Colossians 1





                                  COLOSSE AND ITS PEOPLE


COLOSSAE (or Colassae) was an inland city of Western Asia Minor. It

was situated on the river Lycus (modern Tchoruk-su), a southern affluent

of the famous Maeander, lying under the frowning heights of Mount

Cadmus, which bounded the Lycus valley on the south; and on the high

road from Miletus and Ephesus to the central highlands of the peninsula, at

a point distant about a hundred and twenty miles from the coast.

Ethnically, it belonged to southwestern Phrygia, with the borders of Lydia

and Carla closely approaching it on the west and south; but politically, the

district was included in the Roman proconsular province of Asia, whose

capital was Ephesus.


Under the Persian kings, Colossae had been “a populous city, prosperous

and great” (Xenophon, ‘Anabasis,’ 1:2. 6; Herodotus, 7:30); but in later

times it was eclipsed by its more fortunate neighbors, Laodicea and

Hierapolis, which lay on opposite sides of the Lycus valley, ten or twelve

miles below Colossae, and distant some six miles from each other.

Laodicea, whose name commemorated the rule of the Greco-Syrian

dynasty in Asia Minor, was the chief city of the immediate district, the

Cibyratic conventus (dioi>khsiv, diocese) or “jurisdiction,” one of the

departments or counties into which the Roman province of Asia was

divided for administrative purposes. Hierapolis, on the other hand, was a

health resort, celebrated for the medicinal qualities of its waters, which

were extremely abundant; “full of natural baths” (Strabo, 13:4. 14). The

great prosperity of this region was chiefly due to its wool. The

neighboring uplands afforded excellent pasture for sheep, and the streams

of the Lycus valley were peculiarly favorable to the dyer’s art. Both these

cities were actively engaged in the trade in wool and dyed stuffs, of which

Colossae had formerly been a chief center, giving its name (colossinus) to a

valued purple dye. Colossae, however, had already dwindled into a third-rate

town (Strabo, 12. S. 13; died A.D. 24), whether from natural causes,

or, as M. Renan conjectures, from the conservative and Oriental habits of

its people, who were slow to adapt themselves to new conditions. After

this time it disappears from history, whilst the other cities held a

conspicuous place both in secular and Christian annals. Even its ruins have

been discovered but lately, and with difficulty. The Byzantine town of

Chonae (modern Chonas), which took its place, is situated three miles to

the south of the river, at the mouth of the pass leading through the Cadmus



The early decay and subsequent obliteration of Colossae are probably due

to the combined action of the earthquakes with which this valley has been

frequently visited, and of the immense calcareous deposits formed by the

streams on the northern side of the Lycus — a phenomenon especially

marked at Colossae (Pliny, ‘Natural History,’ 31:2. 20) — which, in the

course of ages, have considerably modified the features of the locality.

Colossal, if situated in the plain, immediately on the river-side, as now

appears, would be liable to suffer greater injury from these causes than the

sister cities. There was a destructive earthquake in this region about the

very time that St. Paul wrote, according to the testimony of Tacitus and

Eusebius. Tacitus, indeed, gives its date as A.D. 60 or 61, and mentions

only Laodicea as involved in the calamity. But Eusebius, who says that

Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae were overthrown, fixes the date of the

occurrence some four years lurer; and in this instance he is probably more

correct (see Lightfoot, pp. 38-40). Very possibly Colossae, already

decaying and enfeebled, succumbed to this disaster.


The population of this district was of a heterogeneous character. Its

substratum was Phrygian, marked by that tendency to mystical illusion and

orgiastic excitement which made Phrygia the home of the frantic worship

of Dionysus and of Cybele, and which gave birth to the Montanistic heresy

with its strange ecstasies and its ascetic rigor. In the cities, as throughout

Asia Minor, the Greek language and Greek manners prevailed, and the

immigrant Greek population had long ago blended with the native

inhabitants and leavened them with their own superior culture. A large

body of Jewish settlers had been deported to this region from Mesopotamia

by Antiochus the Great, and the Jewish community in Laodicea and the

neighborhood appears to have been both numerous and wealthy. If we

may judge from the Talmud, it was not renowned for strict orthodoxy:

“The wines and the baths of Phrygia have separated the ten tribes from

Israel” (see Lightfoot, p. 22). M. Renan believes that there existed “about

the Cadmus (sc. Eastern: a Semitic word) an ancient Semitic settlement,”

and that traces of its influence exist in the remains of Colossae; and the

tutelary Zeus of Laodicea bore the epithet of Aseis, a name which seems to

be of Eastern (probably Syrian) origin (Lightfoot, pp. 8, 9). These are

circumstances of some importance in view of the Oriental affinities of the

Colossian error.



                        PAUL’S CONNECTION WITH COLOSSAE.


The Churches of the Lycus were not founded by Paul himself. Twice he

had traversed Phrygia — in his second missionary tour from the Lycaonian

cities through Galatia to Troas (Acts 16:4-8), and in his third from Galatia to

Ephesus (Acts 18:23; 19:1). But his direct route, on both journeys, would take

him through northern Phrygia, to the northeast of the Lycus valley. The language

of Colossians 1:7 and 2:1 seems to us positively to exclude the supposition that

this district had been evangelized by the apostle in person. But during his long

residence at Ephesus (A.D. 54 or 55 to 57, 58) we are told that “all they which

 dwelt in Asia heard thE word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks”

(Acts 19:10). Epaphras, a Colossian by birth (ch. 4:12), had been the principal

means of spreading the knowledge of Christ in Colossae and the neighboring

cities, and had superintended the Colossian Church since its foundation (ch.1:6-7; 

4:12-13). He had labored from the beginning under Paul’s direction (ch. 1:7,

“for us:” see Exposition), and with remarkable zeal and success. The apostle

has nothing but praise for his labors; nothing but approval for the doctrine that

