Colossians 1 - 4
GreetingColossians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Paul addresses the false teaching at Colosse. Phrygia, the region in south central Asia Minor where Colosse was located, is an area with a peculiar religious history. In ancient times, the region had given birth to the worship of the goddess Cybele, whose cult (renewed during the Roman era) was characterized by ritual cleansing in the blood of a bull, ecstatic states, prophetic rapture, and inspired dancing. In the latter half of the second century A.D., Phrygia became the center of a distorted version of Christianity known as Montanism, a teaching that prized ecstatic and apocalyptic prophecy, freedom from the responsibilities of daily life, and rigorous fasts and penances for ritual purity.
Within a few years of the inception of Christianity among these Phrygians, Epaphras and Paul found that an appetite had emerged for something more than the crucified and risen Christ. It is notoriously difficult to reconstruct the false teaching to which Paul was responding because the letter is less a critique of error than a positive statement of the sufficiency of the person and work of Christ. However, certain features of the false teaching do surface.
It claimed to be a “philosophy” (2:8), a term that often in the Hellenistic age referred not to rational inquiry, but to occult speculations and practices based on a body of tradition.
The teaching appears to have been largely Jewish, as evidenced by the value placed on legal ordinances, food regulations, Sabbath and New Moon observance, and other prescriptions of the Jewish calendar (2:16). Though circumcision is mentioned, it was not necessarily seen as one of the legal requirements (2:11).
The role of angelic spirits was also an important element in this teaching. Three key factors point to this. There is stress on Christ’s superiority to and victory over “dominions” and “powers” (1:16; 2:10, 15).
The phrase “basic principles of the world” (2:8, 20; cf. Gal. 4:3) also points to angelic beings. An old and popular line of interpretation views Paul arguing against the “basic principle” that life with God comes through works-righteousness. However, the letter’s implied competition between Christ and spirit-beings suggests a more transcendent and sinister background. The Greek word translated “basic principles” was used in this time period to refer to gods of stars and planets, and even to the physical elements (earth, wind, fire, and water) that were thought to control the destiny of men and women. The Phrygian god Cybele and her lover Attis were transformed at some time by popular pagan piety into astral and cosmic powers.
Along this line, even some Jewish thinking merged the angels with astral powers who protect the planets. Moreover, intertestamental Jewish literature envisioned Israel caught between two kingdoms, one good and one evil, that both claimed allegiance. The victory of the good and the overthrow of the evil power was understood to be promised if Israel repented, obeyed fully, and kept the Sabbath perfectly. The Colossians appear to have come under the influence of a combination of Jewish and pagan piety presenting itself as a philosophical system and encouraging submission to these occult astral or cosmic powers.
The role of angels in the Colossian error is evident in the phrase “worship of angels” (2:18). Early Christians knew that there were angels who had been agents at creation and in the giving of the law (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2). The false teaching in Colosse had confused the limited and legitimate role of angels as “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14), with the larger role attributed to angels in some parts of Judaism, not to mention the astral powers of the Gentiles. As a means of overcoming fear of these astral or cosmic powers, and under the guise of revelations which so-called “philosophers” received in ecstatic states, the Colossians were being urged to become ascetics and to worship angels. ESV Reformation Study Bible
Thanksgiving and Prayer3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we 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. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
Col. 1:13. At first glance, the passage apparently teaches that believers are already translated de facto into the Basileia; it may however legitimately be regarded as teaching a de jure translation. Not only does this interpretation bring the passage into harmony with the great mass of Scripture, but it seems to be required by the immediately preceding and succeeding contexts; believers are not yet delivered de facto from the exousia of Satan (Eph. 6:12), nor have they yet received de facto, certainly not in completeness, the apolytrōsis (comp. Luke 21:28; Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14; 4:30).
E.R. Craven“Excursus on the Basileia,” in Revelation of John, J. P. Lange (New York: Scribner, 1874), 97.
14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The Preeminence of Christ15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Paul’s Ministry to the Church24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now 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 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Colossians 2Colossians 2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
Alive in Christ6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk 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 by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
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 Christ
Let No One Disqualify You16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Put On the New SelfColossians 3:1 If then 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 appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on 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 one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts 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 Households18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
Colossians 4Colossians 4:1 Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Further Instructions2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Final Greetings7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and 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. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow 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, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
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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.Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, Volume 11: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Calvin's New Testament Commentaries Series Volume 11) (Vol 11)
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.Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, Volume 11: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Calvin's New Testament Commentaries Series Volume 11) (Vol 11)
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.Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, Volume 11: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Calvin's New Testament Commentaries Series Volume 11) (Vol 11)
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.Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, Volume 11: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Calvin's New Testament Commentaries Series Volume 11) (Vol 11)
Archaeological Discovery Is Nightmare for Devout Muslims
By Ben Marquis 12/09/2017
There has been a lot of talk about Jerusalem in recent days, following President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as the true capital of Israel. This decision has reignited the debate over which major religious faith lays a true claim to the ancient city — Jews, Christians or Muslims.
Obviously those of the Judaic faith hold the longest claim to the city, followed by Christians and then Muslims. Nonetheless, many modern-day Muslims lay claim to the entirety of the city and deny any Jewish or Christian ties to the important holy sites in the area, or their own Islamic faith for that matter.
Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch has argued that the Islamic faith did not arise entirely on its own as a separate entity, but instead began as a sort of amalgamation of the various religions prominent in the Middle East in the 7th and 8th centuries — namely Judaism and Christianity — only assembling their own distinct doctrine later.
A recent archaeological find in Israel may lend some credence to that theory, or at least point to the fact that Muslims and Jews weren’t always the bitter enemies they would seem to be today.
The Jerusalem Post reported on the discovery during an archaeological dig of ancient Islamic coins dated back some 1,300 years, shortly after the dawn of the Islamic faith during the Umayyad dynasty. The coins prominently feature a rather Judaic symbol — the menorah.
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Read The Psalms In "1" Year
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
The Holy Bible: ESV Reformation Study Bible, Condensed Edition (2017) - Black, Genuine Leather. (2016). (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
U.S. Department Of Justice Finally Starts Investigating Planned Parenthood
By Nicole Russell 12/11/2017
At least two years after the Center for Medical Progress released explosive undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood (PP) profited from aborted baby part harvesting, the Department of Justice has finally announced they will investigate PP.
The videos prompted an investigation by the House Oversight Committee, which found, among other things, that PP did not need federal funding. Following that, the Senate Judiciary investigated PP and issued a report, “Human Fetal Tissue Research: Context and Controversy” published last December. Its summary says, “The activities of those involved, in the fetal tissue transfer industry potentially implicate a number of federal laws.”
Following that, committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told the FBI it should investigate PP: “The report documents the failure of the Department of Justice, across multiple administrations, to enforce the law that bans the buying and selling of human fetal tissue. It also documents substantial evidence suggesting that the specific entities involved in the recent controversy, and/or individuals employed by those entities, may have violated that law.”
Now, Fox News reports that Justice Department Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd has requested unredacted documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee, “in order to further the Department’s ability to conduct a thorough and comprehensive assessment of that report based on the full range of information available.”
Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden said in a statement, “Over two years ago, citizen journalists at The Center for Medical Progress first caught Planned Parenthood’s top abortion doctors in a series of undercover videos callously and flippantly negotiating the sale of tiny baby hearts, lungs, livers, and brains. Since then, two Congressional investigations found even deeper wrongdoing and confirmed that Planned Parenthood Federation of America, several of their biggest affiliates, and multiple business partners broke the law in a profit-driven scheme to commodify dismembered baby body parts. It is time for public officials to finally hold Planned Parenthood and their criminal abortion enterprise accountable under the law.”
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The True Meaning of Hanukkah
By Amir Tsarfati | 12-09-2020
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a holiday based on the story and tradition of the Jewish people’s defeat of the Seleucid Empire (Syrian-Greeks) in the Holy Land. In the 2nd century BC (165), a small army of Jews called the Maccabees staged a rebellion against the Seleucids during their attempts to Hellenize the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
Under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, the targeting of the Jewish people was magnified. He used the priesthood to implement his agenda by appointing his own high priest. He even used the funds from the Temple treasury to support his military pursuit concerning Egypt. And in his more severe attempts of Jewish persecution, he stole items like the menorah from the Temple and even placed an idol of Zeus inside. He believed that he himself was Zeus-manifest. But perhaps his most notorious act was when he desecrated the Temple by slaughtering a pig on the altar.
