urged, as though perfection consisted in them, he opposes those true exercises in which it becomes Christians to employ themselves; and this has no slight bearing upon the point in hand; for when we see what God would have us do, we afterwards easily despise the inventions of men. When we perceive, too, that what God recommends to us is much more lofty and excellent than what men inculcate, our alacrity of mind increases for following God, so as to disregard men. Paul here exhorts the Colossians to meditation upon the heavenly life. And what as to his opponents? They were desirous to retain their childish rudiments. This doctrine, therefore, makes the ceremonies be the more lightly esteemed. Hence it is manifest that Paul, in this passage, exhorts in such a manner as to confirm the foregoing doctrine; for, in describing solid piety and holiness of life, his aim is, that those vain shows of human traditions may vanish. At the same time, he anticipates an objection with which the false apostles might assail him. What then? “Wouldst thou rather have men be idle than addict themselves to such exercises, of whatever sort they may be?” When, therefore, he bids Christians apply themselves to exercises of a greatly superior kind, he cuts off the handle for this calumny; nay more, he loads them with no small odium, on the ground that they impede the right course of the pious by worthless amusements.
1. If ye are risen with Christ. Ascension follows resurrection: hence, if we are the members of Christ we must ascend into heaven, because he, on being raised up from the dead, was received up into heaven, (Mark 16:19,) that he might draw us up with him. Now, we seek those things which are above, when in our minds we are truly sojourners in this world, and are not bound to it. The word rendered think upon expresses rather assiduity and intensity of aim: “Let your whole meditation be as to this: to this apply your intellect — to this your mind.” But if we ought to think of nothing but of what is heavenly, because Christ is in heaven, how much less becoming were it to seek Christ upon the earth. Let us therefore bear in mind that that is a true and holy thinking as to Christ, which forthwith bears us up into heaven, that we may there adore him, and that our minds may dwell with him.
As to the right hand of God, it is not confined to heaven, but fills the whole world. Paul has made mention of it here to intimate that Christ encompasses us by his power, that we may not think that distance of place is a cause of separation between us and him, and that at the same time his majesty may excite us wholly to reverence him.
2. Not the things that are on earth. He does not mean, as he does a little afterwards, depraved appetites, which reign in earthly men, nor even riches, or fields, or houses, nor any other things of the present life, which we must use, as though we did not use them, (1 Corinthians 7:30, 31), but is still following out his discussion as to ceremonies, which he represents as resembling entanglements which constrain us to creep upon the ground. “Christ,” says he, “calls us upwards to himself, while these draw us downwards.” For this is the winding-up and exposition of what he had lately touched upon as to the abolition of ceremonies through the death of Christ. “The ceremonies are dead to you through the death of Christ, and you to them, in order that, being raised up to heaven with Christ, you may think only of those things that are above. Leave off therefore earthly things.” I shall not contend against others who are of a different mind; but certainly the Apostle appears to me to go on step by step, so that, in the first instance, he places traditions as to trivial matters in contrast with meditation on the heavenly life, and afterwards, as we shall see, goes a step farther.
3. For ye are dead. No one can rise again with Christ, if he has not first died with him. Hence he draws an argument from rising again to dying, as from a consequent to an antecedent, meaning that we must be dead to the world that we may live to Christ. Why has he taught, that we must seek those things that are above? It is because the life of the pious is above. Why does he now teach, that the things which are on earth are to be left off? Because they are dead to the world. “Death goes before that resurrection, of which I have spoken. Hence both of them must be seen in you.”
It is worthy of observation, that our life is said to be hid, that we may not murmur or complain if our life, being buried under the ignominy of the cross, and under various distresses, differs nothing from death, but may patiently wait for the day of revelation. And in order that our waiting may not be painful, let us observe those expressions, in God, and with Christ, which intimate that our life is out of danger, although it does not appear. For, in the first place, God is faithful, and therefore will not deny what has been committed to him, (2 Timothy 1:12,) nor deceive in the guardianship which he has undertaken; and, secondly, the fellowship of Christ brings still greater security. For what is to be more desired by us than this — that our life remain with the very fountain of life. Hence there is no reason why we should be alarmed if, on looking around on every side, we nowhere see life. For we are saved by hope. But those things which are already seen with our eyes are not hoped for. (Romans 8:24.) Nor does he teach that our life is hid merely in the opinion of the world, but even as to our own view, because this is the true and necessary trial of our hope, that being encompassed, as it were, with death, we may seek life somewhere else than in the world.
4. But when Christ, our life, shall appear. Here we have a choice consolation — that the coming of Christ will be the manifestation of our life. And, at the same time, he admonishes us how unreasonable were the disposition of the man, who should refuse to bear up 435 until that day. For if our life is shut up in Christ, it must be hid, until he shall appear.
5. Mortify therefore. Hitherto he has been speaking of contempt of the world. He now proceeds further, and enters upon a higher philosophy, as to the mortification of the flesh. That this may be the better understood, let us take notice that there is a twofold mortification. The former relates to those things that are around us. Of this he has hitherto treated. The other is inward — that of the understanding and will, and of the whole of our corrupt nature. He makes mention of certain vices which he calls, not with strict accuracy, but at the same time elegantly, members. For he conceives of our nature as being, as it were, a mass made up of different vices. They are, therefore, our members, inasmuch as they in a manner stick close to us. He calls them also earthly, alluding to what he had said — not the things that are on earth, (Colossians 3:2,) but in a different sense. “I have admonished you, that earthly things are to be disregarded: you must, however, make it your aim to mortify those vices which detain you on the earth.” He intimates, however, that we are earthly, so long as the vices of our flesh are vigorous in us, and that we are made heavenly by the renewing of the Spirit.
After fornication he adds uncleanness, by which term he expresses all kinds of wantonness, by which lascivious persons pollute themselves. To these is added, πάθος that is, lust, which includes all the allurements of unhallowed desire. This term, it is true, denotes mental perturbations of other kinds, and disorderly motions contrary to reason; but lust is not an unsuitable rendering of this passage. As to the reason why covetousness is here spoken of as a worshipping of images, consult the Epistle to the Ephesians, that I may not say the same thing twice.
6. On account of which things the wrath of God cometh. I do not find fault with the rendering of Erasmus — solet venire — (is wont to come,) but as the present tense is often taken in Scripture instead of the future, according to the idiom of the Hebrew language, I have preferred to leave the rendering undecided, so that it might be accommodated to either meaning. He warns the Colossians, then, either of the ordinary judgments of God, which are seen daily, or of the vengeance which he has once denounced upon the wicked, and which impends over them, but will not be manifested until the last day. I willingly, however, admit the former meaning — that God, who is the perpetual Judge of the world, is accustomed to punish the crimes in question.
He says, however, expressly, that the wrath of God will come, or is wont to come, upon the unbelieving or disobedient, instead of threatening them with anything of this nature. For God would rather that we should see his wrath upon the reprobate, than feel it in ourselves. It is true, that when the promises of grace are set before us, every one of the pious ought to embrace them equally as though they were designed for himself particularly; but, on the other hand, let us dread the threatenings of wrath and destruction in such a manner, that those things which are suitable for the reprobate, may serve as a lesson to us. God, it is true, is often said to be angry even with his children, and sometimes chastens their sins with severity. Paul speaks here, however, of eternal destruction, of which a mirror is to be seen only in the reprobate. In short, whenever God threatens, he shews, as it were, indirectly the punishment, that, beholding it in the reprobate, we may be deterred from sinning.
7. In which ye walked. Erasmus mistakingly refers this to men, rendering it, “inter quos,” (“among whom,”) for there can be no doubt that Paul had in view the vices, in which he, says that the Colossians had walked, during the time that they lived in them. For living and walking differ from each other, as power does from action. Living holds the first place: walking comes afterwards, as in Galatians 5:25, If ye live in the SPIRIT, WALK also in the Spirit. By these words he intimates, that it were an unseemly thing that they should addict themselves any more to the vices, to which they had died through Christ. See the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. It is an argument from a withdrawment of the cause to a withdrawment of the effect.
8. But now — that is, after having ceased to live in the flesh. For the power and nature of mortification are such, that all corrupt affections are extinguished in us, lest sin should afterwards produce in us its wonted fruits. What I have rendered indignationem, (indignation,) is in the Greek θυμός — a term, which denotes a more impetuous passionateness than ὀργὴ, (anger.) Here, however, he enumerates, as may easily be perceived, forms of vice that were different from those previously mentioned.
9. Lie not. When he forbids lying, he condemns every sort of cunning, and all base artifices of deception. For I do not understand the term as referring merely to calumnies, but I view it as contrasted in a general way with sincerity. Hence it might be allowable to render it more briefly, and I am not sure but that it might also be a better rendering, thus: Lie not one to another. He follows out, however, his argument as to the fellowship, which believers have in the death and resurrection of Christ, but employs other forms of expression.
The old man denotes — whatever we bring from our mother’s womb, and whatever we are by nature. It is put off by all that are renewed by Christ. The new man, on the other hand, is that which is renewed by the Spirit of Christ to the obedience of righteousness, or it is nature restored to its true integrity by the same Spirit. The old man, however, comes first in order, because we are first born from Adam, and afterwards are born again through Christ. And as what we have from Adam becomes old, and tends towards ruin, so what we obtain through Christ remains for ever, and is not frail; but, on the contrary, tends towards immortality. This passage is worthy of notice, inasmuch as a definition of regeneration may be gathered from it. For it contains two parts — the putting off of the old man, and the putting on of the new, and of these Paul here makes mention. It is also to be noticed, that the old man is distinguished by his works, as a tree is by its fruits. Hence it follows, that the depravity that is innate in us is denoted by the term old man.