Epaphras had taught, and the discipline that had been established in the Church

at Colossae (ch. 1:5-7,23; 2:5-7; 4:12-13). He had evidently been acquainted by

report with the Churches of the Lycus for some time (ch.1:3, 5, 9; 2:1), and had

been previously in communication with Colossae (ch. 4:10). Now Epaphras has

come to visit the apostle in his captivity, bringing a good report of the general

condition of the Colossian Church, of its stability and growth in grace, and

assuring the apostle of its loyal affection for him (ch. 1:8); but at the same

time filling Paul’s mind with a deep anxiety (ch. 2:1-4), which he shared himself

(ch. 4:12), by his tidings of the new and perilous doctrine that was gaining a

footing in it.  The apostle’s friend Philemon resided at Colossae (compare

ch. 4:9 with the Epistle to Philemon), where his house had become an,

important center of Christian influence (Philemon 1:2, 5-7). He was

another of Paul’s “sons in the gospel” (v. 19), having come under the

apostle’s influence, we may presume, when on some visit with his family to

Ephesus, the metropolitan city of the province. His son Archippus was at

present exercising some special “ministry” in the Laodicean Church, as we

gather from the connection of vs. 16 and 17 in ch. 4. (compare Philemon 1:2).

The apostle had, by a singular providence, recently met with Onesimus,

Philemon’s runaway slave, and had been the means of converting him to the

faith of Christ (Philemon 1:10-11). He has persuaded him to return to his master,

and is sending him back, “no longer as a slave, but a brother beloved” (Philemon

1:16), in company with Tychicus, the bearer of the Colossian and Ephesian letters

(ch.4:7-9; Ephesians 6:21-22), with a private note to Philemon, entreating

pardon for Onesimus, and announcing his own hope of being free before

long to visit Colossae himself (Philemon 1:12-17, 22)


Paul was in prison, when he wrote Colossians.



(Dear Reader:  In trying to prepare Colossians for this web site, I am finding out

that it is a different type study than most of the other books which we have studied

in that there are a lot of scriptural references.  I try to check them all for accuracies.

I have found myself doing a lot of reading but this reading has reinforced the

Biblical principles of the Christian walk and our total dependence up

Jesus Christ, not only for Salvation but for help in “walking the walk”. 

While at first, I found this time consuming and somewhat monotonous, I soon

found that it was a good crash course in Christianity, was encouraging and

reinforced the basic foundation of our faith in Christ Jesus!   Some of the

references may seem or actually be repetitious, but may I say that I have always

heard, “repetition is the way you learn” – at least that is the way I learned to

ride a bicycle and also how I learned to shoot free throws.  I have been a

University of Kentucky fan since 1950, at seven years old – I remember

listening to Bill Spivey in basketball and the Jan. 1, 1952 Cotton Bowl

against Texas Christian University – I remember in 1978, Kyle Macy

hit his free throws, the Cats won the NCAA and people remember

Jack Givens and that team – if this years team had hit free throws, four

of twelve in a 56-55 loss to Connecticut, perhaps they too would be

remembered in a different light – When it comes to the end, you and

I will be judged before God as to whether we have accepted Jesus Christ

as our personal Savior or not – attention to details are important – thus

the repetition in learning to shoot free throws and the repetition of over

and over, reading about the Salvation of Jesus Christ and Walking the

Christian walk, will have eternal repercussions – Now those athletes

of the 1950’s, the 1970’s and of 2011, practiced to obtain a corruptible

crown “but we an incorruptible.”– [I Corinthians 9:25; James 1:12;

II Timothy 4:8; I Peter 5:4] - I recommend How to Be Saved - # 5

this web site - CY – 2011) 


The Epistle commences, Paul’s manner, with a salutation (vs. 1-2), followed by

thanksgiving (vs. 3-8) and prayer (vs. 9-14).



                                                Salutation (vs. 1-2)


1   Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timotheus (Timothy)

our brother.”  (Ephesians 1:1; II Corinthians 1:1). The apostle designates himself by

his office, as always, except in the Macedonian Epistles and the letter of private

friendship to Philemon.  Timothy shares also in the greeting of the Epistle to Philemon,

probably a leading member of the Colossian Church (compare ch. 4:9,17 with

Philemon 1:2, 10-12). During Paul’s long residence at Ephesus Timothy was with him

(Acts 19:22), and there, probably, Philemon had come under his influence and made

Timothy’s acquaintance. There was, therefore, at least one link of acquaintance

between “Timothy the brother” and “the saints in Colossae” (compare

Philippians 1:1; II Corinthians 1:1; I and II  Thessalonians 1:1, where his name

appears in the same way). The honorable prominence thus given to Timothy marked

him out for future leadership in the Church (I Timothy 1:3, 18; II Timothy 2:2; 4:2,5-6).


2   To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse:”

(Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:2;  II Corinthians 1:1).

“Saints” in respect of their Divine calling and character (ch. 3:12; I Corinthians 1, 2,

where this title is formally introduced); “faithful brethren in Christ” (Ephesians 1:1)

in view of the errors and consequent divisions threatening them as a Church (v. 23;

ch. 2:5, 18-19; 3:15; Ephesians 4:14-16; 6:10-18; Philippians 1:27: II Timothy 2:19).

“grace be unto yon, and peace,” -  “as in all his Epistles.” This Pauline

formula of greeting combines the Greek and Hebrew, Western and Eastern,

forms of salutation (compare “Abba, Father,” Romans 8:15). Ca>riv; charis

grace -  is a modification of the everyday cai>rein; - chaireinhappy or well-off;

 impersonal especially as a salutation like farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail,

joy, rejoice.  (Acts 15:23; James 1:1; II John 1:10); and eijrh>nh; eirenaepeace –

Hebrew shalom (salam). Grace is the source of all blessing as bestowed by God

(v. 6; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2:5; Romans 5:2, 17, 21; Titus 2:11); and  peace, in the large

sense of its Hebrew original, of all blessing as experienced by man (Ephesians 2:16-17;

Luke 2:14; Acts 10:36; Romans 5:1; 8:6; II Thessalonians 3:16) -  “from God our

Father.” -  Among the apostle’s salutations this alone fails to add “and from

our Lord Jesus Christ” — a defect which copyists were tempted to

remedy. The omission is well established (see Revised Text, and critical

editors generally), and cannot surely be accidental. (The Greek New Testament

which I have had from college omits these words also – CY – 2011) - In this and

the twin Ephesian letter, devoted as they are to the glory of Christ, the name of the

Father stands out with a peculiar prominence and dignity, much as in John’s Gospel:

“honoring the Son,” they must needs “honor the Father” also (vs. 12-13; ch. 3:17;

Ephesians 1:17; 2:18; 3:14; 4:6; 5:20).