The Maccabean Revolt commenced in 167 BC following a decree from Antiochus IV that ended Jewish religious practice, which led to a Jewish priest named Mattathias killing a Hellenized Jew who made sacrifices to idols. He also killed the Greek official who enforced the sacrifice(s). He would die just one year later after fleeing to the mountains with his five sons, and it was his son, Judah Maccabee, who staged the rebellion mentioned above. After their eventual victory, the Maccabees would make their way into Jerusalem, rededicate the Temple, and install the youngest brother as high priest.
Interestingly enough, Judah’s nickname was “Maccabeus,” which is derived from the Hebrew word for “hammer” (מַקָּבָה).
The book of Daniel undoubtedly makes several mentions of Antiochus IV without mentioning him by name, and it’s commonly believed that both Antiochus and the Maccabees were in view when the angel Gabriel clued Daniel in on the future:
Daniel 11:31–32 (ESV) 31 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.
A Jewish tradition at the time was to light Chanukiah (Hanukkah Menorah) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem daily. As tradition tells, when the Maccabees liberated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a miracle occurred as only one day’s worth of oil for lighting the menorah lasted for eight days. Hence the tradition of eight days and nights. Each night during the holiday, one additional candle is lit commemorating and remembering the strength of the Jewish people and God’s deliverance from their enemies.
Hanukkah means “dedication” and refers to the rededication and liberation of the Promised People’s Holy Temple and center of worship to God. Modern festivities include eating of latkes, potatoes, pancakes, and donuts, as they are cooked in oil. Young children typically light the candles and sing traditional songs, playing with the “dreidel”, a spinning top with Hebrew letters with the acronym of “a great miracle happened there.” While the holiday is a minor holiday in Jewish tradition, in Israel, the holiday is a time of unity and ceremonies held throughout the nation.
A Deeper Look
John 10:22-23 records, (ESV) 22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. As a Jew, Jesus most certainly would have participated in the Feast of Dedication. The same courageous spirit of the Maccabees who remained faithful to God during intense persecution was passed on to Jesus’ disciples who would all face severe trials because of their faithfulness to Christ. And like the miracle of God’s presence expressed through the eternal flame of God burning for the Maccabees, Jesus became the incarnate, physical expression of God’s presence, the Light of the World who came to dwell among us and give us the eternal light of God’s life.
May we all remember the two most important things from this holiday:
Romans 12:1–2 (ESV) 12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Matthew 5:14–16 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Everyone Is a Churchman
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 9/01/2016
It is no surprise that a culture with a low view of theology would in turn have a low ecclesiology (doctrine of the church). The theos, after all, is rather tightly bound together with the ekklésia. Dismiss one and you will have a hard time not dismissing the other. If you have little interest in studying the person and work of the Groom, you will likely have little interest in studying, much less serving His bride. You need not study the Groom long to learn that He commands us to love His beloved.
Nathan Hatch proposed an interesting perspective on how, at least in America, we have come to such a low view of the church in his landmark work The Democratization of American Christianity. He observed a correlation between the spread of America into the Western frontier and the spread and growth of the church. In each instance, it seemed what was called for was a pioneering spirit and a willingness to embrace the practical, to leave aside niceties that had little to do with survival. As our forefathers moved west seeking more elbow room, the church likewise sought more elbow room. Unwilling to be bound by the traditions of Puritan New England, they, in and through the Great Awakening, took on new methods, new convictions, new liberties.
The literary heroes of the age — Natty Bumppo, Daniel Boone, even Huck Finn — embraced an ethic built on individual effort, courage, and drive, thereby shaping how we understand ourselves not just in the face of the Western wilderness, but in the spiritual wilderness. Lone wolves ceased to be something to fear and became something to aspire to. We began to forget that we are a we.
The Romantic spirit came across the pond and fit in quite well. Romanticism isn’t a worldview built on candlelit dinners or walks on the beach, but on the premise that institutions are the root of all evil, that man in his natural state is pure and clean. The telos (goal) of Romanticism is authenticity, spontaneity. I become what I am meant to be when I am most free of any restraints, when my emotions are my guiding star. I am what I feel. And I am an island.
The Bible, on the other hand, while profoundly concerned with the individual — the individual soul, the soul made right with God — never leaves us alone. Indeed, it warns us regularly of the danger of being a lone ranger. We have been brought into the assembly. We are a part of the body. We are, together, the bride of Jesus Christ. It is not good that man should be alone. We are a corpus, a body, a part of something much bigger than ourselves.
Our fathers in the faith understood this, and we have sought to forget. They understood that when they confessed together the Apostles’ Creed, they were doing something more than giving a personal confession of faith. They understood even that their local body was doing more than describing the bounds of its own confession.They understood that they were confessing the faith once for all given to the church, that they were standing in a stream that began well before them and that would continue long after them. When they sang the Psalms, they understood that they were doing more than merely singing what was safe, because it came from the Holy Spirit. Rather, they grasped that they were retelling their own family stories, indeed, that the whole of the Bible isn’t others’ history from which we might draw moral lessons, but rather it is our history from which we should draw our identity.
In like manner, our fathers understood that the Christian life is so much bigger than merely waiting for personal rescue. Their goal was not simply to protect and guard their own souls, but to hold fast to the faith, to tell their children and their children’s children of the great works of God in space and time.
In our day, we may know our Father in heaven, but we have forgotten our mother, the church.
Our Lord Jesus tells each of us that we must seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness. That kingdom is bigger than just me, bigger than just you. It is us, along with our fathers, our children, and as many as are afar off. It includes those whose musical tastes annoy us, whose weak theology frustrates us, whose sins shame us. We are called not just to identify with all those with whom we are in union, but to seek their good, to pursue their blessing. We are called to love them just as the One who has bound us together loves them. That doesn’t mean we’ll never disagree—it means we will disagree. Because that’s what fallen people who love each other do. That is one way that we are able to serve each other.
We have, each of us and all of us, been given the righteousness of Christ. Not one of us has earned it. Not one of us can keep it on his own. But we all together have been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. As such, our heavenly Father doesn’t just love me, but He loves you and every one of us even as He loves His only begotten Son. We have together the same Father. We have Him because we have together the same elder brother. And both of them call on us to love our common mother, blemishes and all, because she gave birth to us and because she nurtures us, cherishes us.
Our Father is perfect. Our mother is most assuredly not. But just as the Spirit is perfecting us, so is He perfecting our mother. Our calling is to love her, to honor her, to submit to her, that it might go well with us in the land He has given us.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Goodness of God
By Rev. Eric J. Alexander 9/01/2016
Many years ago, my wife and I were on our summer holiday. At church on Sunday morning, we met a friend whom we had known as a student. He was a bachelor, and we took him to lunch. As we talked, he confided in us that he had recently been diagnosed with a serious cancer. Before we parted, he told us that he had already made some tentative plans for the future. “If God is good,” he began, “I may be able to retire early, and live not far from here.” Unfortunately, he had to hurry away. All I had time to say to him as he left was, “Do remember that Romans 8:28 will always be true.” Afterward, the phrase which kept repeating in my mind was, “If God is good.” Four words, of which the first is the most significant.
I hope our friend did read Romans 8:28 before that day was done. We lost contact, but I do want to tell you what he might have discovered from that verse. It reads, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Let me first of all point out two things Paul is not saying. First, he is not saying that life is guaranteed to be trouble free for the Christian. Indeed, in verse 17 of this very chapter, he tells us that “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” is a condition of “sharing in his glory.” Second, Paul does not claim to know or understand all of God’s mysterious providences. “We know” in verse 28 sits comfortably in the same chapter with the disclaimer in verse 26: “We do not know what to pray for as we ought.” But we do know God, and we know that whatever He decrees or permits will be for our ultimate good and for His glory.
Now we can follow Paul as he elaborates the way God is at work in our lives.
First, God is personally at work for us. You must have heard the secular version of this conviction, which has absolutely nothing to do with God, the Bible, or Christianity. It is usually expressed like this: “Don’t worry; everything will work out alright, you’ll see.” That is human optimism, founded on nothing but wishful thinking. Paul’s conviction, on the other hand, is founded on the character of God as a loving Father who cares for us and on His personal government over every detail of our lives (see v. 32).