10. Which is renewed in knowledge. He shews in the first place, that newness of life consists in knowledge — not as though a simple and bare knowledge were sufficient, but he speaks of the illumination of the Holy Spirit, which is lively and effectual, so as not merely to enlighten the mind by kindling it up with the light of truth, but transforming the whole man. And this is what he immediately adds, that we are renewed after the image of God. Now, the image of God resides in the whole of the soul, inasmuch as it is not the reason merely that is rectified, but also the will. Hence, too, we learn, on the one hand, what is the end of our regeneration, that is, that we may be made like God, and that his glory may shine forth in us; and, on the other hand, what is the image of God, of which mention is made by Moses in Genesis 9:6, 440 the rectitude and integrity of the whole soul, so that man reflects, like a mirror, the wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of God. He speaks somewhat differently in the Epistle to the Ephesians, but the meaning is the same. See the passage — Ephesians 4:24. Paul, at the same time, teaches, that there is nothing more excellent at which the Colossians can aspire, inasmuch as this is our highest perfection and blessedness to bear the image of God.
11. Where there is neither Jew. He has added this intentionally, that he may again draw away the Colossians from ceremonies. For the meaning of the statement is this, that Christian perfection does not stand in need of those outward observances, nay, that they are things that are altogether at variance with it. For under the distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision, of Jew and Greek, he includes, by synecdoche, 441 all outward things. The terms that follow, barbarian, Scythian, bond, free, are added by way of amplification.
Christ is all, and in all, that is, Christ alone holds, as they say, the prow and the stern — the beginning and the end. Farther, by Christ, he means the spiritual righteousness of Christ, which puts an end to ceremonies, as we have formerly seen. They are, therefore, superfluous in a state of true perfection, nay more, they ought to have no place, inasmuch as injustice would otherwise be done to Christ, as though it were necessary to call in those helps for making up his deficiencies.
13. Put on therefore. As he has enumerated some parts of the old man, so he now also enumerates some parts of the new. “Then,” says he, “will it appear that ye are renewed by Christ, when ye are merciful and kind. For these are the effects and evidences of renovation.” Hence the exhortation depends on the second clause, and, accordingly, he keeps up the metaphor in the word rendered put on.
He mentions, first, bowels of mercy, by which expression he means an earnest affection, with yearnings, as it were, of the bowels: Secondly, he makes mention of kindness, (for in this manner I have chosen to render χρηστότητα,) by which we make ourselves amiable. To this he adds humility, because no one will be kind and gentle but the man who, laying aside haughtiness, and high mindedness, brings himself down to the exercise of modesty, claiming nothing for himself.
Gentleness — the term which follows — has a wider acceptation than kindness, for that is chiefly in look and speech, while this is also in inward disposition. As, however, it frequently happens, that we come in contact with wicked and ungrateful men, there is need of patience, that it may cherish mildness in us. He at length explains what he meant by long-suffering — that we embrace each other indulgently, and forgive also where any offense has been given. As, however, it is a thing that is hard and difficult, he confirms this doctrine by the example of Christ, and teaches, that the same thing is required from us, that as we, who have so frequently and so grievously offended, have nevertheless been received into favor, we should manifest the same kindness towards our neighbors, by forgiving whatever offenses they have committed against us. Hence he says, if any one have a quarrel against another. By this he means, that even just occasions of quarrel, according to the views of men, ought not to be followed out.
As the chosen of God. Elect I take here to mean, set apart. “God has chosen you to himself, has sanctified you, and received you into his love on this condition, that ye be merciful, etc. To no purpose does the man that has not these excellences boast that he is holy, and beloved of God; to no purpose does he reckon himself among the number of believers.”
14. On account of all these things. The rendering that has been given by others, “super omnia haec,” (above all these things,) instead of insuper, (over and above,) is, in my opinion, meagre. It would be more suitable to render it, Before all these things. I have chosen, however, the more ordinary signification of the word ἐπί. For as all the things that he has hitherto enumerated flow from love, he now on good grounds exhorts the Colossians to cherish love among themselves, for the sake of these things — that they may be merciful, gentle, ready to forgive, as though he had said, that they would be such only in the event of their having love. For where love is wanting, all these things are sought for in vain. That he may commend it the more, he calls it the bond of perfection, meaning by this, that the troop of all the virtues is comprehended under it. For this truly is the rule of our whole life, and of all our actions, so that everything that is not regulated according to it is faulty, whatever attractiveness it may otherwise possess. This is the reason why it is called here the bond of perfection; because there is nothing in our life that is well regulated if it be not directed towards it, but everything that we attempt is mere waste.
The Papists, however, act a ridiculous part in abusing this declaration, with the view of maintaining justification by works. “Love,” say they, “is the bond of perfection: now perfection is righteousness; therefore we are justified by love.” The answer is twofold; for Paul here is not reasoning as to the manner in which men are made perfect in the sight of God, but as to the manner in which they may live perfectly among themselves. For the genuine exposition of the passage is this — that other things will be in a desirable state as to our life, if love be exercised among us. When, however, we grant that love is righteousness, they groundlessly and childishly take occasion from this to maintain, that we are justified by love, for where will perfect love be found? We, however, do not say that men are justified by faith alone, on the ground that the observance of the law is not righteousness, but rather on this ground, that as we are all transgressors of the law, we are, in consequence of our being destitute of any righteousness of our own, constrained to borrow righteousness from Christ. There remains nothing, therefore, but the righteousness of faith, because perfect love is nowhere to be found.
15. And the peace of God. He gives the name of the peace of God to that which God has established among us, as will appear from what follows. He would have it reign in our hearts. He employs, however, a very appropriate metaphor; for as among wrestlers, 446 he who has vanquished all the others carries off the palm, so he would have the peace of God be superior to all carnal affections, which often hurry us on to contentions, disagreements, quarrels, secret grudges. He accordingly prohibits us from giving loose reins to corrupt affections of this kind. As, however it is difficult to restrain them, he points out also the remedy, that the peace of God may carry the victory, because it must be a bridle, by which carnal affections may be restrained. Hence he says, in our hearts; because we constantly feel there great conflicts, while the flesh lusteth against the Spirit. (Galatians 5:17.)
The clause, to which ye are called, intimates what manner of peace this is — that unity which Christ has consecrated among us under his own direction. 447 For God has reconciled us to himself in Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:18,) with this view, that we may live in entire harmony among ourselves. He adds, in one body, meaning by this, that we cannot be in a state of agreement with God otherwise than by being united among ourselves as members of one body. When he bids us be thankful, I do not take this as referring so much to the remembrance of favors, as to sweetness of manners. Hence, with the view of removing ambiguity, I prefer to render it, “Be amiable.” At the same time I acknowledge that, if gratitude takes possession of our minds, 448 we shall without fail be inclined to cherish mutual affection among ourselves.
16. Let the word of Christ dwell. He would have the doctrine of the gospel be familiarly known by them. Hence we may infer by what spirit those are actuated in the present day, who cruelly interdict the Christian people from making use of it, and furiously vociferate, that no pestilence is more to be dreaded, than that the reading of the Scriptures should be thrown open to the common people. For, unquestionably, Paul here addresses men and women of all ranks; nor would he simply have them take a slight taste merely of the word of Christ, but exhorts that it should dwell in them; that is, that it should have a settled abode, and that largely, that they may make it their aim to advance and increase more and more every day. As, however, the desire of learning is extravagant on the part of many, while they pervert the word of the Lord for their own ambition, or for vain curiosity, or in some way corrupt it, he on this account adds, in all wisdom — that, being instructed by it, we may be wise as we ought to be.
Farther, he gives a short definition of this wisdom — that the Colossians teach one another Teaching is taken here to mean profitable instruction, which tends to edification, as in Romans 12:7 — He that teacheth, on teaching; also in Timothy — “All Scripture is profitable for teaching.” (2 Timothy 3:16.) This is the true use of Christ’s word. As, however, doctrine is sometimes in itself cold, and, as one says, when it is simply shewn what is right, virtue is praised and left to starve, he adds at the same time admonition, which is, as it were, a confirmation of doctrine and incitement to it. Nor does he mean that the word of Christ ought to be of benefit merely to individuals, that they may teach themselves, but he requires mutual teaching and admonition.
Psalms, hymns. He does not restrict the word of Christ to these particular departments, but rather intimates that all our communications should be adapted to edification, that even those which tend to hilarity may have no empty savor. “Leave to unbelievers that foolish delight which they take from ludicrous and frivolous jests and witticisms; and let your communications, not merely those that are grave, but those also that are joyful and exhilarating, contain something profitable. In place of their obscene, or at least barely modest and decent, songs, it becomes you to make use of hymns and songs that sound forth God’s praise.” Farther, under these three terms he includes all kinds of songs. They are commonly distinguished in this way — that a psalm is that, in the singing of which some musical instrument besides the tongue is made use of: a hymn is properly a song of praise, whether it be sung simply with the voice or otherwise; while an ode contains not merely praises, but exhortations and other matters. He would have the songs of Christians, however, to be spiritual, not made up of frivolities and worthless trifles. For this has a connection with his argument.
The clause, in grace, Chrysostom explains in different ways. I, however, take it simply, as also afterwards, in Colossians 4:6, where he says, “Let your speech be seasoned with salt, in grace,” that is, by way of a dexterity that may be agreeable, and may please the hearers by its profitableness, so that it may be opposed to buffoonery and similar trifles.
Singing in your hearts. This relates to disposition; for as we ought to stir up others, so we ought also to sing from the heart, that there may not be merely an external sound with the mouth. At the same time, we must not understand it as though he would have every one sing inwardly to himself, but he would have both conjoined, provided the heart goes before the tongue.
17. And whatsoever ye do. We have already explained these things, and what goes before, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where the same things are said almost word for word. As he had already begun to discourse in reference to different parts of the Christian life, and had simply touched upon a few precepts, it would have been too tedious a thing to follow out the rest one by one, he therefore concludes in a summary way, that life must be regulated in such a manner, that whatever we say or do may be wholly governed by the authority of Christ, and may have an eye to his glory as the mark. For we shall fitly comprehend under this term the two following things — that all our aims may set out with invocation of Christ, and may be subservient to his glory. From invocation follows the act of blessing God, which supplies us with matter of thanksgiving. It is also to be observed, that he teaches that we must give thanks to the Father through Christ, as we obtain through him every good thing that God confers upon us.
18 Wives, be subject. Now follow particular duties, as they are called, which depend on the calling of individuals. In handling these it were superfluous to take up many words, inasmuch as I have already stated in the Epistle to the Ephesians almost everything that was necessary. Here I shall only add briefly such things as are more particularly suited to an exposition of the passage before us.