                                                Thanksgiving (vs. 3-8)


The opening thanksgiving in vs. 3-8 is full and appropriate. Its content is determined

by the state of this Church, and by the apostle’s relation to it through Epaphras,

(shortened name of Epaphroditus) and his  own present position.


3   “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” -

We; Timothy and I (compare I Thessalonians 1:2; II Thessalonians 1:3;

II Corinthians 1:3-4). The Revised Text omits “and” between “God” and “Father,”

on evidence numerically slight, but sufficient; especially as in every other instance of

this combination the conjunction is present. “Father” is also without definite article

in the better attested (Revised) reading. The words, “Father of our Lord Jesus

Christ,” bear, therefore, an explanatory, quasi-predicative force. Paul wishes his

readers to understand that he gives thanks to God on their account distinctly under

this aspect, regarded as “Father of Christ.” He has just spoken of “our Father,”

and now adds, “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” suggesting that it is in this relation

that we know God as “our Father,” the Author of grace and peace, the Object of

Christian thanksgiving. So the sovereign and exclusive mediation of Christ, the ruling

idea of the whole Epistle, is thrown into bold relief at the outset; and, in this light,

the unique omissions of vs. 2-3 explain and justify each other. This fatherhood

embraces the entire Person and offices of the Son as “our Lord Jesus Christ” -

“praying always for you.” -  (v. 9; ch. 2:1-3; Philippians 1:4; Romans 1:9 [I

remember writing home to my parents from Florida in the fall of 1961 and

mentioning Romans 1:9-12 – that was a half century ago – I recommend a

study of Psalm 90 – this web site on the brevity of life - CY - 2011). The

apostle had known from the first of the existence of this Church; and had already

been in communication with it (see Introduction). He had, therefore, a general

prayerful interest in the Colossians (II Corinthians 11:28), that has been quickened

to joyful thanksgiving (ch. 2:5; compare I Thessalonians 3:6-10) by the arrival of

Epaphras. “Always” and “for you” — either or both of the phrases — may be

joined grammatically to “we give thanks” or to “praying:” the latter connection

is preferable; similarly in Philemon 1:4; in Ephesians 1:16 the turn of expression is



4  “Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which

ye have to all the saints.” - (Ephesians 1:15; Philemon 1:5 - R.V.;

I Thessalonians 4:9-10; I John 3:23; II John 1:4; III John 1:3-4). “Having heard”

more immediately from Epaphras (vs. 8-9). Note the characteristic recurrence

of this word: he had heard of their faith and love, as they had heard before

the word of truth (v. 5); from the day they had heard they had borne

fruit (v. 6), and he, in return, from the day he heard of it, had not ceased

to pray for them (v. 9); see note on v. 8; and compare I Thessalonians 1:5 and

2:2 with 3:6 (Greek). “In Christ Jesus” is attached to “faith” (as to “brethren”

in v. 2) so closely as to form with it a single idea; to be “in Christ Jesus” is of the

very essence of this faith and brotherhood. “Faith in Christ,” “believe in Christ,”

in our English Bible, commonly represent a different Greek preposition, eijv - (literally,

into or unto Christ); only in the pastoral Epistles and in Ephesians 1:15 — not

in Galatians 3:26 or Romans 3:25 do we find, as here, pi>stiv ejn Cristw~|.

pistis en Christo - In Christ faith rests, finding its abiding ground and element of life.

In the Epistles of this period the Christian state appears chiefly as “life in Christ;”

rather than, as in the earlier letters, as “salvation through Christ” (compare Romans

5 and ch. 2:9-15). The “love” of the Colossians evokes thanksgiving, as that which

they have “toward all the saints;” for as the Church extended Christian love needed

to be more catholic [universal]- (v. 6; ch. 3:11), and Colossian error in particular

tended to exclusiveness and caste feeling (see note on v. 28). The iteration of “all”

in this Epistle is remarkable.


5   “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven,” - Colossians 3:4;

Ephesians 1:12-14; Philippians 3:20-21;Romans 8:18-25; I Corinthians. 15:50-58;

II Corinthians 5:1-5; I Thessalonians 4:13-17; I Peter 1:3-5; Matthew 6:20; 19:21;

Luke 12:33; John 14:2-3). “Hope” is objective — matter of hope, as in

Galatians 5:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 6:18. St. Paul speaks most of heaven and

heavenly things in the letters of this period. V. 4 gives the nearest grammatical

connection for this clause; and many recent commentators, following Greek

interpreters, accordingly find here that which “evokes and conditions” the

Colossians’ “love” or “faith and love”.  But this construction we reject. For

it makes the heavenly reward the reason of the Colossians’ present (faith and)

love, reversing the true and Pauline order of thought (Romans 5:1-5; 8:28-39;

15:13; Ephesians 1:13; compare I John 4:17-18); while, on the other hand,

the heavenly hope is the last and highest ground of the apostle’s thanksgivings and

encouragements, and the forfeiture or impairing of it the chief matter of his fears

and warnings throughout the Epistles of this group.  (ch. 1:12, 22-23, 27-28; 2:18;

3:4, 24; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:12; Galatians 1:6-9; 4:4; Philippians 1:6; 2:16; 3:11-21:

compare I Peter. 1:3-4). What the apostle hears of “the faith and love” of the

Colossian brethren moves him to give thanks for “the hope which is in store for

them in heaven.” Of that hope this faith and love are to him a pledge and an

earnest, even as the “seal of the Spirit” (Ephesians 1:14) and the “peace of Christ

 in their hearts” (ch.3:15; see note) are to themselves. Similarly, in Philippians