Second, God is ceaselessly at work for us. We know this from the tense of the verb Paul uses. It is the present tense, which implies an unceasing action. That means God is working out His purposes for us whether we are spiritually dry or spiritually refreshed. He never gives up. As A.W. Tozer put it, “Our heavenly Father . . . does not keep office hours, nor set aside a time when he will see no one. God never changes His moods, or cools off in His affections, or loses enthusiasm.”
Third, God is universally at work for us and in us. Notice that Paul says “in all things.” That means that nothing is excluded from the personal government of God over what happens to us. It includes the bitterest as well as the sweetest of experiences. It includes the sinful acts of others, as Joseph states in Genesis 50:20: “You intended it for evil to me, but God meant it for good.” John Calvin said, tellingly, “Whatever poison Satan produces, God turns it into medicine for His elect.” Spurgeon said, “Omnipotence has servants everywhere.”
Now the final question is, what type of person is able to say that God is working in all things for my good?
Well, Paul is anything but vague about that. Indeed, he is quite specific. His first description is “those who love God.” But, of course, that love, in Scripture, is the love of commitment. I have often spoken with young people who told me they had declared their love for someone, only to receive the answer, “Oh now, I don’t want to get too serious!” There are many who say that to God. Could you be one of them?
The second description in Romans 8:28 is “those who are called by God.” Now, whenever someone hears the gospel message, they hear the external call of God summoning them to personal faith in Jesus Christ. But that call, when it is truly heard inwardly by those to whom God has given spiritual ears to hear it, actually draws the sinner to Christ: “I heard the voice of Jesus say ‘Come unto me and rest’: I came to Jesus, as I was.” The question is, have you heard the call of God in the gospel, and have you found it drawing you to Christ?
So, “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called by God.” They then discover that they are caught up into the perfect, sovereign purposes of God, which involve His “good and acceptable and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2).
I well recollect Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preaching in Glasgow from Psalm 73. He told us that he had discovered that the first line of Psalm 73 could be better translated “God is good and nothing but good to Israel (his people).” I have been a Christian now for almost seventy years, and I must tell you that that is my personal testimony.
Joseph Hart in the eighteenth century expressed it perfectly in his hymn:
How good is the God we adore, Our faithful, unchangeable friend, His love is as great as His power, And knows neither measure nor end.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs (Chapter 20)
By John Foxe 1563
An Account of the Life of John WesleyJohn Wesley was born on the seventeenth of June, 1703, in Epworth rectory, England, the fifteenth of nineteen children of Charles and Suzanna Wesley. The father of Wesley was a preacher, and Wesley's mother was a remarkable woman in wisdom and intelligence. She was a woman of deep piety and brought her little ones into close contact with the Bible stories, telling them from the tiles about the nursery fireplace. She also used to dress the children in their best on the days when they were to have the privilege of learning their alphabet as an introduction to the reading of the Holy Scriptures.
Young Wesley was a gay and manly youth, fond of games and particularly of dancing. At Oxford he was a leader, and during the latter part of his course there, was one of the founders of the "Holy Club," an organization of serious-minded students. His religious nature deepened through study and experience, but it was not until several years after he left the university and came under the influence of Luther's writings that he felt that he had entered into the full riches of the Gospel.
He and his brother Charles were sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to Georgia, where both of them developed their powers as preachers.
Upon their passage they fell into the company of several Moravian brethren, members of the association recently renewed by the labors of Count Zinzendorf. It was noted by John Wesley in his diary that, in a great tempest, when the English people on board lost all self-possession, these Germans impressed him by their composure and entire resignation to God. He also marked their humility under shameful treatment.
It was on his return to England that he entered into those deeper experiences and developed those marvelous powers as a popular preacher which made him a national leader. He was associated at this time also with George Whitefield, the tradition of whose marvelous eloquence has never died.
What he accomplished borders upon the incredible. Upon entering his eighty-fifth year he thanked God that he was still almost as vigorous as ever. He ascribed it, under God, to the fact that he had always slept soundly, had risen for sixty years at four o'clock in the morning, and for fifty years had preached every morning at five. Seldom in all his life did he feel any pain, care, or anxiety. He preached twice each day, and often thrice or four times. It has been estimated that he traveled every year forty-five hundred English miles, mostly upon horseback.
The successes won by Methodist preaching had to be gained through a long series of years, and amid the most bitter persecutions. In nearly every part of England it was met at the first by the mob with stonings and peltings, with attempts at wounding and slaying. Only at times was there any interference on the part of the civil power. The two Wesleys faced all these dangers with amazing courage, and with a calmness equally astonishing. What was more irritating was the heaping up of slander and abuse by the writers of the day. These books are now all forgotten.
Wesley had been in his youth a high churchman and was always deeply devoted to the Established Communion. When he found it necessary to ordain preachers, the separation of his followers from the established body became inevitable. The name "Methodist" soon attached to them, because of the particular organizing power of their leader and the ingenious methods that he applied.
The Wesley fellowship, which after his death grew into the great Methodist Church, was characterized by an almost military perfection of organizaton.
The entire management of his ever-growing denomination rested upon Wesley himself. The annual conference, established in 1744, acquired a governing power only after the death of Wesley. Charles Wesley rendered the society a service incalculably great by his hymns. They introduced a new era in the hymnology of the English Church. John Wesley apportioned his days to his work in leading the Church, to studying (for he was an incessant reader), to traveling, and to preaching.
Wesley was untiring in his efforts to disseminate useful knowledge throughout his denomination. He planned for the mental culture of his traveling preachers and local exhorters, and for schools of instruction for the future teachers of the Church. He himself prepared books for popular use upon universal history, church history, and natural history. In this Wesley was an apostle of the modern union of mental culture with Christian living. He published also the best matured of his sermons and various theological works. These, both by their depth and their penetration of thought, and by their purity and precision of style, excite our admiration.
John Wesley was of but ordinary stature, and yet of noble presence. His features were very handsome even in old age. He had an open brow, an eagle nose, a clear eye, and a fresh complexion. His manners were fine, and in choice company with Christian people he enjoyed relaxation. Persistent, laborious love for men's souls, steadfastness, and tranquillity of spirit were his most prominent traits of character. Even in doctrinal controversies he exhibited the greatest calmness. He was kind and very liberal. His industry has been named already. In the last fifty-two years of his life, it is estimated that he preached more than forty thousand sermons.
Wesley brought sinners to repentance throughout three kingdoms and over two hemispheres. He was the bishop of such a diocese as neither the Eastern nor the Western Church ever witnessed before. What is there in the circle of Christian effort--foreign missions, home missions, Christian tracts and literature, field preaching, circuit preaching, Bible readings, or aught else--which was not attempted by John Wesley, which was not grasped by his mighty mind through the aid of his Divine Leader?
To him it was granted to arouse the English Church, when it had lost sight of Christ the Redeemer to a renewed Christian life. By preaching the justifying and renewing of the soul through belief upon Christ, he lifted many thousands of the humbler classes of the English people from their exceeding ignorance and evil habits, and made them earnest, faithful Christians. His untiring effort made itself felt not in England alone, but in America and in continental Europe. Not only the germs of almost all the existing zeal in England on behalf of Christian truth and life are due to Methodism, but the activity stirred up in other portions of Protestant Europe we must trace indirectly, at least, to Wesley.
He died in 1791 after a long life of tireless labor and unselfish service. His fervent spirit and hearty brotherhood still survives in the body that cherishes his name.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Continual Burnt Offering (1 Peter 2:11)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
December 121 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. ESV
There are questions which cannot be properly decided if only the rights and liberty of the individual men are emphasized. Each one is part of the group with which his lot is cast. He is responsible for the effect of his actions upon those who are linked with him. No one lives or dies, we are told, to himself (Romans 14:7). Think about that! Read it again. Buddhists strive to live a life like putting your finger in a bucket of water. You remove your finger and everything is the same as it was. Think of that, but the Word of God says "NO", you do have an impact on this world. It is therefore gross selfishness to insist on my own liberty if that liberty contributes to the detriment and enslavement of my fellows. To claim the right to certain indulgences which affect others adversely is to act contrary to the law of love, which should govern all who profess to follow Christ, as well as those who lay any claim to altruistic living. My evil example may be the ruin of weaker ones who become emboldened to do as they see me do. My selfish indulgence may make me a liability rather than an asset to society. I am most inconsistent if I claim to be a follower of Him who “did not please Himself” (Romans 15:3), while I am insisting on my personal liberty in matters that are stumbling blocks to my fellow men, whether Christians or not (1 Corinthians 8:9). While I cannot be governed by the consciences of other people, nevertheless I am called upon to avoid all that would unnecessarily stumble others (1 Corinthians 8:12-13). Are you taking anyone to hell with you? Friends? Children?