He commands wives to be subject. This is clear, but what follows is of doubtful signification — as it is fit in the Lord. For some connect it thus — “Be subject in the Lord, as it is fit.” I, however, view it rather differently, — As it is fit in the Lord, that is, according to the appointment of the Lord, so that he confirms the subjection of wives by the authority of God. He requires love on the part of husbands, and that they be not bitter, because there is a danger lest they should abuse their authority in the way of tyranny.
20 Children, obey your parents. He enjoins it upon children to obey their parents, without any exception. But what if parents 459 should feel disposed to constrain them to anything that is unlawful; will they in that case, too, obey without any reservation? Now it were worse than unreasonable, that the, authority of men should prevail at the expense of neglecting God. I answer, that here, too, we must understand as implied what he expresses elsewhere, (Ephesians 6:1) — in the Lord. But for what purpose does he employ a term of universality? I answer again, that it is to shew, that obedience must be rendered not merely to just commands, but also to such as are unreasonable. For many make themselves compliant with the wishes of their parents only where the command is not grievous or inconvenient. But, on the other hand, this one thing ought to be considered by children — that whoever may be their parents, they have been allotted to them by the providence of God, who by his appointment makes children subject to their parents.
In all things, therefore, that they may not refuse anything, however difficult or disagreeable — in all things, that in things indifferent they may give deference to the station which their parents occupy — in all things, that they may not put themselves on a footing of equality with their parents, in the way of questioning and debating, or disputing, it being always understood that conscience is not to be infringed upon. He prohibits parents from exercising an immoderate harshness, lest their children should be so disheartened as to be incapable of receiving any honorable training; for we see, from daily experience, the advantage of a liberal education.
22 Servants, be obedient. Anything that is stated here respecting servants requires no exposition, as it has been already expounded in commenting on Ephesians 6:1, with the exception of these two expressions, — For we serve the Lord Christ; and, He that will act unjustly will receive the reward of his iniquity.
By the former statement he means, that service is done to men in such a way that Christ at the same time holds supremacy of dominion, and is the supreme master. Here, truly, is choice consolation for all that are under subjection, inasmuch as they are informed that, while they willingly serve their masters, their services are acceptable to Christ, as though they had been rendered to him. From this, also, Paul gathers, that they will receive from him a reward, but it is the reward of inheritance, by which he means that the very thing that is bestowed in reward of works is freely given to us by God, for inheritance comes from adoption.
In the second clause he again comforts servants, by saying that, if they are oppressed by the unjust cruelty of their masters, God himself will take vengeance, and will not, on the ground that they are servants, overlook the injuries inflicted upon them, inasmuch as there is no respect of persons with him. For this consideration might diminish their courage, if they imagined that God had no regard for them, or no great regard, and that their miseries gave him no concern. Besides, it often happens that servants themselves endeavor to avenge injurious and cruel treatment. He obviates, accordingly, this evil, by admonishing them to wait patiently the judgment of God.
1. Masters, what is just. He mentions first, what is just, by which term he expresses that kindness, as to which he has given injunction in the Epistle to the Ephesians. (Ephesians 6:8.) But as masters, looking down as it were from aloft, despise the condition of servants, so that they think that they are bound by no law, Paul brings them under control, because both are equally under subjection to the authority of God. Hence that equity of which he makes mention.
And mutual equity. Some understand it otherwise, but I have no doubt that Paul here employed ἰσότητα to mean analogical or distributive right, as in Ephesians, τὰ αὐτὰ, (the same things.) For masters have not their servants bound to them in such a manner as not to owe something to them in their turn, as analogical right to be in force among all ranks.
2. Continue in prayer. He returns to general exhortations, in which we must not expect an exact order, for in that case he would have begun with prayer, but Paul had not an eye to that. Farther, as to prayer, he commends here two things; first, assiduity; secondly, alacrity, or earnest intentness. For, when he says, continue, he exhorts to perseverance, while he makes mention of watching in opposition to coldness, and listlessness.
He adds, thanksgiving, because God must be solicited for present necessity in such a way that, in the mean time, we do not forget favors already received. Farther, we ought not to be so importunate as to murmur, and feel offended if God does not immediately gratify our wishes, but must receive contentedly whatever he gives. Thus a twofold giving of thanks is necessary. As to this point something has also been said in the Epistle to the Philippians. (Philippians 4:6.)
3. Pray also for us. He does not say this by way of pretense, but because, being conscious to himself of his own necessity, he was earnestly desirous to be aided by their prayers, and was fully persuaded that they would be of advantage to them. Who then, in the present day, would dare to despise the intercessions of brethren, which Paul openly declares himself to stand in need of? And, unquestionably, it is not in vain that the Lord has appointed this exercise of love between us — that we pray for each other. Not only, therefore, ought each of us to pray for his brethren, but we ought also, on our part, diligently to seek help from the prayers of others, as often as occasion requires. It is, however, a childish argument on the part of Papists, who infer from this, that the dead must be implored to pray for us. For what is there here that bears any resemblance to this? Paul commends himself to the prayers of the brethren, with whom he knows that he has mutual fellowship according to the commandment of God: who will deny that this reason does not hold in the case of the dead? Leaving, therefore, such trifles, let us return to Paul.
As we have a signal example of modesty, in the circumstance that Paul calls others to his assistance, so we are also admonished, that it is a thing that is replete with the greatest difficulty, to persevere steadfastly in the defense of the gospel, and especially when danger presses. For it is not without cause that he desires that the Churches may assist him in this matter. Consider, too, at the same time, his amazing ardor of zeal. He is not solicitous as to his own safety; he does not ask that prayers may be poured forth by the Churches on his behalf, that he may be delivered from danger of death. He is contented with this one thing, that he may, unconquered and undaunted, persevere in a confession of the gospel; nay more, he fearlessly makes his own life a secondary matter, as compared with the glory of Christ and the spread of the gospel.
By a door of utterance, however, he simply means what, in Ephesians 6:19, he terms the opening of the mouth, and what Christ calls a mouth and wisdom. (Luke 21:15.) For the expression differs nothing from the other in meaning, but merely in form, for he here intimates, by all elegant metaphor, that it is in no degree easier for us to speak confidently respecting the gospel, than to break through a door that is barred and bolted. For this is truly a divine work, as Christ himself said,
It is not ye that speak,
but the Spirit of your Father
that speaketh in you.
Having, therefore, set forward the difficulty, he stirs up the Colossians the more to prayer, by declaring that he cannot speak right, except in so far as his tongue is directed by the Lord. Secondly, he argues from the dignity of the matter, when he calls the gospel the mystery of Christ. For we must labor in a more perfunctory manner in a matter of such importance. Thirdly, he makes mention also of his danger.
4. As I ought. This clause sets forth more strongly the difficulty, for he intimates that it is no ordinary matter. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, (Ephesians 6:20,) he adds, ἵνα παῤῥησιάσωμαι, (that I may speak boldly,) from which it appears that he desired for himself an undaunted confidence, such as befits the majesty of the gospel. Farther, as Paul here does nothing else than desire that grace may be given him for the discharge of his office, let us bear in mind that a rule is in like manner prescribed to us, not to give way to the fury of our adversaries, but to strive even to death in the publication of the gospel. As this, however, is beyond our power, it is necessary that we should continue in prayer, that the Lord may not leave us destitute of the spirit of confidence.
5. Walk wisely. He makes mention of those that are without, in contrast with those that are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10.) For the Church is like a city of which all believers are the inhabitants, connected with each other by a mutual relationship, while unbelievers are strangers. But why would he have regard to be had to them, rather than to believers? There are three reasons: first, lest any stumblingblock be put in, the way of the blind, (Leviticus 19:14,) for nothing is more ready to occur, than that unbelievers are driven from bad to worse through our imprudence, and their minds are wounded, so that they hold religion more and more in abhorrence. Secondly, it is lest any occasion may be given for detracting from the honor of the gospel, and thus the name of Christ be exposed to derision, persons be rendered more hostile, and disturbances and persecutions be stirred up. Lastly, it is, lest, while we are mingled together, in partaking of food, and on other occasions, we be defiled by their pollutions, and by little and little become profane.
To the same effect, also, is what follows, redeeming the time, that is, because intercourse with them is dangerous. For in Ephesians 5:16, he assigns the reason, because the days are evil. “Amidst so great a corruption as prevails in the world we must seize opportunities of doing good, and we must struggle against impediments.” The more, therefore, that our path is blocked up with occasions of offense, so much the more carefully must we take heed lest our feet should stumble, or we should stop short through indolence.
6. Your speech. He requires suavity of speech, such as may allure the hearers by its profitableness, for he does not merely condemn communications that are openly wicked or impious, but also such as are worthless and idle. Hence he would have them seasoned with salt. Profane men have their seasonings of discourse, but he does not speak of them; nay more, as witticisms are insinuating, and for the most part procure favor, he indirectly prohibits believers from the practice and familiar use of them. For he reckons as tasteless everything that does not edify. The term grace is employed in the same sense, so as to be opposed to talkativeness, taunts, and all sorts of trifles which are either injurious or vain.
That ye may know how. The man who has accustomed himself to caution in his communications will not fall into many absurdities, into which talkative and prating persons fall into from time to time, but, by constant practice, will acquire for himself expertness in making proper and suitable replies; as, on the other hand, it must necessarily happen, that silly talkers expose themselves to derision whenever they are interrogated as to anything; and in this they pay the just punishment of their silly talkativeness. Nor does he merely say what, but also how, and not to all indiscriminately, but to every one. For this is not the least important part of prudence — to have due regard to individuals.