1:27-28 and  II Thessalonians 1:4-5, from the present faith and patience of the saints

the certainty of their future blessedness is argued. By singling out this hope as chief

matter of thanksgiving here, the apostle enhances its certainty and its value in his

readers’ eyes. From the general occasion and ground of his thanksgiving in the

Christian state and prospects of his readers, Paul proceeds to dwell on certain

special circumstances which enhanced his gratitude to God (vs. 5b-8). “whereof

ye heard before in the word of truth of the gospel;” - or, good tidings (vs.7,23;

ch. 2:7; Ephesians 1:13; 4:15, 21; Galatians 1:6-9; 3:1-4; 4:9; 5:7; I Thessalonians

1:5; 2:13; 4:1; II Thessalonians 2:13-15; I Peter 5:12). There is a veiled polemic

reference in “the word of the truth of the gospel” (compare v. 7 and parallels from

Galatians). The word “before” (aforetime) contrasts their earlier with their later

lessons, the true gospel of Epaphras with the false gospel of recent teachers. Others

interpret, less suitably: heard already (before my writing), or heard beforehand

(before the fulfilment of the hope). It is in Paul’s manner to refer his readers at

the outset to their conversion and first Christian experiences (see parallel

passages). Their hope was directly at stake in the controversy with Colossian error.

Here we meet the first of those cumulative combinations of nouns, so marked a feature

of the style of Colossians and Ephesians, which are made a reproach against these

Epistles by some critics; but each is appropriate in its place.


6   “Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit,

as it doth also in you,” -  Romans 1:8; I Thessalonians 1:8; II Corinthians 2:14;

Acts 2:47; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 11:21; 12:24; 19:20). The words, “and increasing,”

 are added to the text to make it  w, karpoforoumenon kai auxanomenon

karpophoroumenon kai auxanomenon -“bearing fruit and increasing”-on

the testimony, all but unanimous, of the older witnesses. (my Greek New Testament

also – CY – 2011) - Their propriety is manifest; for the success  of the gospel at

Colossae was a gratifying evidence, both of its inherent fruitfulness,  and

of its rapid progress in the Gentile world. Stationary at Rome, Paul with his

messengers coming and going, and news reaching him from time to time of the

advance of the Christian cause, the strong expression, “in all the world,”  is

natural to Paul.  From Rome “all the world” is surveyed, just as what takes place

at Rome seems to resound “in all the world” (Romans 1:8). Bearing fruit

(verb in middle voice, implying inherent energy) precedes growing — the first

describing the inner working, the second  the outward extension of the gospel.

For “bearing fruit,” compare Ephesians 5:9; Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 1:11;

John 15:8,16: and for “growing,” II Thessalonians 3:1; Matthew 13:31-33;

and parallel passages; see also v. 11. In the last clause the expression “doubles

back upon itself” in a fashion characteristic of Paul, whose sentences grow and

change their form like living things while he indites them (compare ch. 3:13;

I Thessalonians 1:5-8; 4:1, R.V.): the coming of the gospel to Colossae suggests

the thought of its advent in the world, and this gives place to the fuller idea of

its fruitfulness and expansion, which in turn is evidenced by its effect at

Colossae – “since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of

God in truth.”  (v. 5; ch.  2:6-7; Ephesians 1:13; 4:21; I Thessalonians 2:1-2,

13; I  Corinthians 2:1-5; 15:1-11; II Corinthians 1:19; Galatians 1:6,11; 3:1-3;

II Timothy 3:14). For their progress had been continuous (compare Philippians 1:5).

The Authorized Version maintains the connection of thought in understanding

“the gospel” as object of “heard.” The verb ejpe>gnwte - epegnote - knew

well, realized -  with ejpi>gnwsivepignosisfull knowledge, recognition,

 discernment – (v. 9, etc.), belongs specially to the vocabulary of this group

of Epistles. Knowledge, in I Corinthians, is denoted by the simple gnosis. But this

word became at an early time the watchword of the heretical Gnostics (“ men of

knowledge:” compare I Timothy 6:20); and the false teachers of Colossae pretended

to an intellectual superiority, asserted, we may imagine, in much the same way

(compare ch. 2:2-4, 8, 23). The apostle now prefers the more precise and distinctive

epignosis (epi>ginw>skwepiginosko - meaning” accurate” or “advanced

knowledge.”  To hear the gospel” is “to know well the grace of God”

 (Acts 20:24; Romans 3:21-26; II Corinthians 5:20 — 6:1; John 1:17); the full

knowledge of which “in truth” (v. 5; Ephesians 4:14, 15, 20-24) would preserve

the Colossians from knowledge falsely so called.


7   “As ye also learned of Epaphras, our dear fellow-servant,” - literally,

bondman (Ephesians 4:20; II Timothy 3:14). Only in ch.4:7 does the epithet

“fellow-bondman” appear again in Paul (the Revisers in these two places omit

their marginal “bondservant”).  The dominant thought of Christ Jesus “the Lord”

(ch. 2:6; 3:22-4:1) possibly dictates this expression. That the Colossians had

received the gospel in this way from Epaphras, a disciple of Paul, was a

striking proof of its fruitfulness, and a further cause for thanksgiving on his

own part -  “who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;” -  (ch. 4:12-13;

II Corinthians 8:22; Philippians 2:25-30).  He puts his seal upon the ministry of

Epaphras, and vindicates it against all  questioning at home It was as Paul’s

representative that Epaphras had ministered in Colossae, and to him he now

reported his success; and this justified the apostle in claiming the Colossians as

his own charge, and in writing to them in the terms of this letter (ch. 2:1-2, 5-7:

compare Romans 15:20; II Corinthians 10:13-16). “Minister” as translated here

is really - (dia>konov,  diaconos - deacon, in its official sense found in Paul first

in Philippians 1:1, then  in I Timothy) is to be distinguished from the “servant”

(dou~lov, doulosservant,  in bondage - slave) of the last clause, and from

(uJphre>thv –- huperetestranslated  minister; assistant; under rower;

as distinguished from a seaman; hence it came to denote any subordinate

acting under another’s direction  - I Corinthians 4:1; Acts 13:5;  26:16), and

 (qera>pwntherapon - to serve; to heal as “attendant;”  - Hebrews 3:5) - 

It is a favorite word of Paul’s, and points to the service rendered, while other

terms indicate the status of the servant.