Romans 14:7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.
Romans 15:3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”
1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
1 Corinthians 8:12–13 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. ESV
A pilgrim in a hurried world and flurried,
Where hearts are aching and where hopes are buried;
Where bowers of ease and pleasures are enticing,
Where heedless lives the good are sacrificing;
A world of turmoil and of strife and danger—
Yes, I’m a pilgrim here, and I’m a stranger.
--- Wm. M. Runyon
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Do what God has told you (2)
12/11/2017 Bob Gass
‘By faith Noah…built an ark.’
(Heb 11:7) 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. ESV
Noah built the ark because God commanded it. It’s what he was called to do in life. Sawing planks and hammering nails for him was an act of obedience. And when everything was said and done, it was the longest act of obedience recorded in Scripture. From start to finish, Noah’s one act of obedience took 43,800 days! And with each daily act of obedience, he glorified God. No matter what tool you use in your trade – a hammer, a keyboard, a mop, a football, a spreadsheet, a microphone, an espresso machine – using it is an act of obedience. It’s the mechanism whereby you worship God. It’s the way you do what you’re supposed to do. The Bible says, ‘Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:17 NIV 2011 Edition). Stop putting yourself down and thinking what you do is not important. Remember the old proverb, ‘For want of a nail’? It goes like this: ‘For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.’ In God’s eyes, small acts of obedience are big things. When you joyfully do little things like they are big things, then God will do big things like they are little things. That’s how His kingdom advances. So the word for you today is: do what God has told you.
by Bill Federer
Pennsylvania. The Continental Congress met there, the Declaration of Independence was signed there and the Constitution was written there. For awhile the United States Capitol was there. On this day, December 12, 1787, Pennsylvania became the second State to join the Union. The oath of office contained in Pennsylvania’s Constitution read: “And each member [of the legislature], before he takes his seat, shall make… the following declaration… ‘I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governour of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and Punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.’ ”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Chapter 16 December 12
If I started with a compositio loci I should never reach the meditation. The picture would go on elaborating itself indefinitely and becoming every moment of less spiritual relevance.
There is indeed one mental image which does not lure me away into trivial elaborations. I mean the Crucifixion itself; not seen in terms of all the pictures and crucifixes, but as we must suppose it to have been in its raw, historical reality. But even this is of less spiritual value than one might expect. Compunction, compassion, gratitude-all the fruitful emotions-are strangled. Sheer physical horror leaves no room for them. Nightmare. Even so, the image ought to be periodically faced. But no one could live with it. It did not become a frequent motive of Christian art until the generations which had seen real crucifixions were all dead. As for many hymns and sermons on the subject-endlessly harping on blood, as if that were all that mattered-they must be the work either of people so far above me that they can't reach me, or else of people with no imagination at all. (Some might be cut off from me by both these gulfs.)
Yet mental images play an important part in my prayers. I doubt if any act of will or thought or emotion occurs in me without them. But they seem to help me most when they are most fugitive and fragmentary-rising and bursting like bubbles in champagne or wheeling like rooks in a windy sky: contradicting one another (in logic) as the crowded metaphors of a swift poet may do. Fix on any one, and it goes dead. You must do as Blake would do with a joy; kiss it as it flies. And then, in their total effect, they do mediate to me something very important. It is always something qualitative-more like an adjective than a noun. That, for me, gives it the impact of reality. For I think we respect nouns (and what we think they stand for) too much. All my deepest, and certainly all my earliest, experiences seem to be of sheer quality. The terrible and the lovely are older and solider than terrible and lovely things. If a musical phrase could be translated into words at all it would become an adjective. A great lyric is very like a long, utterly adequate, adjective. Plato was not so silly as the Moderns think when he elevated abstract nouns-that is, adjectives disguised as nouns-into the supreme realities-the Forms.
I know very well that in logic God is a "substance." Yet my thirst for quality is authorized even here: "We give thanks to thee for thy great glory." He is this glory. What He is (the quality) is no abstraction from Him. A personal God, to be sure; but so much more than personal. To speak more soberly, our whole distinction between "things" and "qualities," "substances" and "attitudes," has no application to Him. Perhaps it has much less than we suppose even to the created universe. Perhaps it is only part of the stage set.
The wave of images, thrown off like a spray from the prayer, all momentary, all correcting, refining, "interinanimating" one another, and giving a kind of spiritual body to the unimaginable, occurs more, I find, in acts of worship than in petitionary prayers. Of which, perhaps, we have written enough. But I don't regret it. They are the right starting point. They raise all the problems. If anyone attempted to practice, or to discuss, the higher forms without going through this turnstile, I should distrust him. "The higher does not stand without the lower." An omission or disdain of petitionary prayer can sometimes, I think, spring not from superior sanctity but from a lack of faith and a consequent preference for levels where the question "Am I only doing things to myself?" does not jut out in such apparent crudity.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The glory of God’s justice
will be conspicuous
in those who have slighted his mercy.
--- Ralph Erskine
For God to explain a trial would be to destroy its purpose,
calling forth simple faith and implicit obedience.
--- St. Francois de Sales
Especially among Christians in positions of wealth and power, the idea of reading the Gospels and keeping Jesus' commandments as stated therein has been replaced by a curious process of logic. According to this process, people first declare themselves to be followers of Christ, and then they assume that whatever they say or do merits the adjective "Christian".
--- Wendell Berry
The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.
--- Elizabeth Cady Stanton
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
they cry, “Give! Give!”
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Chapter 7 is the final chapter in the Aramaic section of Daniel’s book. Instead of interpreting dreams for others, Daniel now had an angel interpret his dream of four beasts. The four beasts parallel the four parts of the statue in chapter 2. In chapter 7 Daniel provided additional information about the fourth world empire.
The setting (7:1). Daniel’s dream came in the first year of Belshazzar, probably 553 b.c. Belshazzar is the final king in the first of the four gentile powers described in Daniel 2.
The vision (7:2–14). In Daniel’s dream he saw four beasts coming up out of the sea, with the fourth beast having ten horns plus a smaller eleventh horn. This little horn uprooted three of the first ones and began to boast until he was destroyed. Then “one like a son of man” approached the “Ancient of Days” (God the Father) and received an everlasting kingdom.
The interpretation (7:15–27). When Daniel asked what this dream meant, God’s messenger told him the four beasts represented four coming kingdoms. Keenly interested in the fourth beast, Daniel inquired especially about the ten horns and the little horn that came up later. God told him that the beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear, and that the ten horns represent ten kings in this kingdom. The other horn was another king who will “speak against the Most High” and will trouble God’s people. He will appear to succeed for “a time, times, and half a time” (that is, three and a half years; see also 9:27; Rev. 13:5). However, God vowed that He will ultimately take away the power of this horn and establish His kingdom in its place.
The results (7:28). At the end of the divine interpretation Daniel was deeply disturbed. The picture of evil, though temporary, still caused Daniel’s face to turn pale.
Nelson's Old Testament Survey: Discover the Background, Theology, and Meaning of Every Book in the Old Testament
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
That they may be one, even as we are one.
--- John 17:22.
Personality is that peculiar, incalculable thing that is meant when we speak of ourselves as distinct from everyone else. Our personality is always too big for us to grasp. An island in the sea may be but the top of a great mountain. Personality is like an island; we know nothing about the great depths underneath, consequently we cannot estimate ourselves. We begin by thinking that we can, but we come to realize that there is only one Being Who understands us, and that is our Creator.