7 My things. That the Colossians may know what concern he has for them, he confirms them, by giving them, in a manner, a pledge. For although he was in prison, and was in danger of his life, making care for himself a secondary matter, he consults for their interests by sending Tychicus to them. In this the singular zeal, no less than prudence of the holy Apostle, shines forth; for it is no small matter that, while he is held prisoner, and is in the most imminent danger on account of the gospel, he, nevertheless, does not cease to employ himself in advancing the gospel, and takes care of all the Churches. Thus, the body, indeed, is under confinement, but the mind, anxious to employ itself in everything good, roams far and wide. His prudence shews itself in his sending a fit and prudent person to confirm them, as far as was necessary, and withstand the craftiness of the false apostles; and, farther, in his retaining Epaphras beside himself, until they should come to learn what and how great an agreement there was in doctrine among all true teachers, and might hear from Tychicus the same thing that they had previously learned from Epaphras. Let us carefully meditate on these examples, that they may stir us up to all imitation of the like pursuit.
He adds, Onesimus, that the embassy may have the more weight. It is, however, uncertain who this Onesimus was. For it can scarcely be believed that this is the slave of Philemon, inasmuch as the name of a thief and a fugitive would have been liable to reproach. He distinguishes both of them by honorable titles, that they may do the more good, and especially Tychicus, who was to exercise the office of an instructor.
10. Fellow-prisoner. From this it appears that there were others that were associated with Paul, after he was brought to Rome. It is also probable that his enemies exerted themselves, in the outset, to deter all pious persons from giving him help, by threatening them with the like danger, and that this for a time had the desired effect; but that afterwards some, gathering up courage, despised everything that was held out to them in the way of terror.
That ye receive him. Some manuscripts have receive in the imperative mood; but it is a mistake, for he expresses the nature of the charge which the Colossians had received — that it was a commendation of either Barnabas, or of Marcus. The latter is the more probable. In the Greek it is the infinitive mood, but it may be rendered in the way I have done. Let us, however, observe, that they were careful in furnishing attestations, that they might distinguish good men from false brethren — from pretenders, from impostors, and multitudes of vagrants. The same care is more than simply necessary at the present day, both because good teachers are coldly received, and because credulous and foolish men lay themselves too open to be deceived by impostors.
11. These only are fellow-workers, — that is, of the circumcision; for he afterwards names others, but they were of the uncircumcision. He means, therefore, that there were few Jews at Rome who shewed themselves to be helpers to the gospel, nay more, that the whole nation was opposed to Christ. At the same time, by workers he means those only who were endowed with gifts that were necessary for promoting the gospel. But where was Peter at that time? Unquestionably, he has either been shamefully passed over here, and not without injustice, or else those speak falsely who maintain that he was then at Rome. Farther, he calls the gospel the kingdom of God, for it is the scepter by which God reigns over us, and by means of it we are singled out to life eternal. But of this form of expression we shall treat more fully elsewhere.
12 Always striving. Here we have an example of a good pastor, whom distance of place cannot induce to forget the Church, so as to prevent him from taking the care of it with him beyond the sea. We must notice, also, the strength of entreaty that is expressed in the word striving. For although the Apostle had it in view here to express intensity of affection, he at the same time admonishes the Colossians not to look upon the prayers of their pastor as useless, but, on the contrary, to reckon that they would afford them no small assistance. Lastly, let us infer from Paul’s words, that the perfection of Christians is, when they stand complete in the will of God, that they may not suspend their scheme of life upon anything else.
14. Luke saluteth you. I do not agree with those who understand this to be Luke the Evangelist; for I am of opinion that he was too well known to stand in need of such a designation, and he would have been signalized by a more magnificent eulogium. He would, undoubtedly, have called him his fellow-helper, or at least his companion and participant in his conflicts. I rather conjecture that he was absent at that time, and that it is another of the same name that is called a physician, to distinguish him from the other. Demas, of whom he makes mention, is undoubtedly the person of whom he complains — that he afterwards deserted him. (2 Timothy 4:10.)
When he speaks of the Church which was in the house of Nymphas, let us bear in mind, that, in the instance of one household, a rule is laid down as to what it becomes all Christian households to be — that they be so many little Churches. Let every one, therefore, know that this charge is laid upon him — that he is to train up his house in the fear of the Lord, to keep it under a holy discipline, and, in fine, to form in it the likeness of a Church.
16. Let it be read in the Church of the Laodiceans. Hence, though it was addressed to the Colossians, it was, nevertheless, necessary that it should be profitable to others. The same view must also be taken of all the Epistles. They were indeed, in the first instance, addressed to particular Churches, but, as they contain doctrine that is always in force, and is common to all ages, it is of no importance what title they bear, for the subject matter belongs to us. It has been groundlessly supposed that the other Epistle of which he makes mention was written by Paul, and those labor under a double mistake who think that it was written by Paul to the Laodiceans. I have no doubt that it was an Epistle that had been sent to Paul, the perusal of which might be profitable to the Colossians, as neighboring towns have usually many things in common. There was, however, an exceedingly gross imposture in the circumstance that some worthless person, I know not who, had the audacity to forge, under this pretext, an Epistle, that is so insipid, that nothing can be conceived to be more foreign to Paul’s spirit.
17 Say to Archippus. So far as I can conjecture, this Archippus was, in the mean time, discharging the office of pastor, during the absence of Epaphras; but perhaps he was not of such a disposition as to be sufficiently diligent of himself without being stirred up. Paul, accordingly, would have him be more fully encouraged by the exhortation of the whole Church. He might have admonished him in his own name individually; but he gives this charge to the Colossians that they may know that they must themselves employ incitements, if they see their pastor cold, and the pastor himself does not refuse to be admonished by the Church. For the ministers of the word are endowed with signal authority, but such at the same time as is not exempt from laws. Hence, it is necessary that they should shew themselves teachable if they would duly teach others. As to Paul’s calling attention again to his bonds, he intimates by this that he was in no slight degree afflicted. For he was mindful of human infirmity, and without doubt he felt some twinges of it in himself, inasmuch as he was so very urgent that all pious persons, should be mindful of his distresses. It is, however, no evidence of distrust, that he calls in from all quarters the helps that were appointed him by the Lord. The subscription, with his own hand, means, as we have seen elsewhere, that there were even then spurious epistles in circulation, so that it was necessary to provide against imposition.
Having a "Peace" About It
By Greg Koukl 2/4/2013
Colossians 3:15 is a text that is constantly misunderstood by well-meaning Christians. Paul writes, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." Some have accurately pointed out that the Greek word for "rule" means to act as arbiter or judge. They see this verse as a tool for knowing God's will for our lives.
The conventional thinking goes something like this. When confronted with a decision, pray. If you feel a "peace" in your heart, go ahead. If you don't feel peace, don't proceed. This internal sense of peace acts like a judge helping you make decisions according to the will of God. A paraphrase might be: "And let feelings of peacefulness in your heart be the judge about God's individual will for your life." Is this what Paul means?
This is a classic example of how knowledge of the Greek can be dangerous if context is not taken into consideration. The word "peace" actually has two different meanings. It could mean a sense of inner harmony and emotional equanimity. Paul seems to have this definition in mind in Philippians 4:7: "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This is the subjective sense of peace.
The word also has an objective sense. It sometimes means lack of conflict between two parties formerly at war with each other. This definition of peace is what Paul intends in Romans 5:1: "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Note the distinction between the peace of God and peace with God in these two verses.)
What sense of peace did Paul have in mind when writing to the Colossians? The Greek gives us no indication because the same word is used in all three cases. Once again, context is king. The specific meaning can only be known from the surrounding material.
Greg started out thinking he was too smart to become a Christian and ended up giving his life for the defense of the Christian faith. A central theme of Greg's speaking and writing is that Christianity—if it's properly understood and properly communicated—makes the most sense of the world as we find it.
Greg has spoken on more than 70 college and university campuses both in the U.S. and abroad and has hosted his own call-in radio show for 27 years advocating “Christianity worth thinking about.” He’s debated atheist Michael Shermer on national radio and Deepak Chopra on national television on Lee Strobel's “Faith Under Fire.” He is an award-winning writer and best-selling author. Greg has been featured on Focus on the Family radio and has been interviewed for CBN and the BBC. He's been quoted in Christianity Today, the U.S. News & World Report, and the L.A. Times.
Greg received his Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology, graduating with high honors, and his Masters in Christian Apologetics with honors from Simon Greenleaf University. He is an adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University. Greg Koukl Books:
- 1 The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between
- 2 Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions
- 3 Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air
- 4 Jesus, the Only Way: 100 Verses
- 5 Faith Is Not Wishing: 13 Essays for Christian Thinkers
- 6 "Misquoting" Jesus? Answering Bart Ehrman (Solid Ground)
- 7 Precious Unborn Human Persons
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
(Oct 16) Bob Gass
‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning.’
(Pr 1:5) 5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, ESV
In order to keep growing, you must understand three principles: 1) You grow to the extent you give. By giving out, you create more room to grow on the inside. So, give until it hurts, and keep giving until it feels good. Always endeavour to leave people better off than you found them, and you’ll be better off too. Solomon said, ‘The liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself’ (Proverbs 11:25 TLB). This epitaph on a tombstone says it all: ‘What I gave, I have. What I spent, I had. What I kept, I lost.’ 2) To accomplish more, you’ve got to grow more. Do you feel stuck spiritually, relationally, career-wise, or at home? You won’t get unstuck by making external changes, like pursuing a new career, leaving your family, or changing churches. Nobody’s keeping you down but yourself. The lid on your life is - you. So, if you’re serious about getting unstuck, instead of looking for quick fixes take a long hard look at yourself, accept responsibility for what you see, pray, and decide to do something about it. 3) It’s not enough to dream; you must do. The Tartar tribes of Central Asia are reputed to have used a particular curse against their enemies. They didn’t call for their swords to rust or their people to die of disease. They simply said, ‘May you stay in one place forever.’ If you don’t work daily to improve yourself, that will be your fate too. You’ll end up stuck in the same place, doing the same things, dreaming the same dreams, and never getting anywhere. So, keep growing!
1 Tim 5
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
His barn in Pennsylvania was a station on the Underground Railway, helping slaves escape to freedom. But on this day, October 16, 1859, John Brown and 21 men raided Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, and seized the armory. He was captured, sentenced, and hanged. Labeled insane by some, Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, called him Saint John the Just. Years before, after hearing the story of how abolitionist publisher Elijah Lovejoy was murdered, John Brown stood up in the back of church and declared: “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.”