8   “Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 7:7; 8:7;

I Thessalonians 3:6; Philippians 4:10); i.e. your love to us. Timothy and myself,

especially if we read “in our behalf” in ver. 7 – Epaphras  had conveyed the blessings

of the gospel from Paul to the Colossians, and they now send back the grateful

assurance of their love by the same channel. This was a choice fruit of the gospel in

them (compare Philippians 4:10,15-18), and such a reference to it gives a kindly

conclusion to the thanksgiving. The Spirit is the ruling element of the Colossians’ love

(Galatians 5:22) Love-in-the-Spirit forms a single compound phrase, like

“faith-in-Christ-Jesus” (v. 4). The one Spirit dwells alike in all the members of

Christ’s body, however sundered by place or circumstance (Ephesians 4:1-4), and

makes them one in love to each other as to Him (John 13:34-35; I John 3:23-24).

“Spirit” occurs besides in this Epistle only in ch. 2:5 (but see “spiritual,” v. 9).



                                                Prayer (vs. 9-14)


The opening prayer rises out of the foregoing thanksgiving, and leads up

to the chief doctrinal statement of the Epistle (vs.15-20: compare, for the connection,

Ephesians 1:15-23; Romans 1:8-17). The burden of this prayer, as in other letters of

this period, is the Church’s need of knowledge (compare Ephesians 1:17-18;

Philippians 1:9-10). Here this desire has its fullest expression, as the necessity of the

Colossians in this respect was the more urgent and their situation, therefore, the more

fully representative of the stage in the history of the Pauline Churches now commencing.

He asks for his readers


  • a fuller knowledge of the Divine will (v. 9);
  • to result in greater pleasing to God (v. 10 a),
  • due to increased moral fruitfulness and spiritual growth (v.10 b),
  • to patience under suffering (v. 11),
  • and to thankfulness for the blessings of redemption (vs. 12-14).



9   “For this cause we also,” -  (Ephesians 1:15-17; I Thessalonians 3:6-13).

Timothy and I, in return for your love to us (v. 8) and in response to this good news

about you (vs. 4-6) – “since the day we heard it,” -  an echo of “from the day

 that ye heard it” (v. 6) – “do not cease to pray for you, and to desire” -  The

former is a general expression (v. 3), the latter points to some special matter of

petition to follow. This second verb aitoumenoi -  from (aiJte>w, aiteorequest -  

ai[thma, aitemasomething asked for), Paul only uses elsewhere of prayer to

God in Ephesians 3:13, 20 - “that ye may be filled with (or, made complete in)

 the knowledge of His will” -  (ch. 2:10; 4:12; Ephesians 3:18-19; Romans 12:2;

Hebrews 13:21). On “knowledge” (ejpi>gnwsiv), see note. to v. 6.  “With the

knowledge” represents the Greek accusative of specification (as in Philippians 1:11);

and the verb plhrwqh~te -– plaerothoteye may be being filled -  (compare note

on pleroma, v. 19), as in v. 25 and ch. 2:10, denotes “fulfilled” or “made complete,”

rather than “made full” — “made complete as to the full knowledge,” etc. “His will”

(“God’s will,” v. 1; ch. 4:12) need not be limited to the original purpose of salvation

 (Ephesians 1:9), or to His moral requirements respecting Christian believers

(v. 10), but includes “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) made known to us

in Christ (vs. 26-27). “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (ch.2:2;

Ephesians 5:17; Philippians 1:9; I Corinthians 14:20). Wisdom, in its highest sense,

is the sum of personal excellence as belonging to the mind; it implies a vital knowledge

of Divine truth, forming the sentiments and determining the will as it possesses the

reason, Hence the word occurs in a great variety of connections: “Wisdom and

 knowledge” (ch.2:3), “and prudence” (Ephesians 1:8), etc. For this Church the

apostle asks specially the gift of understanding or comprehension, (compare  2:2;

only in Ephesians 3:4 and II Timothy 2:7 besides, in Paul; I Corinthians 1:19

from LXX), the power of putting things together (su>nesiv –- sunesis

 prudence) - of discerning the relations of different truths, the logical bearing and

consequences of one’s principles. For the errors invading Colossae were of

a Gnostic type, mystic at once and rationalistic; against which a clear and

well-informed understanding was the best protection (compare notes on

“truth,” in vs. 5-6; also ch. 2:4, 8, 18, 23; Ephesians 4:13-14). This “wisdom

and understanding” are “spiritual,” as inspired by the Divine Spirit (compare

the use of “spirit,” “spiritual,” in I Corinthians 12:1-11; Galatians 5:16, 25; 6:1;

  Ephesians 1:17; 3:16-19), and opposed to all “wisdom of the flesh,” the

unrenewed nature of man (ch.2:18; I Corinthians 2:4-8, 13-15; James 3:15).

(Once again I remind you of this profound truth – EVERY UNREGENERATE

MAN IS AN ABORTION – C. H. Spurgeon – CY – 2011)


(The next verse, as many of the above and following, are a study in themselves.

I highly recommend looking up each verse referenced and to meditate on its

teaching – This is Christianity in a nutshell.  CY – 2011)


10  “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,” - ( Ephesians 4:1;

Philippians 1:27; I Thessalonians 2:12; 4:1; II Thessalonians 1:5, 11; I  John 2:6;

Revelation 3:4; Hebrews 13:21); so as to please him in every way. The end of all

knowledge, the apostle would say, is CONDUCT. Spiritual enlightenment (v. 9)

enables the Christian to walk (a Hebraism adopted also into biblical English) in a way

“worthy of the Lord” (Christ, Colossians 2:6; 3:24; Acts 20:19, etc.), becoming

those who have such a Lord and who profess to be His servants. And to be “worthy

of Christ” is to “please God” (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4-5,11; I Corinthians 1:9).