Personality is the characteristic of the spiritual man as individuality is the characteristic of the natural man. Our Lord can never be defined in terms of individuality and independence, but only in terms of personality, “I and my Father are one.” Personality merges, and you only reach your real identity when you are merged with another person. When love, or the Spirit of God, strikes a man, he is transformed, he no longer insists upon his separate individuality. Our Lord never spoke in terms of individuality, of a man’s ‘elbows’ or his isolated position, but in terms of personality—“that they may be one, even as we are one.” If you give up your right to yourself to God, the real true nature of your personality answers to God straight away. Jesus Christ emancipates the personality, and the individuality is transfigured; the transfiguring element is love, personal devotion to Jesus. Love is the out-pouring of one personality in fellowship with another personality.
My Utmost for His Highest
Shouldn't We Know These?
1 Nissan March-April 30d
2 Iyar April-May 29d
3 Sivan May-June 30d
4 Tammuz June-July 29d
5 Av July-Aug 30d
6 Elul Aug-Sept 29d
7 Tishri Sept-Oct 30d
8 Cheshvan Oct-Nov 29-30d
9 Kislev Nov-Dec 30-29d
10 Tevet Dec-Jan 29d
11 Shevat Jan-Feb 30d
12 Adar Feb-March 29d
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
'Poems from prison! About what?
'Life and God.' 'God
in prison? Friend, you trifle
with me. His face, perhaps,
at the bars, fading
He came in
with the warder, striving
with him. Where else
did the severity of the man
spring from, but awareness
of a charity he must
'The blows, then,
were God chastening
the beloved! Who
was the more blessed, the
dispenser or receiver
'It is the same
outside. Bars, walls
but make the perspective
clear. Deus absconditus!
We ransack the heavens,
the distance between
stars; the last place we look
is in prison, his hideout
in flesh and bone.'
are witness. If his world
contracted, it was to give birth
to the larger vision. Not meadows
empty of him, animal
as glass, communicate
God. On the bare walls
of a cell the oppressor watches
the diminishing of his
human shadow, as
he withdraws from the light.'
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
--- Hebrews 11:1.
You see something [so] that you may believe something and from what you see may believe what you see not. Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament Do not be ungrateful to him who has made you see so that you may be able to believe what as yet you cannot see. God has given you eyes in the body, reason in the heart; arouse the reason of the heart, wake up the inhabitant of your eyes, let it take to its windows, examine the creature of God. God has made you a rational animal, set you over the cattle, formed you in his own image. Ought you to use your eyes as the cattle do, only to see what to add to your belly, not to your soul? Stir up the eye of reason, use your eyes as a human being should, consider the heaven and earth, the fruitfulness of the earth, the flight of the birds, the swimming of the fish, the goodness of the seeds; consider the works, and seek for the author. Look at what you see, and seek him whom you see not. Believe in him you do not see because of these things that you see. If you think that it is with my own words that I have exhorted you, hear the Apostle: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities… have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Rom. 1:20).
These things you saw and disregarded. God’s daily miracles were disesteemed not for their easiness but their constant repetition. For what is more difficult to understand than death and birth, that one who existed should depart into darkness and that one who was not, should come forth to light? What else is as marvelous? But with God easily done. Marvel at these things! Are his unusual works greater than those that you are accustomed to see? People wondered that our Lord Jesus filled so many thousands with five loaves, yet they do not wonder that through a few grains the whole earth is filled with crops. When the water was made wine, people were amazed; isn’t this what takes place with the rain along the root of the vine? He did the one, he does the other; both are wonderful, for both are the works of God. You see unusual things and wonder; of what origin are you yourself who wonders? You wonder at other things when you, the wonderer, are yourself a great wonder. From where then are these things that you see but from him whom you see not? But because you disesteemed these things, he came himself to do unusual things, that in these usual ones too you might acknowledge your Creator.
--- Augustine of Hippo
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Rivers of Blood
History is littered with the names of infamous rogues who drank rolling rivers of blood with devilish delight. Among them was the Spanish General Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, the Duke of Alva, whose cruelty can only be described as demonic.
He was born into a noble Spanish family in 1508, at the onset of the Reformation. His grandfather, Frederick of Toledo, dominated his youth and trained him to be a warrior, a soldier, tough as iron. He fought his first battle at age 16 and climbed the military beanstalk with cunning and prowess. As a general, he was brilliant; but like his commander-in-chief, Philip II of Spain, Fernando was also deceitful, fanatical, cruel, and merciless.
The Reformation, especially Calvinism, had found fertile ground in Holland, for the Bible had been translated there into Flemish several years earlier. But the Netherlands were under the control of Spain and its hated King Philip. Philip established the Inquisition in Holland, provoked a rebellion, and in 1567 sent the Duke of Alva with 10,000 troops into the Netherlands to quell the Reformation, to extinguish the evangelical “heresy,” and to regain control of the citizens.
Over the next six years, 6,000 lowlanders were sentenced to death in the duke’s “Council of Blood.” Some estimates put the total number of martyrs at 100,000, including women and children. One historian claims that more Christians lost their lives during this bloodletting than during all the Roman persecutions of the first 300 years of church history. Alva imposed oppressive taxes, destroyed the economy of Holland, violated civil liberties, tortured citizens, and provoked a war of independence that lasted 80 years.
One reaps, however, what one sows. In 1580 Alva was sent against Portugal. He was victorious, but on the way back, a fever developed. A dark foreboding drew itself around him like a curtain. His life drained out of him like sand through the glass, and the man who had gulped the blood of Christians lay in helpless suffering, able to sip only milk drawn from a woman’s breast.
Those who plant seeds of evil harvest trouble, and then they are swept away by the angry breath of God. They may roar and growl like powerful lions. But when God breaks their teeth, they starve.
--- Job 4:8b-11a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (Day 2)
Taking On Guilt
Because what is at stake for Jesus is not the proclamation and realization of 'new' ethical ideals, and thus also not his own goodness (Matt. 19:17), but solely his love for real human beings, he can enter into the communication of their guilt; he can be loaded down with their guilt.... It is his love alone that lets him become guilty. Out of his selfless love, out of his sinless nature, Jesus enters into the guilt of human beings; he takes it upon himself. A sinless nature and guilt bearing are bound together in him indissoluble. As the sinless one Jesus takes guilt upon himself, and under the burden of this guilt, he shows that he is the sinless one.
Lord Jesus, come yourself, and dwell with us, be human as we are, and overcome what overwhelms us. Come into the midst of my evil, come close to my unfaithfulness. Share my sin, which I hate and which I cannot leave. Be my brother, Thou Holy God. Be my brother in the kingdom of evil and suffering and death.
Sermon for Advent Sunday
Sunday. December 2, 1928
Go to Matthew 19:16-19 Click Here
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 12
“His ways are everlasting." Habakkuk 3:6.
What he hath done at one time, he will do yet again. Man’s ways are variable, but God’s ways are everlasting. There are many reasons for this most comforting truth: among them are the following—the Lord’s ways are the result of wise deliberation; he ordereth all things according to the counsel of his own will. Human action is frequently the hasty result of passion, or fear, and is followed by regret and alteration; but nothing can take the Almighty by surprise, or happen otherwise than he has foreseen. His ways are the outgrowth of an immutable character, and in them the fixed and settled attributes of God are clearly to be seen. Unless the Eternal One himself can undergo change, his ways, which are himself in action, must remain for ever the same. Is he eternally just, gracious, faithful, wise, tender?—then his ways must ever be distinguished for the same excellences. Beings act according to their nature: when those natures change, their conduct varies also; but since God cannot know the shadow of a turning, his ways will abide everlastingly the same. Moreover there is no reason from without which could reverse the divine ways, since they are the embodiment of irresistible might. The earth is said, by the prophet, to be cleft with rivers, mountains tremble, the deep lifts up its hands, and sun and moon stand still, when Jehovah marches forth for the salvation of his people. Who can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? But it is not might alone which gives stability; God’s ways are the manifestation of the eternal principles of right, and therefore can never pass away. Wrong breeds decay and involves ruin, but the true and the good have about them a vitality which ages cannot diminish.
This Morning let us go to our heavenly Father with confidence, remembering that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and in him the Lord is ever gracious to his people.
Evening - December 12
“They have dealt treacherously against the Lord.” --- Hosea 5:7.