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
Public prayer is, on the whole, the most difficult part of the work of the minister. To help the difficulty I have always claimed that pulpit notes of prayer may be used. “The Lord’s Prayer” itself is of this nature. It is not a prayer, but a scheme of prayer, heads of prayer, or buoys in the channel. But even with the use of all helps there are perils enough. There are prayers that, in the effort to become real, are much too familiar in their fashion of speech. A young man began his prayer, in my own hearing, with the words, “O God, we have come to have a chat with Thee.” It was gruesome. Think of it as a sample of modern piety for the young! No prayers, certainly no public prayers, should be “chats with God.” Again, other prayers are sentimental prayers. George Dawson’s volume has this fault. The prayers of the Church should not be exposures of the affectional man. The public prayer of the Church, as the company of grace, is the saved soul returning to God that gave it; it is the sinner coming to the Saviour, or the ransomed of the Lord returning to Zion; it is the sanctified with the sanctifier; it is not primarily the child talking to the Father—though that note may prevail in more private prayers. We are more than stray sheep reclaimed. We are those whose defiant iniquity has lain upon Christ for us all.
But the root of the difficulty of public prayer lies further back than in the matter of style. It lies in the difficulty of private prayer, in its spiritual poverty, its inertia, its anemia. What culture can deal with the rooted difficulty that resides there, out of sight, in the inner man of the heart, for lack of the courage of faith, for sheer spiritual fecklessness? Yet the preparation for prayer is to pray. The prayer is the practice of prayer. It is only prayer that teaches to pray. The minister ought never to speak before men in God’s name without himself first speaking to God in man’s name, and making intercession as for himself so for his people.
Intercession! We are properly vigilant that the minister do not sever himself from his people in any sacredotal way. But for all that, is the minister’s personal and private prayer on exactly the same footing as a layman’s? It is a question that leads to the distinction between intercessory and vicarious prayer. The personal religion of the minister is vicarious even when it is not intercessory. Great indeed is the spiritual value of private intercession. The intercessory private prayer of the minister is the best corrective of the critical spirit or the grumbling spirit which so easily besets and withers us to-day. That reconciliation, that pacification of heart, which comes by prayer opens in us a fountain of private intercession, especially for our antagonists. Only, of course, it must be private. But the minister is also praying to his people’s good even when he is not interceeding on their behalf, or leading them in prayer. What he is for his Church he is with his whole personality. And so his private and personal prayers are vicarious for his people even when he does not know it. No Christian man lives for himself, nor believes for himself. And if the private Christian in his private prayers does not pray, any more than he lives, unto himself alone, much more is this true for the minister. His private prayers make a great difference to his people. They may not know what makes his spell and blessing; even he may not. But it is his most private prayers; which, thus, are vicarious even where not intercessory.
What he is for his Church, I have said, he is with his whole personality. And nothing gives us personality like true prayer. Nothing makes a man so original. We cannot be true Christians without being original. Living faith destroys the commonplaceness, the monotony of life. Are not all men original in death? “Je mourrai seul.” Much more are they original and their true selves in Christ’s death, and in their part and lot in that. For true originality we must be one, and closely one, with God. To be creative we must learn with the Creator. The most effectual man in history was he who said, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” What a reflection on our faith that so much piety should be humdrum, and deadly dull! Private prayer, when it is real action, is the greatest forge of personality. It places a man in direct and effective contact with God the Creator, the source of originality, and especially with God the Redeemer as the source of the new creation. For the minister personality is everything—not geniality, as it is the day’s fashion to say, but personality; and prayer is the spring of personality. This impressive personality, due to prayer, you may often have in “the peasant saint.” And in some cases its absence is as palpable. Hence comes vulgarity in prayer, essential vulgarity underlying much possible fineness of phrase or manner. Vulgarity in prayer lies not so much in its offenses to good taste in style as in its indications of the absence of spiritual habit and reality. If the theology of rhetoric destroys the theology of reality in the sermon, how much more in prayer!
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
The Soul of Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Indulgence says, “Drink your way out.”
Philosophy says, “Think your way out.”
Science says, “Invent your way out.”
Industry says, “Work your way out.”
Communism says, “Strike your way out.”
Militarism says, “Fight your way out.”
Christ says, “I AM THE WAY OUT!”
God understands our prayers
even when we can’t find the words to say them.
A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.
--- Wendell Berry
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
Concerning A Stratagem That Was Devised By The Jews, By Which They Burnt Many Of The Romans; With Another Description Of The Terrible Famine That Was In The City.
1. But now the seditious that were in the temple did every day openly endeavor to beat off the soldiers that were upon the banks, and on the twenty-seventh day of the forenamed month [Panemus or Tamuz] contrived such a stratagem as this: They filled that part of the western cloister 14 which was between the beams, and the roof under them, with dry materials, as also with bitumen and pitch, and then retired from that place, as though they were tired with the pains they had taken; at which procedure of theirs, many of the most inconsiderate among the Romans, who were carried away with violent passions, followed hard after them as they were retiring, and applied ladders to the cloister, and got up to it suddenly; but the prudent part of them, when they understood this unaccountable retreat of the Jews, stood still where they were before. However, the cloister was full of those that were gone up the ladders; at which time the Jews set it all on fire; and as the flame burst out every where on the sudden, the Romans that were out of the danger were seized with a very great consternation, as were those that were in the midst of the danger in the utmost distress. So when they perceived themselves surrounded with the flames, some of them threw themselves down backwards into the city, and some among their enemies [in the temple]; as did many leap down to their own men, and broke their limbs to pieces; but a great number of those that were going to take these violent methods were prevented by the fire; though some prevented the fire by their own swords. However, the fire was on the sudden carried so far as to surround those who would have otherwise perished. As for Caesar himself, he could not, however, but commiserate those that thus perished, although they got up thither without any order for so doing, since there was no way of giving the many relief. Yet was this some comfort to those that were destroyed, that every body might see that person grieve, for whose sake they came to their end; for he cried out openly to them, and leaped up, and exhorted those that were about him to do their utmost to relieve them; So every one of them died cheerfully, as carrying along with him these words and this intention of Caesar as a sepulchral monument. Some there were indeed who retired into the wall of the cloister, which was broad, and were preserved out of the fire, but were then surrounded by the Jews; and although they made resistance against the Jews for a long time, yet were they wounded by them, and at length they all fell down dead.
2. At the last a young man among them, whose name was Longus, became a decoration to this sad affair, and while every one of them that perished were worthy of a memorial, this man appeared to deserve it beyond all the rest. Now the Jews admired this man for his courage, and were further desirous of having him slain; so they persuaded him to come down to them, upon security given him for his life. But Cornelius his brother persuaded him on the contrary, not to tarnish his own glory, nor that of the Roman army. He complied with this last advice, and lifting up his sword before both armies, he slew himself. Yet there was one Artorius among those surrounded by the fire who escaped by his subtlety; for when he had with a loud voice called to him Lucius, one of his fellow soldiers that lay with him in the same tent, and said to him, "I do leave thee heir of all I have, if thou wilt come and receive me." Upon this he came running to receive him readily; Artorius then threw himself down upon him, and saved his own life, while he that received him was dashed so vehemently against the stone pavement by the other's weight, that he died immediately. This melancholy accident made the Romans sad for a while, but still it made them more upon their guard for the future, and was of advantage to them against the delusions of the Jews, by which they were greatly damaged through their unacquaintedness with the places, and with the nature of the inhabitants. Now this cloister was burnt down as far as John's tower, which he built in the war he made against Simon over the gates that led to the Xystus. The Jews also cut off the rest of that cloister from the temple, after they had destroyed those that got up to it. But the next day the Romans burnt down the northern cloister entirely, as far as the east cloister, whose common angle joined to the valley that was called Cedron, and was built over it; on which account the depth was frightful. And this was the state of the temple at that time.
3. Now of those that perished by famine in the city, the number was prodigious, and the miseries they underwent were unspeakable; for if so much as the shadow of any kind of food did any where appear, a war was commenced presently, and the dearest friends fell a fighting one with another about it, snatching from each other the most miserable supports of life. Nor would men believe that those who were dying had no food, but the robbers would search them when they were expiring, lest any one should have concealed food in their bosoms, and counterfeited dying; nay, these robbers gaped for want, and ran about stumbling and staggering along like mad dogs, and reeling against the doors of the houses like drunken men; they would also, in the great distress they were in, rush into the very same houses two or three times in one and the same day. Moreover, their hunger was so intolerable, that it obliged them to chew every thing, while they gathered such things as the most sordid animals would not touch, and endured to eat them; nor did they at length abstain from girdles and shoes; and the very leather which belonged to their shields they pulled off and gnawed: the very wisps of old hay became food to some; and some gathered up fibres, and sold a very small weight of them for four Attic [drachmae]. But why do I describe the shameless impudence that the famine brought on men in their eating inanimate things, while I am going to relate a matter of fact, the like to which no history relates, 15 either among the Greeks or Barbarians? It is horrible to speak of it, and incredible when heard. I had indeed willingly omitted this calamity of ours, that I might not seem to deliver what is so portentous to posterity, but that I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age; and besides, my country would have had little reason to thank me for suppressing the miseries that she underwent at this time.
4. There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezob, which signifies the house of Hyssop. She was eminent for her family and her wealth, and had fled away to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude, and was with them besieged therein at this time. The other effects of this woman had been already seized upon, such I mean as she had brought with her out of Perea, and removed to the city. What she had treasured up besides, as also what food she had contrived to save, had been also carried off by the rapacious guards, who came every day running into her house for that purpose. This put the poor woman into a very great passion, and by the frequent reproaches and imprecations she cast at these rapacious villains, she had provoked them to anger against her; but none of them, either out of the indignation she had raised against herself, or out of commiseration of her case, would take away her life; and if she found any food, she perceived her labors were for others, and not for herself; and it was now become impossible for her any way to find any more food, while the famine pierced through her very bowels and marrow, when also her passion was fired to a degree beyond the famine itself; nor did she consult with any thing but with her passion and the necessity she was in. She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said, "O thou miserable infant! for whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition? As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves. This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us. Yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets, and a by-word to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews." As soon as she had said this, she slew her son, and then roasted him, and eat the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon this the seditious came in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them, and withal uncovered what was left of her son. Hereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight, when she said to them, "This is mine own son, and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous, and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also." After which those men went out trembling, being never so much affrighted at any thing as they were at this, and with some difficulty they left the rest of that meat to the mother. Upon which the whole city was full of this horrid action immediately; and while every body laid this miserable case before their own eyes, they trembled, as if this unheard of action had been done by themselves. So those that were thus distressed by the famine were very desirous to die, and those already dead were esteemed happy, because they had not lived long enough either to hear or to see such miseries.