This is the ideal and the aim of the religious life throughout the Bible (compare I Samuel

13:14; Micah 6:6-8; Hebrews 11:5-6; John 8:29; Romans 8:8). The characteristics of

this walk are set forth by three coordinate participial phrases (vs. 10b-12), standing in

the half independent nominative case instead of the more regular accusative (as

agreeing with the understood object of the infinitive peripath~sai -– peripataesai -  

to walk – compare, for the idiom, ch. 3:16, also 2:2). “being fruitful in every good

work,” Ephesians 4:28; Galatians 6:9-10; I Thessalonians 5:15; II Thessalonians 2:

16-17; I Timothy 5:10; Titus 3:8; Hebrews 13:16; Acts 9:36). “Good work” is that

which is beneficial,  practically good (see parallel passages). “In every good work”

 might grammatically qualify the foregoing” pleasing ‘ (so R.V. margin and many older

interpreters), but appears to be parallel in position and sense with “in all power”

(v. 11). On“bearing fruit” (active in voice where the subject is personal: compare

 ejnerge>ianenergeian -  worketh; in action; operation – where we get

the word energy -  in Colossians 1:29, where the word is used twice and

in Philippians 2:13) - “and increasing in the knowledge of God.” - While doing

good to his fellow-man, the Christian is “increasing in the knowledge of God.”

(Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 4:13-16; II Peter 3:18; I Corinthians 3:1-2; 14:20; 16:13;

Hebrews 5:12-14). His own nature becomes larger, stronger, more complete. Here

it is individual (internal) growth, in v. 6 collective (external) growth (of the gospel,

 the Church) that is implied; the two are combined in Ephesians 4:13-16. The

dative th~| ejpignw>sei (so best copies and Revised Text: the Received, unto the

knowledge, is a repetition of v. 9) is “dative of instrument” rather than “of respect”

(in the knowledge; so R.V.).


11  “Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all

patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;”  (vs. 24, 29; Ephesians 1:19; 3:16;

6:10; I Corinthians 16:13; II Timothy 1:7-8; 2:1,3,9-10; I Peter 5:10). The same

word is repeated as noun and verb (du>namivdunamis - power, dunamo>w,

dunamo-o;  empower; strengthen) with a strong Hebraistic sort of emphasis

(otherwise in Ephesians 3:16). In all (every kind of) power gives the mode,

according to the might of His glory the measure, and unto all patience, etc.,

the end of this Divine strengthening. “Might” (kra>tov kratosmight), in distinction

from power (du>namiv) and other synonyms (compare v. 29; Ephesians 1:19; 6:10),

implies “mastery,” “sovereign sway,” and, except in Hebrews 2:14 (“might of death”),

is used in the New Testament only of the power of God. “Glory,” as in Philippians

3:21, bears a substantive meaning of its own, and is not a mere attributive of “might.”

It is the splendor of God’s revelations of Himself, in which His might is so

conspicuous.  Gazing on this glory, especially as seen in Christ (II Corinthians 4:6)

and the gospel (I Timothy 1:11, R.V.), the Christian discerns the might of Him from

whom it streams forth, and understands how that might is engaged in his behalf

(Ephesians 1:19-20; compare Isaiah 40:28-29; 42:5-6); and this thought fills him

with invincible courage and endurance. Patience is steadfastness and stout

heartedness under ill fortune (not a mere resigned patience); long suffering is

gentleness of temper and magnanimity under ill treatment (compare Colossians 3:12).

Christ, in His earthly life, was the supreme example of patience (II Thessalonians 3:5,

R.V.; I Peter. 2:21-23; Hebrews 12:3-4), which is “wrought by tribulation”

(Romans 5:4): longsuffering finds its pattern in God’s dealing with “the unthankful

 and evil” (Luke 6:35: Romans 2:4; I Timothy 1:16; I Peter. 3:20; II Peter 3:15).

“With  joyfulness” belongs to this clause rather than the next, and lends a more vivid

force to the foregoing words, while comparatively needless if prefixed to those that

follow.  (This paradox is genuinely Pauline, and arises from personal experience

(compare v. 24; Philippians 1:29; Romans 5:3; I Thessalonians 1:6; II Corinthians

1:4-8; 6:10; 12:9-10).


(The next verse, as many of the above and following, are a study in themselves.

I highly recommend looking up each verse referenced and to meditate on its

teaching – This is Christianity in a nutshell.  It took me an hour and fifteen

minutes to edit this verse and to verify each reference.  I received a blessing

and I trust you will too - CY – 2011)


12  Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us (or, you) meet

to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” - (vs. 3-5; Acts 20:32;

26:18; Titus 3:7; Ephesians 1:5, 11-14; Galatians 3:29; Romans 8:15-17). The

reading “us” is very doubtful.  Some prefer “you,” as in the two oldest manuscripts:

for the transition from first to second person, compare ch. 2:13-14 (vs. 9-12). In the

same strain the apostle gave thanks on their account (v. 5). “Thanksgiving” is

prominent in this letter (ch. 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2), as “joy” in Philippians. The title the

Father” frequently stands alone in John’s Gospel, coming from the lips of the Son,

but Paul employs it thus only here and in Ephesians 3:14, R.V.; Romans 8:15; Galatians

4:6 (compare  I John 3:1); see note on v. 2. Those “give thanks to the Father” who

gratefully acknowledge Him in “the spirit of adoption” as their Father through Christ

(Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:1-7; Ephesians 1:5). And the Father makes us meet for

 the inheritance when He enables us to call Him “Father”“If children, then

 heirs.” (Romans 8:17) - (iJkano>w,  hikanoo -“To make meet; to render fit; to

make sufficient” ) the verb found besides only in II Corinthians 3:5-6 in the New

Testament, “to make sufficient,” R.V.) is “to make competent,” “to qualify” for

some position or work. This meetness, already conferred on the Colossians,

consists in their forgiveness (v. 14) and adoption (Ephesians 1:5-7), which qualify

and entitle them to receive the blessings of Christ’s kingdom (v. 13; Romans 5:1-2;

Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:5-6; Titus 3:7), and which anticipate and form the

basis of that worthiness of character and fitness of condition in which they are

finally to be presented “perfect in Christ” (vs. 10, 22, 28; I Thessalonians

5:23-24);  “Called and (made us meet)” is one of the few characteristic readings

of the great Vatican Manuscript.   “The lot of the saints” is that entire wealth of

blessedness laid up for the people of God (Ephesians 1:3; 2:12; 3:6; 4:4-7), in

which each has his due share or part -compare v. 28; Ephesians 4:7. Klh~rou

klerou - “lot, an inheritance” Acts 8:21; 26:18), scarcely distinguishable from

the more usual klhronomi>a – kleronomia  - a lot, an inherited property;

an inheritance - ch. 3:24; Ephesians 1:14, etc.; Acts 20:32; Hebrews 9:15;

I Peter 1:4), is used in the Old Testament (LXX) of the sacred land as

“divided by lot,” and as “the lot” assigned to Israel (Numbers 34:13;

Deuteronomy 4:21, etc.), also of Jehovah Himself as “the lot” of the landless

Levites (Deuteronomy 10:9), and of Israel in turn as “the lot” of Jehovah

(Deuteronomy 4:20). (I recommend Deuteronomy ch 32 v 9 – God’s

Inheritance by Arthur Pink – this web site – CY – 2011)  -It is the divinely

allocated possession of the people of God in His kingdom. It belongs to them as

“saints” (v. 2; Ephesians 2:19; Acts 20:32; 26:18; Psalm 15:1-5; Numbers 35:34;

Jeremiah 2:7); and it lies “in the light,” in “the kingdom of the Son of God’s love”

(v. 13) that is filled with the light of the knowledge of God proceeding from Christ

(II Corinthians 4:1-6; John 1:4; 8:12), light here manifest “in part” and in conflict

with Satanic darkness (v. 13; Ephesians 5:8-14; 6:11-12; I Thessalonians 5:4-8;

Romans 13:11-13; John 1:5), hereafter the full possession of God’s saints (ch. 3:4;

I Corinthians 13:12; Romans 13:12; John 12:35-36; Revelation 21:23-25;

Isaiah 60:19-20).


Verses 13-14 proceed to show how this qualification has been gained.


13   “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath

translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son:” (Ephesians 5:8; 6:12;

Romans 7:14-8:4; I Corinthians 15:56-57; I Thessalonians 1:9-10; I Peter 2:9;

I John 1:5-7; 2:7-11). (rJu>omairhuomaito rescue; preserve from; to deliver)

I Thessalonians 1:10; Romans 7:24; II Corinthians 1:10; II Timothy 4:17-18, — to

be carefully distinguished from other Greek verbs rendered “deliver”) implies the evil

state of the rescued, the superior power of the Rescuer, and a conflict issuing

 in deliverance. Paul repeatedly associates the figure of darkness with the language

of warfare (Ephesians 6:12; Romans 13:12; I Thessalonians 5:8; compare John 1:5,

R.V. margin). “Dominion of darkness” — same as “dominion of Satan” (Acts 26:18).

Exousi>a exousiato exercise authority -  as distinguished from du>namiv

dunamis - power, vs. 11, 29), is “right,” “authority” - (compare I Corinthians

9:4-6; John 1:12;. 17:2): the power of Satan is not mere external force, but takes the

form of established and (as it were) legalized dominion (I Corinthians 15:56;

Luke 4:6; John 12:31). “The darkness” is precisely opposed to “the light” (v.12),

being the region of falsehood and hatred, whether in this world or outside of it, where

Satan rules ( Ephesians 5:8,11; 6:12;; II Corinthians 4:4; I John 2:8-11; Matthew 8:12;

Luke 22:53; John 3:19-20; 12:35). (meqi>sthmimethistemi -  translate) is to

remove from one place, office, etc., to another; Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 9:11, 1) uses it of

the deportation of the Israelites by the Assyrian king. The Father, rescuing His

captive children, brings them “into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

Here we touch the central and governing idea of this Epistle, that of the Supreme

Lordship of Christ (vs. 15-20; ch. 2:6,10,19, etc.); and this passage affords a clue

which will, we trust, guide us through some of the greatest difficulties which follow.

(On “the kingdom of the Son,” compare Ephesians 1:20-23; Philippians 2:6-11;

Romans 14:9; I Corinthians 8:6; 15:24- 28; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-10; Revelation

1:5-7,18; 5:1-14;  John 5:22-27; 17:2; 18:36; Matthew 25:31-46; 28:18-20.) Only

here and in Ephesians 5:5; II Timothy 4:1,18; I Corinthians 15:24-25, does the

apostle speak of the kingdom as Christ’s; otherwise as God’s (and future). The

Son of  His love” is not simply the “beloved Son” (Ephesians 1:6; Matthew 3:17),

but the representative and depositary of His love: “Who is His love made

 manifest” – see v. 2, note; John 3:16; 17:26; I John 4:8-9,14-16; Ephesians 2:4;

Titus 3:4-6; Romans 5:8), being at once our “Redeemer King” (vs. 13-14) and

the “Image of the invisible God” (v. 15).


14   “In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the

forgiveness of sins:” (Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 3:10-13; Romans 3:19-26;

II Corinthians 5:18-21; I Peter. 3:18-19).  Ephesians 1:7 suggested to some

later copyists the interpolation “through His blood,” words highly suitable in the

Ephesian doxology. This verse is the complement of the last: there salvation

appears as a rescue by sovereign power, here as a release by legal ransom

(ajpolu>trwsiv apolutrosisrelease; deliveranc). The ransom price Christ

had declared beforehand (Matthew 20:28; 26:28; compare Romans 3:24-26;

Galatians 2:20; I Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 9:12-14; I Peter 1:18; Revelation 1:5,

R.V.; 5:9). “We have redemption” (“had it,” according to a few ancient witnesses)

in present experience in “the forgiveness of our sins  (vs. 21-22; ch. 2:13-14; 3:13;

II Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:25; 5:1; 8:1; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:14; 10:1-18;

I Peter. 2:24; I John 1:7-2:2; 4:10).  Romans 3:24 gives its objective ground. The

“redemption of the body”  (also bought by the same price, I Corinthians 6:20)

will make the work complete (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:19-23; I Corinthians

1:30).  In firm, clear lines the apostle has retraced, in vs. 12-14 - (compare vs.