Believer, here is a sorrowful truth! Thou art the beloved of the Lord, redeemed by blood, called by grace, preserved in Christ Jesus, accepted in the Beloved, on thy way to heaven, and yet, “thou hast dealt treacherously” with God, thy best friend; treacherously with Jesus, whose thou art; treacherously with the Holy Spirit, by whom thou hast been quickened unto life eternal! How treacherous you have been in the matter of vows and promises. Do you remember the love of your espousals, that happy time—the springtime of your spiritual life? Oh, how closely did you cling to your Master then! saying, “He shall never charge me with indifference; my feet shall never grow slow in the way of his service; I will not suffer my heart to wander after other loves; in him is every store of sweetness ineffable. I give all up for my Lord Jesus’ sake.” Has it been so? Alas! if conscience speak, it will say, “He who promised so well has performed most ill. Prayer has oftentimes been slurred—it has been short, but not sweet; brief, but not fervent. Communion with Christ has been forgotten. Instead of a heavenly mind, there have been carnal cares, worldly vanities and thoughts of evil. Instead of service, there has been disobedience; instead of fervency, lukewarmness; instead of patience, petulance; instead of faith, confidence in an arm of flesh; and as a soldier of the cross there has been cowardice, disobedience, and desertion, to a very shameful degree.” “Thou hast dealt treacherously.” Treachery to Jesus! what words shall be used in denouncing it? Words little avail: let our penitent thoughts execrate the sin which is so surely in us. Treacherous to thy wounds, O Jesus! Forgive us, and let us not sin again! How shameful to be treacherous to him who never forgets us, but who this day stands with our names engraven on his breastplate before the eternal throne.
Morning and Evening
AWAY IN A MANGER
Source unknown (stanzas 1, 2), John Thomas McFarland, 1851–1913 (stanza 3)
And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
The shepherds had an angel
The wise men had a star
But what have I, a little child,
To guide me home from far,
Where glad stars sing together
And singing angels are?
Christ watches me, His little lamb,
Cares for me day and night,
That I may be His own in heaven;
So angels clad in white
Shall sing their “Glory, glory,”
For my sake in the height.
--- Christina Rossetti
No Christmas song is more loved than this tender children’s carol. With its simply worded expression of love for the Lord Jesus and trust in His faithful care, the hymn appeals to young and old alike. It is usually one of the first Christmas songs learned in early childhood; yet its pleasing melody and gentle message preserve it in our affections all through life.
For some time “Away in the Manger” was titled “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” It was thought to have been written by Martin Luther for his own children and then passed on by German mothers. Modern research discounts this claim, however. Stanzas one and two first appeared in the Little Children’s Book, published in Philadelphia in 1885. The third verse was written by a Methodist minister, Dr. John T. McFarland, in the early 1900’s when an additional stanza for this carol was desired for use at a church children’s day program.
How important it is that we take time to help our children see beyond the glitter of the Christmas season and teach them the true meaning of Christ’s birth. The most thrilling story ever known to man began in Bethlehem at Christmas.
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head; the stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep an the hay.
The cattle are lowing; the Baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes; I love Thee, Lord Jesus! look down from the sky, and stay by my cradle till Morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray; bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.
For Today: Matthew 8:20; Mark 10:13–16; Luke 2:12, 16
Use this season to enjoy times of family worship. Include the reading of the Christmas story—Luke 2:1–20 (perhaps from different versions), share personal insights from the story, dramatize the various events, sing and play the carols, pray together, and discuss how the family could share their joy with others.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Thirdly. The dominion of God is manifested as a governor, as well as a lawgiver and proprietor.
1. In disposing of states and kingdoms. (Psalm 75:7): “God is Judge; be puts down one, and sets up another.” “Judge” is to be taken not in the same sense that we commonly use the word, for a judicial minister in a way of trial, but for a governor; as you know the extraordinary governors raised up among the Jews were called judges, whence one entire book in the Old Testament is so denominated, the Book of Judges. God hath a prerogative to “change times and seasons” (Dan. 2:21), i. e. the revolutions of government, whereby times are altered. How many empires, that have spread their wings over a great part of the world, have had their carcasses torn in pieces; and unheard-of nations plucked off the wings of the Roman eagle, after it had preyed upon many nations of the world; and the Macedonian empire was as the dew that is dried up a short time after it falls. He erected the Chaldean monarchy, used Nebuchadnezzar to overthrow and punish the ungrateful Jews, and, by a sovereign act, gave a great parcel of land into his hands; and what he thought was his right by conquest, was God’s donative to him. You may read the charter to Nebuchadnezzar, whom he terms his servant (Jer. 27:6): “And now I have given all those lands” (the lands are mentioned ver. 3), “into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant:” which decree he pronounceth after his asserting his right of sovereignty over the whole earth (ver. 5). After that, he puts a period to the Chaldean empire, and by the same sovereign authority decrees Babylon to be a spoil to the nations of the north country, and delivers her up as a spoil to the Persian (Jer. 1:9, 10): and this for the manifestation of his sovereign dominion, that he was the Lord, that made peace, and created evil (Isa. 45:6, 7). God afterwards overthrows that by the Grecian Alexander, prophesied of under the figure of a goat, with “one horn between his eyes” (Dan. 8.): the swift current of his victories, as swift as his motion, showed it to be from an extraordinary hand of heaven, and not either from the policy or strength of the Macedonian. His strength, in the prophet, is described to be less, being but one horn running against the Persian, described under the figure of a ram with two horns: and himself acknowledged a Divine motion exciting him to that great attempt, when he saw Joddus, the high-priest, coming out in his priestly robes, to meet him at his approach to Jerusalem, whom he was about to worship, acknowledging that the vision which put him upon the Persian war appeared to him in such a garb. What was the reason Israel was rent from Judah, and both split into two distinct kingdoms? Because Rehoboam would not hearken to sober and sound counsels, but follow the advice of upstarts. What was the reason he did not hearken to sound advice, since he had so advantageous an education under his father Solomon, the wisest prince of the world? “The cause was from the Lord” (1 Kings 12:15), that he might perform what he had before spoke. In this he acted according to his royal word; but, in the first resolve, he acted as a sovereign lord, that had the disposal of all nations in the world. And though Ahab had a numerous posterity, seventy sons to inherit the throne after him, yet God by his sovereign authority gives them up into the hands of Jehu, who strips them of their lives and hopes together: not a man of them succeeded in the throne, but the crown is transferred to Jehu by God’s disposal. In wars, whereby flourishing kingdoms are overthrown, God hath the chief hand; in reference to which it is observed that, in the two prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, God is called “the Lord of Hosts” one hundred and thirty times. It is not the sword of the captain, but the sword of the Lord bears the first rank; “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon” (Judges 7:18). The sword of a conquerer is the sword of the Lord, and receives its charge and commission from the great Sovereign (Jer. 47:6, 7). We are apt to confine our thoughts to second causes, lay the fault upon the miscarriages of persons, the ambition of the one, and the covetousness of another, and regard them not as the effects of God’s sovereign authority, linking second causes together to serve his own purpose. The skill of one man may lay open the folly of a counsellor; an earthly force may break in pieces the power of a mighty prince: but Job, in his consideration of those things, refers the matter higher: “He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle” (Job 12:18). “He looseth the bonds of kings,” i. e. takes off the yokes they lay upon their subjects, “and girds their loins with a girdle” (a cord, as the vulgar); he lays upon them those fetters they framed for others; such a girdle, or band, as is the mark of captivity, as the words, ver. 19, confirm it: “He leads princes away spoiled, and overthrows the mighty.” God lifts up some to a great height, and casts down others to a disgraceful ruin. All those changes in the face of the world, the revolutions of empires, the desolating and ravaging wars, which are often immediately the birth of the vice, ambition, and fury of princes, are the royal acts of God as Governor of the world. All government belongs to him; he is the Fountain of all the great and the petty dominions in the world; and, therefore, may place in them what substitutes and vicegerents he pleaseth, as a prince may remove his officers at pleasure, and take their commissions from them. The highest are settled by God durante bene placito, and not quamdiu bene se gesserint. Those princes that have been the glory of their country have swayed the sceptre but a short time, when the more wolvish ones have remained longer in commission, as God hath seen fit for the ends of his own sovereign government. Now, by the revolutions in the world, and changes in governors and government, God keeps up the acknowledgment of his sovereignty, when he doth arrest grand and public offenders that wear a crown by his providence, and employ it, by their pride, against him that placed it there. When he arraigns such by a signal hand from heaven, he makes them the public examples of the rights of his sovereignty, declaring thereby, that the cedars of Lebanon are as much at his foot, as the shrubs of the valley; that he hath as sovereign an authority over the throne in the palace, as over the stool in the cottage.