5. This sad instance was quickly told to the Romans, some of whom could not believe it, and others pitied the distress which the Jews were under; but there were many of them who were hereby induced to a more bitter hatred than ordinary against our nation. But for Caesar, he excused himself before God as to this matter, and said that he had proposed peace and liberty to the Jews, as well as an oblivion of all their former insolent practices; but that they, instead of concord, had chosen sedition; instead of peace, war; and before satiety and abundance, a famine. That they had begun with their own hands to burn down that temple which we have preserved hitherto; and that therefore they deserved to eat such food as this was. That, however, this horrid action of eating an own child ought to be covered with the overthrow of their very country itself, and men ought not to leave such a city upon the habitable earth to be seen by the sun, wherein mothers are thus fed, although such food be fitter for the fathers than for the mothers to eat of, since it is they that continue still in a state of war against us, after they have undergone such miseries as these. And at the same time that he said this, he reflected on the desperate condition these men must be in; nor could he expect that such men could be recovered to sobriety of mind, after they had endured those very sufferings, for the avoiding whereof it only was probable they might have repented.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
From Simply Christian - N.T. Wright
When the first disciples were sent off by Jesus into the wider world to announce that he was Israel’s Messiah and hence the world’s true Lord, they knew that their message would make little or no sense to most of their hearers. It was an affront to Jewish people to tell them that Israel’s Messiah had arrived—and that the Romans had crucified him at least in part because the Jewish leaders hadn’t wanted to accept him! It was sheer madness, something to provoke sniggers or worse, to tell non-Jews that there was a single true God who was calling the whole world to account through a man whom he had sent and whom he had raised from the dead. And yet the early Christians discovered that telling this story carried a power which they regularly associated with the Spirit, but which they often referred to simply as “the word.” Note these references from Acts: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke God’s word with boldness.” “The word of God continued to spread.” “The word of God continued to advance and gain adherents.” “The word of God grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 4:31; 6:7; 12:24; 19:20).
Paul spoke this way, too. “When you received the word of God from us,” he wrote, “you accepted it not as a human word, but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.” This is “the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you…bearing fruit and growing in the whole world” (1 Thessalonians 2:13; Colossians 1:5–6). This last passage gives us another hint that the word is old as well as new: the phrase “bearing fruit and growing” is a direct allusion to the language of the first creation, of Genesis 1. “By the word of YHWH were the heavens made,” sang the Psalmist, “and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6). Yes, replied the early Christians, and this same word is now at work through the good news, the “gospel,” the message that declares Jesus as the risen Lord. “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart; because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:8–9). In other words, when you announce the good news that the risen Jesus is Lord, that very word is the word of God, a carrier or agent of God’s Spirit, a means by which, as Isaiah had predicted, new life from God’s dimension comes to bring new creation within ours (Isaiah 40:8; 55:10–13).
So, finally, with wisdom as well. Wisdom (personified) was already thought of within Judaism as God’s agent in creation, the one through whom the world was made. John, Paul, and the Letter to the Hebrews all draw on this idea to speak of Jesus himself as the one through whom God made the world. But it doesn’t stop there. Paul, like the book of Proverbs, goes on to speak of this wisdom (no longer personified) being accessible to humans through the power of God’s Spirit. As in Proverbs, part of the point about wisdom is that it’s what you need in order to live a fully, genuinely human life. It is not, he says, a wisdom “of this age”—that is, of the present world and the way this world sees things. It doesn’t conform to the kind of wisdom the rulers of the present world like to acknowledge. Instead, “we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7). God has given us access to a new kind of wisdom, through the Spirit.
All God’s treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in the Messiah himself. This means that those who belong to the Messiah have this wisdom accessible to them, and hence the chance to grow toward mature human and Christian living: “It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in the Messiah” (Colossians 1:28; 2:2–3). At this point, too, those in whom the Spirit dwells are called to be people who live at, and by, the intersection of heaven and earth.
Please note: only those who subscribe to Option Two could ever think of someone being “so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use.” For Option Three, the way to be truly of use on this earth is to be genuinely heavenly minded—and to live as one of the places where, and the means by which, heaven and earth overlap.
That’s how the church is to carry forward the work of Jesus. The book of Acts says that in the previous book (referring back to the author’s earlier volume—that is, the Gospel of Luke) the writer had described “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” The implication is clear: that the story of the church, led and energized by the power of the Spirit, is the story of Jesus continuing to do and to teach—through his Spirit-led people. Once more, that’s why we pray that God’s kingdom will come, and his will will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The key to the Master’s orders
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest. --- Matthew 9:38.
The key to the missionary problem is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer, not work, that is, not work as the word is popularly understood to-day, because that may mean the evasion of concentration on God. The key to the missionary problem is not the key of common sense, nor the medical key, nor the key of civilization or education or even evangelization. The key is prayer. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest.” Naturally, prayer is not practical, it is absurd; we have to realize that prayer is stupid from the ordinary commonsense point of view.
There are no nations in Jesus Christ’s outlook, but the world. How many of us pray without respect of persons, and with respect to only one Person, Jesus Christ? He owns the harvest that is produced by distress and conviction of sin, and this is the harvest we have to pray that labourers may be thrust out to reap. We are taken up with active work while people all round are ripe to harvest, and we do not reap one of them, but waste our Lord’s time in over-energized activities. Suppose the crisis comes in your father’s life, in your brother’s life, are you there as a labourer to reap the harvest for Jesus Christ? ‘Oh, but I have a special work to do!’ No Christian has a special work to do. A Christian is called to be Jesus Christ’s own, one who is not above his Master, one who does not dictate to Jesus Christ what he intends to do. Our Lord calls to no special work: He calls to Himself. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest,” and He will engineer circumstances and thrust you out.
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Did you notice the farm on the hill side
A bit larger than the others, a bit more hay
In the Dutch barn, four cows instead of two?
Prosperity is a sign of divine favour:
Whoever saw the righteous forsaken
Or his seed begging their bread? It even entitles
A chapel deacon to a tame pastor.
There were people here before these,
Measuring truth according to the moor's
Pitiless commentary and the wind's veto.
Out in the moor there is a bone whitening,
Worn smooth by the long dialectic
Of rain and sunlight. What has that to do
With choosing a minister? Nothing, nothing.
Thick darkness is about us, we cannot see
The future, nor the thin face
Of him whom necessity will bring
To this lean oasis at the moor's rim,
The marginal land where flesh meets spirit
Only on Sundays and the days between
Are mortgaged, mortgaged, mortgaged,
But we can see the faces of the men
Grouped together under the one lamp,
Waiting for the name to be born to them
Out of time's heaving thighs.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Abraham, Maimonides’ model of pre-Mosaic man, illustrates a relationship of man to God that is not grounded in Halakhah. Maimonides, who claimed that talmudic Aggadah reflects the philosophical tradition in Judaism, utilizes Aggadah for his understanding of Abraham.
The Bible introduces Abraham at the age of seventy-five and is silent about his activities prior to his calling. Maimonides appeals to the aggadic picture of Abraham which fills the gaps. Maimonides accepts the view that Abraham discovered God when he was forty years old and not when he was three. Maimonides ascribes Abraham’s discovery of God to Abraham’s relentless attempts to understand the nature and origin of celestial movements.
Abraham rejected the teachings of his father and his environment solely on the convictions which he gained through reason. He is able to stand alone against the ethos of his generation because of the certainty he possessed from discovering demonstrative truth:
For when something has been demonstrated, the correctness of the matter is not increased and certainty regarding it is not strengthened by the consensus of all men of knowledge with regard to it. Nor could its correctness be diminished and certainty regarding it be weakened even if all the people on earth disagreed with it.
Reason not only provides Abraham with demonstrative knowledge of God but is also the source of his attack on idol-worship. Maimonides does not quote a biblical text to indicate that Abraham’s missionary activity is the result of a divine command; rather, Maimonides writes, “having attained this knowledge he began to refute the inhabitants of Ur of the Chaldees.” The midrashic picture of Abraham provides Maimonides with an archetype of how the tradition understood reason’s way to God. By reflecting on nature one comes to realize that without recognizing God as the source of existence, the universe is unintelligible. Equally crucial is that aggadic man feels compelled to challenge an idolatrous world. Abraham recognized the factor of human alienation in transforming the idol- and star-worshiper into a pagan:
He realized that the whole world was in error, and that what had occasioned their error was that they worshiped the stars and the images, so that the truth perished from their minds.
Abraham’s arguments againts idol-worship are intelligible to those who are made to understand the process of alienation, i.e., that “the multitude grasp only the actions of worship, not their meanings or the true reality of the Being worshiped through them.”
Although intermediary worship, as distinct from belief in God’s corporeality, is compatible with truth, it is not compatible with one’s responsibility to safeguard belief in God within the broader community. Abraham appeals to this sense of responsibility toward community in his confrontation with the wise men of his generation:
He broke the images and commenced to instruct the people that it was not right to serve anyone but the God of the Universe to whom alone it was proper to bow down, offer up sacrifices and make libations, so that all human creatures might, in the future, know Him; and that it was proper to destroy and shatter all the images, so that the people might not err like these who thought that there was no God but these images.