2. The dominion of God is manifested in raising up and ordering the spirits of men according to his pleasure. He doth, as the Father of spirits, communicate an influence to the spirits of men, as well as an existence; he puts what inclinations he pleaseth into the will, stores it with what habits he please, whether natural or supernatural, whereby it may be rendered more ready to act according to the Divine purpose. The will of man is a finite principle, and therefore subject to Him who hath an infinite sovereignty over all things; and God, having a sovereignty over the will, in the manner of its acting, eauseth it to will what he wills, as to the outward act, and the outward manner of performing it. There are many examples of this part of his sovereignty. God, by his sovereign conduct, ordered Moses a protectoress as soon as his parents had formed an “ark of bulrushes,” wherein to set him floating on the river (Exod. 2:3–6): they expose him to the waves, and the waves expose him to the view of Pharoah’s daughter, whom God, by his secret ordering her motion, had posted in that place; and though she was the daughter of a prince that inveterately hated the whole nation, and had, by various arts, endeavored to extirpate them, yet God inspires the royal lady with sentiments of compassion to the forlorn infant, though she knew him to be one of the Hebrews’ children (ver. 6), i. e. one of that race whom her father had devoted to the hands of the executioner; yet God, that doth by his sovereignty rule over the spirits of all men, moves her to take that infant into her protection, and nourish him at her own charge, give him a liberal education, adopt him as her son, who, in time, was to be the ruin of her race, and the saviour of his nation. Thus he appointed Cyrus to be his shepherd, and gave him a pastoral spirit for the restoration of the city and temple of Jerusalem (Isa. 44:28): and Isaiah (chap. 45:5) tells them, in the prophecy, that he had girded him, though Cyrus had not known him, i. e. God had given him a military spirit and strength for so great an attempt, though he did not know that he was acted by God for those divine purposes. And when the time came for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt, the spirits of the people were raised up, not by themselves, but by God (Ezra 1:5), “Whose spirit God had raised to go up;” and not only the spirit of Zerubbabel, the magistrate, and of Joshua, the priest, but the spirit of all the people, from the highest to the meanest that attended him, were acted by God to strengthen their hands, and promote the work (Hag. 1:14). The spirits of men, even in those works which are naturally desirable to them, as the restoration of the city and rebuilding of the Temple was to those Jews, are acted by God, as the Sovereign over them, much more when the wheels of men’s spirits are lifted up above their ordinary temper and motion. It was this empire of God good Nehemiah regarded, as that whence he was to hope for success; he did not assure himself so much of, it, from the favor he had with the king, nor the reasonableness of his intended petition, but the absolute power God had over the heart of that great monarch; and, therefore, he supplicates the heavenly, before he petitioned the earthly, throne (Neh. 2:4): “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” The heathens had some glance of this; it is an expression that Cicero hath somewhere, “That the Roman commonwealth was rather governed by the assistance of the Supreme Divinity over the hearts of men, than by their own counsels and management.” How often hath the feeble courage of men been heightened to such a pitch as to stare death in the face, which before were damped with the least thought or glance of it! This is a fruit of God’s sovereign dominion.
3. The dominion of God is manifest in restraining the furious passions of men, and putting a block in their way. Sometimes God doth it by a remarkable hand, as the Babel builders were diverted from their proud design by a sudden confusion of their language, and rendering it unintelligible to one another; sometimes by ordinary, though unexpected, means; as when Saul, like a hawk, was ready to prey upon David, whom he had hunted as a partridge upon the mountains, he had another object presented for his arms and fury by the Philistines’ sudden invasion of a part of his territory (1 Sam. 23:26–28). But it is chiefly seen by an inward curbing mutinous affections, when there is no visible cause. What reason but this can be rendered, why the nations bordering on Canaan, who bore no good will to the Jews, but rather wished the whole race of them rooted out from the face of the earth, should not invade their country, pillage their houses, and plunder their cattle, while they were left naked of any human defence, the males being annually employed at one time at Jerusalem in worship; what reason can be rendered, but an invisible curb God put into their spirits? What was the reason not a man, of all the buyers and sellers in the Temple, should rise against our Saviour, when, with a high hand, he began to whip them out, but a Divine bridle upon them? though it appears, by the questioning his authority, that there were Jews enough to have chased out him and his company (John 2:15, 18). What was the reason that, at the publishing the gospel by the apostles at the first descent of the Spirit, those that had used the Master so barbarously a few days before, were not all in a foam against the servants, that, by preaching that doctrine, upbraided them with the late murder? Had they better sentiments of the Lord, whom they had put to death? Were their natures grown tamer, and their malignity expelled? No; but that Sovereign who had loosed the reins of their malicious corruption, to execute the Master for the purchase of redemption, curbed it from breaking out against the servants, to further the propagation of the doctrine of redemption. He that restrains the roaring lion of hell, restrains also his whelps on earth; he and they must have a commission before they can put forth a finger to hurt, how malicious soever their nature and will be. His empire reaches over the malignity of devils, as well as the nature of beasts. The lions out of the den, as well as those in the den, are bridled by him in favor of his Daniels. His dominion is above that of principalities and powers; their decrees are at his mercy, whether they shall stand or fall; he hath a vote above their stiffest resolves: his single word, I will, or, I forbid, outweighs the most resolute purposes of all the mighty Nimrods of the earth in their rendezvouses and cabals, in their associations and counsels (Isa. 8:9, 10): “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; take counsel together, and it shall come to nought.” “When the enemy shall come in like a flood,” with a violent and irresistible force, intending nothing but ravage and desolation, “the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against them” (Isa. 59:19), shall give a sudden check, and damp their spirits, and put them to a stand. When Laban furiously pursued Jacob, with an intent to do him an ill turn, God gave him a command to do otherwise (Gen. 31:24). Would Laban have respected that command any more than he did the light of nature when he worshipped idols, had not God exercised his authority in inclining his will to observe it, or laying restraints upon his natural inclinations, or denying his concourse to the acting those ill intentions he had entertained? The stilling the principles of commotion in men, and the noise of the sea, are arguments of the Divine dominion; neither the one nor the other is in the power of the most sovereign prince without Divine assistance: as no prince can command a calm to a raging sea, so no prince can order stillness to a tumultuous people; they are both put together as equally parts of the Divine prerogative (Psalm 65:7), which “stills the noise of the sea, and tumult of the people:” and David owns God’s sovereignty more than his own, “in subduing the people under him” (Psalm 18:47). In this his empire is illustrious (Psalm 29:10): “The Lord sitteth upon the floods, yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever;” a King impossible to be deposed, not only on the natural floods of the sea, that would naturally overflow the world, but the metaphorical floods or tumults of the people, the sea in every wicked man’s heart, more apt to rage morally than the sea to foam naturally. If you will take the interpretation of an angel, waters and floods, in the prophetic style, signify the inconstant and mutable people (Rev. 17:1, 5): “The waters where the whore sits are people, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues:” so the angel expounds to John the vision which he saw (ver. 1). The heathens acknowledged this part of God’s sovereignty in the inward restraints of men: those apparitions of the gods and goddesses in Homer, to several of the great men when they were in a fury, were nothing else, in the judgment of the wisest philosophers, than an exercise of God’s sovereignty in quelling their passions, checking their uncomely intentions, and controlling them in that which their rage prompted them to. And, indeed, did not God set bounds to the storms in men’s hearts, we should soon see the funeral, not only of religion, but civility; the one would be blown out, and the other torn up by the roots.