Maimonides selects only one biblical text in his treatment of Abraham, “And invoked there the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). This text shows how man is driven to act on God’s behalf without having to appeal to God’s legislative authority. This is the paradigm text of aggadic man. This way of reasoning, including a concern for both thought and action, is the basis for Maimonides’ description of the community forged by the patriarchs as “a people that knew God.” The community of the patriarchs, embodying the way of Abraham, is organized around the knowledge of God provided by reason. Maimonides knew of other views in the tradition which presented the patriarchs as observing the laws of the Torah. The model of God as legislative authority, however, is completely absent from Maimonides’ description of the patriarchs. The patriarchs are, for Maimonides, models of the aggadic personality to which he refers in his halakhic works.
Given the emergence of the Abrahamic way to God, what factors could explain the appearance in history of Moses and the legislative model of God?
When the Israelites had stayed a long while in Egypt, they relapsed, learned the practices of their neighbors, and, like them, worshiped idols, with the exception of the tribe of Levi, which steadfastly kept the charge of the Patriarch. This tribe of Levi never practiced idolatry. The doctrine implanted by Abraham, would in a very short time, have bean uprooted, and Jacob’s descendants would have relapsed into the error and perversities universally prevalent. But because of God’s love for us and because He kept the oath made to our ancestor Abraham, He appointed Moses to be our teacher and the teacher of all the Prophets, and charged him with his mission. After Moses had begun to exercise his Prophetic functions and Israel had been chosen by the Almighty as His heritage, he crowned them with precepts, and showed them the way to worship Him, and how to deal with idolatry and with those who go astray after it.
Abraham’s community, based exclusively on knowledge of God, could not sustain its belief in God within a broader society which was idolatrous and pagan. The experience of the Israelites in Egypt revealed the inadequacy of sustaining a community solely on the basis of knowledge. Maimonides points to an actual—but not a necessary—process in history which created the need for Torah. He specifically notes that the tribe of Levi was able to withstand the influences of their environment. Singular individuals can remain steadfast in their loyalty to God through Aggadah. However the community which is composed of a variety of people—not all of whom are scholars—cannot sustain its allegiance to God if it is not supported by a total way of life. Abraham instituted worship of God based upon knowledge. Moses was compelled to promulgate laws whose actualization reinforces and sustains this belief: “… He crowned them with precepts and showed them the way to worship Him.…”
God appointed Moses the legislative teacher of Israel. The mode of discourse changes correspondingly. Where Abraham appeals to reason and offers convincing arguments, Moses appeals to divine authority and legislates a comprehensive way of life. Abraham rejects practices which can lead to the forgetting of God, Moses introduces practices which support and reinforce the belief in God.
Our analysis. of Maimonides’ introduction to the laws of idolatry now puts us in a better position to understand both his model of pre-Mosaic man and how the way of Aggadah leads to the way of Halakhah. If we are correct in claiming that integration is the model according to which one should understand Maimonides, we should also discover an account of how Halakhah is enhanced by Aggadah.
After describing laws dealing with the prohibitions against divination, astrology, magic, and necromancy, Maimonides writes in the Laws of Idolatry:
These practices are all false and deceptive, and were means employed by the ancient idolaters to deceive the peoples of various countries and induce them to become their followers. It is not proper for Israelites who are highly intelligent to suffer themselves to be deluded by such inanities or imagine that there is anything in them, as it is said, “Lo, there is no augury in Jacob, no divining in Israel” (Num. 23:23); and further, “These nations that you are about to dispossess do indeed resort to soothsayers and augurs; to you, however, the Lord your God has not assigned the like” (Deut. 18:14). Whoever believes in these and similar things, and in his heart, holds them to be true and scientific and only forbidden by the Torah, is nothing but a fool, deficient in understanding, who belongs to the same class with women and children whose intellects are immature. Sensible people, however, who possess sound mental faculties, know by clear proofs that all these practices which the Torah prohibited have no scientific basis but are chimerical and inane; and that only those deficient in knowledge are attracted by these follies and, for their sake, leave the ways of truth. The Torah, therefore, in forbidding all these follies, exhorts us, “You must be wholehearted with the Lord your God” (Deut. 18:13).
In this short but powerful statement Maimonides presents two approaches to the observance of the law. The approach of those who are ignorant of science is to obey the law exclusively because of divine authority. This attitude is similar to that previously discussed—the approach of those who accept aggadic statements as true even though those statements conflict with what could be observed in nature: Obedience to authority enables one to live by a tradition which has no connection with the structure of nature. Maimonides rejects this approach to Halakhah for the same reason that he rejects a literalist approach to Aggadah. Commitment to Torah is wholehearted only if the individual understands the laws and teachings of the Torah from a rational perspective. Although the model of the legal authority of God is introduced by Moses, and the Jew is now called upon to obey God’s commandments, one must not think that obedience unsupported by reason’s understanding of nature is a new path to God. Commandments and truth form a unity, if one understands that Moses consummates—without altering—the way of Abraham.
The unification of Aggadah and Halakhah by Maimonides is an attempt to protect the tradition from the risks involved in separating the one from the other. Aggadah divorced from Halakhah cannot sustain a community in history. Halakhah organizes the community and thus enables its members to withstand the influences of competing ways of life. The mind’s understanding of God gains living expression in the norms which structure one’s daily activities. Halakhah continuously sets God before the individual:
A person should pay heed to the precept of the mezuzah; for it is an obligation perpetually binding upon all. Whenever one enters or leaves a home with the mezuzah on the doorpost he will be confronted with the declaration of God’s unity, blessed be His holy name; and will remember the love due to God, and will be aroused from his slumbers and his foolish absorption in temporal vanities. He will realize that nothing endures to all eternity save knowledge of the Ruler of the Universe. This thought will immediately restore him to his right senses and he will walk in the paths of righteousness. Our ancient teachers said: He who has phylacteries on his head and arm, fringes on his garment, and a mezuzah on his door may be presumed not to sin, for he has many monitors—angels that save him from sinning, as it is said (Ps. 34:8): “The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him, and delivers them.”
Halakhah provides concrete symbols which remind a person of his ultimate task: to know God. Halakhah prevents the individual from becoming totally absorbed in the demands of economic and political survival. It provides, within the everyday framework, a means by which to achieve spiritual transcendence beyond the dehumanizing effect of mundane routines.
However, the minute symbolic details of Halakhah present a risk as well. The risk of a religious, legal tradition is that man may focus on what one must or must not do, and forget or misunderstand for whom these actions are performed. Maimonides cannot tolerate the possible separation of Halakhah from God; the law must express the relationship of a man with God. He cannot overlook the person who observes the law yet conceives of God in corporeal terms. To Maimonides, to believe that God is corporeal is to believe in that which does not exist. Maimonides can accept imperfect motives in one’s performance of commandments—but he will not tolerate belief in God’s corporeality. Such a belief makes the halakhic mode a monologue—not a dialogue.
The Mishneh Torah begins with four chapters dealing with norms which cannot be separated from the understanding of God as He is revealed in nature. The existence, unity, and non-corporeality of God are presented as the content of norms even though they are demonstrative truths. One is wholehearted in fulfilling these norms only when he understands, through his own intellect, that God exists—is one and is non-corporeal. By beginning the Mishneh Torah in this way the halakhic Jew is forced to perceive God’s reality as extending beyond the structure of the law.
Halakhah is a means to serve God. Maimonides, who is so sensitive to the problem of alienation, as is revealed in his treatment of the origins of paganism, is equally aware of the possibilities of alienation within Halakhah itself. In his “Treatise on Resurrection,” he explains why he dealt with matters of belief in his legal works. He was aware that one could become enamored and totally preoccupied with details of Halakhah at the expense of knowledge of God. His concern with the fundamental principles of Judaism in his legal works, and his insistence upon a correct conception of God in the Mishneh Torah, are not the result of philosophical intellectualism. ( Philosophies of Judaism ) They are based, rather, on a fear that a student of Halakhah can become an expert in legal matters and a pagan in matters of belief. The aggadic themes briefly discussed in the legal works are addressed to legal students in the hope that their passion for law will lead to a passion for God.
Thus far, we have argued against the alleged schism between Maimonides’ philosophic and halakhic writings. There still remains the explanation of how the studies of nature and metaphysics alter the practices of the halakhic Jew. The talmudic student of Maimonides will have followed his guidance well by studying both the written and oral law and then devoting most of his time to Talmud, a study which includes pardes, i.e., physics and metaphysics.
Insofar as we are dealing with a spiritual outlook, we must expect that such cognitive development will alter one’s perception of self, nature, history, and God. Philosophy, to Maimonides, not only points to the contemplative ideal, but also suggests a method of changing the religious attitudes and perspectives of a person. This leads directly to an exploration of the ḥasid.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
For your sakes he became poor. --- 2 Corinthians 8:9.
Christ humbled himself in his birth. Samuel Willard, “Christ Humbled Himself,” preached May 12, 1696, the second in a series of twelve sermons on this question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism; downloaded from Fire and Ice, Puritan and Reformed Writings, at www.puritansermons.com, accessed Aug. 21, 2001. The humiliation of the birth of Christ consists mainly in its humble state. There were indeed notable flashes of his glory attending his birth by which God testified that he was the Messiah. But his birth itself was accompanied with an awe-inspiring humility, as he abased himself through it. He was born for us, and so he was born in a condition appropriate to our need. He showed in his birth what sin had made us. There are a few things we may take notice of as properly belonging to his humiliation:
1. He was born under a sentence of condemnation. As soon as he put on our nature, he stood under the doom of the Law. He was born to die and was adjudged by it as soon as he was human. We are all born children of wrath in our natural state, and he put himself in our place, and therefore came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17), and this is the main article of it. He intended to be made a sacrifice; God prepared him a body for this (Heb. 12:5). Justice took hold on him as soon as he came into the world and did not discharge him until it had taken its satisfaction of him, and he lived in view of it all his days and spoke of it frequently.
2. He was born of a sinful woman. It was a particular condescension of the Son of God to be born of any of Adam’s sinful children. True honor in God’s account consists in holiness, and sin is to him the vilest disgrace. Original sin in Christ’s mother had made her more contemptible and ignoble than anything else could; had she been an empress, it would yet have been to Christ a degrading of himself to derive his humanity from her. As it is a disgrace to have a traitor as one’s father, so it is no less to have a sinner for one’s mother. Thus Christ, though without sin, would be intimately related to sinners, for whose sake he came into the world.