4. The dominion of God is manifest in defeating the purposes and devices of men. God often makes a mock of human projects, and doth as well accomplish that which they never dreamt of, as disappoint that which they confidently designed. He is present at all cabals, laughs at men’s formal and studied counsels, bears a hand over every egg they hatch, thwarts their best compacted designs, supplants their contrivances, breaks the engines they have been many years rearing, diverts the intentions of men, as a mighty wind blows an arrow from the mark which the archer intended. (Job 5:12): “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise; he taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.” Enemies often draw an exact scheme of their intended proceedings, marshal their companies, appoint their rendezvous, think to make but one morsel of those they hate; God, by his sovereign dominion, turns the scale, changeth the gloominess of the oppressed into a sunshine, and the enemies’ sunshine into darkness. When the nations were gathered together against Sion, and said, “Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Sion” (Micah 4:11), what doth God do in this case? (ver. 12), “He shall gather them,” i. e. those conspiring nations, as “sheaves into the floor.” Then he sounds a trumpet to Sion: “Arise, and thresh, O daughter of Sion, for I will make thy horn iron, and thy hoofs brass, and thou shalt beat in pieces many people; and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.” I will make them and their counsels, them and their strength, the monuments and signal marks of my empire over the whole earth. When you see the cunningest designs baffled by some small thing intervening; when you see men of profound wisdom infatuated, mistake their way, and “grope in the noon-day as in the night” (Job 5:14), bewildered in a plain way; when you see the hopes of mighty attempters dashed into despair, their triumphs turned into funerals, and their joyful expectations into sorrowful disappointments; when you see the weak, devoted to destruction, victorious, and the most presumptuous defeated in their purposes, then read the Divine dominion in the desolation of such devices. How often doth God take away the heart and spirit of grand designs, and burst a mighty wheel, by snatching but one man out of the world! How often doth he “cut off the spirits of princes” (Psalm 76:12), either from the world by death, or from the execution of their projects by some unforeseen interruption, or from favoring those contrivances, which before they cherished by a change of their minds! How often hath confidence in God, and religious prayer, edged the weakest and smallest number of weapons to make a carnage of the carnally confident! How often hath presumption been disappointed, and the contemned enemy rejoice in the spoils of the proud expectant of victory! Phidias made the image of Nemesis, or Revenge, at Marathon, of that marble which the haughty Persians, despising the weakness of the Athenian forces, brought with them, to erect a trophy for an expected, but an ungained, victory. Haman’s neck, by a sudden turn, was in the halter, when the Jews’ necks were designed to the block; Julian designed the overthrow of all the Christians, just before his breast was pierced by an unexpected arrow; the Powder-traitors were all ready to give fire to the mine, when the sovereign hand of Heaven snatched away the match. Thus the great Lord of the world cuts off men on the pinnacle of their designs, when they seem to threaten heaven and earth; puts out the candle of the wicked, which they thought to use to light them to the execution of their purposes; turns their own counsels into a curse to themselves, and a blessing to their adversaries, and makes his greatest enemies contribute to the effecting his purposes. How may we take notice of God’s absolute disposal of things in private affairs, when we see one man, with a small measure of prudence and little industry, have great success, and others, with a greater measure of wisdom, and a greater toil and labor, find their enterprises melt between their fingers! It was Solomon’s observation, “That the race was not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill” (Eccles. 9:11). Many things might interpose to stop the swift in his race, and damp the courage of the most valiant: things do not happen according to men’s abilities, but according to the overruling authority of God: God never yet granted man the dominion of his own way, no more than to be lord of his own time: “The way of man is not in himself, it is not in him that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). He hath given man a power of acting, but not the sovereignty to command success. He makes even those things which men intended for their security to turn to their ruin; Pilate delivered up Christ to be accounted a friend to Caesar, and Cxsar soon after proves an enemy to him, removes him from his government, and sends him into banishment. The Jews imagined by the crucifying Christ to keep the Roman ensigns at a distance from them, and this hasted their march, by God’s sovereign disposal, which ended in a total desolation. “He makes the judges fools” (Job 22:17), by taking away his light from their understanding, and suffering them to go on in the vanity of their own spirits, that his sovereignty in the management of things may be more apparent; for then he is known to be Lord, when he “snares the wicked in the work of his own hands” (Psalm 9:16). You have seen much of this doctrine in your experience, and, if my judgment fail me not, you will yet see much more.
5. The dominion of God is manifest in sending his judgments upon whom he please. “He kills and makes alive; he wounds and heals” whom he pleaseth: his thunders are his own, and he may cast them upon what subjects he thinks good: he hath a right, in a way of justice, to punish all men; he hath his choice, in a way of sovereignty, to pick out whom he please, to make the examples of it. Might not some nations be as wicked as those of Sodom and Gomorrah, yet have not been scorched with the like dreadful flames? Zoar was untouched, while the other cities, her neighbors, were burnt to ashes. Were there never any places and persons successors in Sodom’s guilt? Yet those only by his sovereign authority are separated by him to be the examples of his “eternal vengeance” (Jude 7). Why are not sinners as Sodom, like as those ancient ones, scalded to death by the like fiery drops? It is because it is his pleasure; and the same reason is to be rendered, why he would in a way of justice cut off the Jews for their sins, and leave the Gentiles untouched in the midst of their idolatries. When the church was consumed because of her iniquities, they acknowledged God’s sovereignty in this. “We are the clay, and thou art our Potter, and we all the work of thy hands” (Isa. 64:7, 8); thou hast a liberty to break or preserve us. Judgments move according to God’s order. When the sword hath a charge against Ashkelon and the sea-shore, thither it must march, and touch not any other place or person as it goes, though there may be demerit enough for it to punish. When the prophet had spake to the sword, “O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest and be still;” the prophet answers for the sword, “How can it be quiet, seeing the Lord hath given it a charge against Ashkelon? there hath he appointed it” (Jer. 47:6, 7). If he hath appointed a judgment against London or Westminster, or any other place, there it shall drop, there it shall pierce, and in no other place without a like charge. God, as a sovereign, gives instructions to every judgment, when, and against whom, it shall march, and what cities, what persons, it shall arrest; and he is punctually obeyed by them, as a sovereign Lord. All creatures stand ready for his call, and are prepared to be executioners of his vengeance, when he speaks the word; they are his hosts by creation, and in array for his service at the sound of his trumpet, or beat of his drum, they troop together with arms in their hands, to put his orders exactly in execution.
The Existence and Attributes of God
Colossians 3:9-17 | John MacArthur
John MacArthur | Grace to you
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Synopsis | In Today’s teaching, Pastor Brett takes a look at science and the Bible to show these are not mutually exclusive. The Bible stands the test of time as a reliable source of truth, and humanity’s growing knowledge of creation continues to affirm the Bible’s authority.
s1-565 | 01-29-2012
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Synopsis | This morning, we continue our study of Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. Pastor Brett talks about God’s astounding glory and the true meaning of glory.
Christ in You
s1-566 | 02-12-2012
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Synopsis | Tonight, we continue to study the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the church of Colosse. We see Paul warns the church to beware of the Gnostics, a group of people who thought they alone had truth. Today, we can compare the Gnostics with those in our society.
m1-585 | 02-15-2012
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Synopsis | In Colossians 2, Paul gives a warning to the people of the church of Colosse. He continues to warn against the Gnostics of that time.
s1-567 | 02-19-2012
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Synopsis | Tonight, we continue our study through the book of Colossians. Paul again warns the church at Colosse about legalism, intellectualism and mysticism. We learn how humanity continues in the same idolatry today.
m1-586 | 02-22-2012
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Synopsis | Pastor Brett talks about three of Paul’s “whatever you do” statements. Two of them can be found in Colossians 3. Paul tells us to “do all to the glory of God”, “do all in the name of the Lord”, and “do it heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men”.
Whatever You Do
Colossians 3:17, 23
s1-568 | 02-26-2012
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Synopsis | Today, we take our text from Colossians 4:6, where Paul talks to the church about the importance of speaking with grace. Pastor Brett talks about how we are to season our words with salt.
Seasoned With Salt
s1-569 | 03-04-2012
Synopsis | In the latter half of Colossians 3, Paul talks about what it takes to be a good husband, wife, mother, father, child, employee and employer. We see that God has established a specific structure for family. There is so much to learn from Paul’s words to the Colossians.
m1-588 | 03-07-2012
Synopsis | For our first IRONWORKS meeting for men, we consider what it means to have daily personal devotion with God.
Ironworks | Personal Devotion: Part 1
g-223 | 09-13-2015
Ironworks | Biblical Work Ethic
g-286 | 01-13-2018