3. Joseph and Mary were very poor and wretched. Mary was his true mother, as really as any other mother is the mother of her children. And Joseph, though not really his father, was commonly accepted so, and the honor or contempt of his father’s condition reflected on him. They were indeed descendants of King David, but they were reduced to an inferior condition, little to be regarded among rich and wealthy neighbors. Joseph was a carpenter, a laborious calling that was not very profitable.
--- Samuel Willard
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
It is a mistake to nail the English Reformation just to the door of King Henry VIII. While Henry broke relations with Rome, he still believed Catholic doctrine. He just wanted Catholicism without the pope. The real English Reformation is better credited to a scholar at Cambridge University named Thomas Bilney who embraced Reformation truth after reading Erasmus’s Greek New Testament. Bilney gathered a group at White Horse Inn for secret Bible study and prayer. He was eventually found out, and he perished in the flames at Norwich on August 19, 1531—but not before influencing Hugh Latimer, a spiritual giant who is known as the “Apostle to the English.”
Latimer had bitterly opposed the Reformation; but Bilney, hearing him preach a scathing sermon at Cambridge against Lutheranism, sought him out and succeeded in persuading him otherwise. Soon Latimer was preaching the faith he had once labored to destroy. As a result, he fell from favor during Henry’s reign and spent time in the Tower of London. When Edward VI came to the throne, Latimer was released for ministry; but when Edward died, Latimer was among those caught and condemned by officials of Queen Mary. On October 16, 1555 he and Nicholas Ridley were tied back-to-back to the stake in Oxford and set aflame. “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley,” Latimer cried. “Play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
And the flames leaped up, but the blinding smoke
Could not the soul of Hugh Latimer choke;
For, said he, “Brother Ridley, be of good cheer,
A candle in England is lighted here,
Which by the grace of God shall never go out!”—
And that speech in whispers was echoed about—
Latimer’s Light shall never go out,
However the winds may blow it about.
Latimer’s Light can come to stay
Till the trump of a coming judging day.*
So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won’t get discouraged and give up.
--- Hebrews 12:3.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 16
“Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine.” --- John 21:12.
In these words the believer is invited to a holy nearness to Jesus. “Come and dine,” implies the same table, the same meat; aye, and sometimes it means to sit side by side, and lean our head upon the Saviour’s bosom. It is being brought into the banqueting-house, where waves the banner of redeeming love. “Come and dine,” gives us a vision of union with Jesus, because the only food that we can feast upon when we dine with Jesus is himself. Oh, what union is this! It is a depth which reason cannot fathom, that we thus feed upon Jesus. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” It is also an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints. Christians may differ on a variety of points, but they have all one spiritual appetite; and if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven. At the table of fellowship with Jesus we are one bread and one cup. As the loving cup goes round we pledge one another heartily therein. Get nearer to Jesus, and you will find yourself linked more and more in spirit to all who are like yourself, supported by the same heavenly manna. If we were more near to Jesus we should be more near to one another. We likewise see in these words the source of strength for every Christian. To look at Christ is to live, but for strength to serve him you must “come and dine.” We labour under much unnecessary weakness on account of neglecting this percept of the Master. We none of us need to put ourselves on low diet; on the contrary, we should fatten on the marrow and fatness of the Gospel that we may accumulate strength therein, and urge every power to its full tension in the Master’s service. Thus, then, if you would realize nearness to Jesus, union with Jesus, love to his people and strength from Jesus, “come and dine” with him by faith.
Evening - October 16
“With thee is the fountain of life.” --- Psalm 36:9.
There are times in our spiritual experience when human counsel or sympathy, or religious ordinances, fail to comfort or help us. Why does our gracious God permit this? Perhaps it is because we have been living too much without him, and he therefore takes away everything upon which we have been in the habit of depending, that he may drive us to himself. It is a blessed thing to live at the fountain head. While our skin- bottles are full, we are content, like Hagar and Ishmael, to go into the wilderness; but when those are dry, nothing will serve us but “Thou God seest me.” We are like the prodigal, we love the swine-troughs and forget our Father’s house. Remember, we can make swine-troughs and husks even out of the forms of religion; they are blessed things, but we may put them in God’s place, and then they are of no value. Anything becomes an idol when it keeps us away from God: even the brazen serpent is to be despised as “Nehushtan,” if we worship it instead of God. The prodigal was never safer than when he was driven to his father’s bosom, because he could find sustenance nowhere else. Our Lord favours us with a famine in the land that it may make us seek after himself the more. The best position for a Christian is living wholly and directly on God’s grace—still abiding where he stood at first—“Having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Let us never for a moment think that our standing is in our sanctification, our mortification, our graces, or our feelings, but know that because Christ offered a full atonement, therefore we are saved; for we are complete in him. Having nothing of our own to trust to, but resting upon the merits of Jesus—his passion and holy life furnish us with the only sure ground of confidence. Beloved, when we are brought to a thirsting condition, we are sure to turn to the fountain of life with eagerness.
Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
MUST JESUS BEAR THE CROSS ALONE?
Thomas Shepherd, 1665–1739
Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)
The scriptural qualifications for discipleship are very clear: Self-denial and a resolve to bear a cross of consecration for the sake of the Gospel. Each true follower of Christ will have a cross to bear at various times throughout life. The cross is the badge that identifies us as a worthy representative and servant of our Master. For some, the cross might be a physical weakness; for others it could be an unachieved goal, a discouraging situation, or a concern for a loved one. Whatever it may be, the way we bear our individual cross can in itself be a testimony to the power of the Gospel as well as a source of encouragement to weaker Christians.
The text for this hymn was the work of several different authors through the centuries. Thomas Shepherd, a 17th century English dissenter preacher, published a volume of poems in 1693 titled Penitential Cries. At least the first stanza with some possible alterations is believed to have come from that volume. One of the original stanzas from this work reads as follows:
Shall Simon bear the Cross alone, and other Saints be free?
Each Saint of Thine shall find his own— And there is one for me.
George Nelson Allen, music teacher at Oberlin College, collected the verses and composed the music for the text in 1844 for inclusion in his collection, Oberlin Social and Sabbath School Hymn Book. “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?” has since challenged Christians in their commitment to Christ and His service with the realization that an earthly cross always precedes the heavenly crown.
Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for ev’ry one, and there’s a cross for me.
The consecrated cross I’ll bear till death shall set me free, and then go home my crown to wear, for there’s a crown for me.
How happy are the saints above, who once went sorrowing here! But now they taste unmingled love, and joy without a tear.
O precious cross! O glorious crown! O resurrection day! Ye angels, from the stars come down and bear my soul away.
For Today: Matthew 16:24–27; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:21–24
Reflect on the example of our Lord, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame …” (Hebrews 12:2). Relate this to the cross you may be bearing. Carry this musical truth with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Monday, October 16, 2017 | After Pentecost
Proper 23, Monday
Psalms (Morning) Psalm 1, 2, 3
Psalms (Evening) Psalm 4, 7
Old Testament Jeremiah 36:11–26
New Testament (1 Corinthians 13:1–3) 4–13
Gospel Matthew 10:5–15
Index of Readings
Psalm 1, 2, 3
1 Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
1 Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the LORD has them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
with trembling 12 kiss his feet,
or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Happy are all who take refuge in him.
A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.
1 O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying to me,
“There is no help for you in God.” Selah
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
4 I cry aloud to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah
5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.
6 I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Rise up, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Deliverance belongs to the LORD;
may your blessing be on your people! Selah
Psalm 4, 7
To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the LORD has set apart the faithful for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.
4 When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.
6 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O LORD!”
7 You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound.
8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety.
A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning Cush, a Benjaminite.
1 O LORD my God, in you I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me,
2 or like a lion they will tear me apart;
they will drag me away, with no one to rescue.
3 O LORD my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
4 if I have repaid my ally with harm
or plundered my foe without cause,
5 then let the enemy pursue and overtake me,
trample my life to the ground,
and lay my soul in the dust. Selah
6 Rise up, O LORD, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake, O my God; you have appointed a judgment.
7 Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered around you,
and over it take your seat on high.
8 The LORD judges the peoples;
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
9 O let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
but establish the righteous,
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God.
10 God is my shield,
who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
and a God who has indignation every day.
12 If one does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and strung his bow;
13 he has prepared his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
14 See how they conceive evil,
and are pregnant with mischief,
and bring forth lies.
15 They make a pit, digging it out,
and fall into the hole that they have made.
16 Their mischief returns upon their own heads,
and on their own heads their violence descends.
17 I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness,
and sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
11 When Micaiah son of Gemariah son of Shaphan heard all the words of the LORD from the scroll, 12 he went down to the king’s house, into the secretary’s chamber; and all the officials were sitting there: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah son of Shemaiah, Elnathan son of Achbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah, and all the officials. 13 And Micaiah told them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the scroll in the hearing of the people. 14 Then all the officials sent Jehudi son of Nethaniah son of Shelemiah son of Cushi to say to Baruch, “Bring the scroll that you read in the hearing of the people, and come.” So Baruch son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand and came to them. 15 And they said to him, “Sit down and read it to us.” So Baruch read it to them. 16 When they heard all the words, they turned to one another in alarm, and said to Baruch, “We certainly must report all these words to the king.” 17 Then they questioned Baruch, ‘Tell us now, how did you write all these words? Was it at his dictation?” 18 Baruch answered them, “He dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them with ink on the scroll.” 19 Then the officials said to Baruch, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.”
20 Leaving the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, they went to the court of the king; and they reported all the words to the king. 21 Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary; and Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. 22 Now the king was sitting in his winter apartment (it was the ninth month), and there was a fire burning in the brazier before him. 23 As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a penknife and throw them into the fire in the brazier, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. 24 Yet neither the king, nor any of his servants who heard all these words, was alarmed, nor did they tear their garments. 25 Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. 26 And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son and Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest the secretary Baruch and the prophet Jeremiah. But the LORD hid them.
(1 Corinthians 13:1–3) 4–13
[ 13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. ]
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church