20-23;  ch.2:11-14), the teaching of his earlier Epistles on the doctrines of salvation.

Here  he assumes, in brief and comprehensive terms, what in writing to the Galatians

and Romans he had formerly been at so much pains to prove.



                        The Redeeming Son and His Kingdom (vs. 15-23)


 We now approach the real subject of the apostle’s letter, and that which is its

distinction and glory amongst the Epistles, in the great theological deliverance of

vs. 15-20 concerning the Person of Christ.  This passage occupies a place in the

Christology of Paul corresponding to that which belongs to Romans 3:19-26 in regard

to his Soteriology.  (theology dealing with salvation especially as effected by

Jesus Christ) - Here Paul treats directly and expressly of the sovereignty of Christ

and the nature of His Person — subjects which elsewhere in his writings are for the

most part matter of assumption or mere incidental reference. But the paragraph is no

detached or interpolated piece of abstract theology. It depends grammatically and

practically on  vs. (12-14). It sets forth who Jesus Christ  is and what place He

fills in the universe,  that the Son of God’s love in whom we have redemption,

and in whose kingdom the Father has placed us; and what cause, therefore, there is

for the Colossians to give thanks as having such a Person for their redeeming King.

The passage falls into two parts, closely corresponding both in form and sense,

and governed, like other of the apostle’s more fervid and elevated utterances, by a

Hebraistic antithetical rhythm of expression, which should aid us in the difficulties of its

interpretation. A twofold headship is ascribed to the Lord Christ — natural

(vs.15-17) and redemptional (vs. 18-20): the first the source and ground of the

second; the second the issue and consequence of the first, its reassertion and

consummation. This symmetrical structure we may attempt to exhibit in the

following way:


     I.  Jesus Christ


·        Who is Image of God the invisible, Firstborn of all creation: (v. 15)

·        For in Him were created all things, (v. 16)

·        In the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things

                        invisible — whether thrones, whether lordships, whether principalities,

                        whether dominions — (v. 16)

·        All things through Him and unto Him have been created; (v. 16)

·        And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (v. 16)


                        In virtue of His relation to God, Christ is at once:


o       ground of creation,

o       both in heaven and on earth, and at the same time

o       its means and its end; He is, therefore,

o       supreme over the universe, preconditioning its existence,

                  constituting its unity.


  II.  Jesus Christ


·        He is the Head of the body, the Church; (v. 18)

·        Who is (the) Beginning, Firstborn out of the dead, that in all things He

                        might become pre-eminent:  (v. 18)

·        For in Him He was pleased that all the fullness should dwell; (v. 19)

·        And through Him to reconcile all things unto Him, having

                        made peace through the blood of His cross, — through Him, (v, 20)

·        Whether the things on the earth, or the things in the heavens. (v. 20)


                   In a similar sense He is:


o       Head of the Church,

o       in virtue of His new relation to man, which makes Him

o       the ground,  means, and end of reconciliation also,

o       whether on earth or in heaven.


15   “Who is the Image of the invisible God” - (ch. 2:9; Philippians 2:6;

II Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 1:1-3; 11:27; John 1:1-3,18; 5:37-38; I Timothy 1:17;

Exodus 33:20; Job 23.8-9). On (eikwneikonimage) - “the image” — no

imitation, but the very archetypal representation Himself (aujto< to< ajrce>tupon

ei=dov).  This title the apostle had before conferred on Christ in II Corinthians 4:4.

There it is in the moral and redemptional attributes of the Godhead, manifest in

“the illumination of the gospel,” that Jesus Christ (v. 6), the incarnate Redeemer,

appears as “the Image of God:” here  the title is put upon Him as representing the

invisible God in all that pertains to nature and creation. The Colossian error rested

on a philosophical dualism. It assumed an absolute separation between the infinite

God and the finite, material world, which was viewed as the work of lower and

more or less evil powers. To counteract it, therefore, the apostle’s argument must

go down to the foundation of things, and seeks for a true conception of the

universe on which to ground itself.  Accordingly, in this and the following verses,

he bases the redeeming work of “the Word made flesh who dwelt among us,”

(John 1:14) - set forth in his previous Epistles, upon that of “the Word who was

with God in the beginning, who was God, and through whom all things

 were made.” (Ibid. vs. 1-3) He avoids, however, the term logov - Logos, which

must have been perfectly familiar to him in this connection — possibly to prevent

misunderstanding – “the firstborn of every creature (“all creation”):” –

(Romans 8:29; Hebrews 1:2,6; John 1:18; Psalm 89:27). Primogeniture in early

ages carried with it the rights of full heirship, involving representation of the father

both in his religious and civil capacity, and in his sovereignty within the house

(Genesis 25:31; 27:29; 49:3; Deuteronomy 21:17; I Chronicles 5:1). But natural

precedence, as in the ease of Esau and Jacob, may yield to Divine election,

which gives a unique sacredness and separateness to the position and title

of the firstborn. So Israel is Jehovah’s firstborn among the nations

(Exodus 4:22-23; Jeremiah 31:9). What belonged to the chosen

people under this title is, in the language of Psalm 89:27, concentrated

on the person of the Messianic King, the elect Son of David; and firstborn

became a standing designation of the Messiah. The apostle has already

applied it to Christ in his relation to the Church (Romans 8:29; see

below, v.18), as being not the eldest simply, but one intrinsically

superior to and sovereign over those whom he claims for his brethren

(compare Romans 14:9). Here the historical birthright and actual

sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ within the Church are affirmed to rest

upon an original primacy over the universe itself. He is not the Church’s

only, but “all creation’s Firstborn” (compare Hebrews 3:3- 6, Son over

His own house” — the house of Him “who built all things’). The phrase is

synonymous with the “Heir of all things” of Hebrews 1:2, and the

“Only-begotten” of John 1:18. So far were the titles Firstborn and

Only-begotten from excluding each other in Jewish thought that Israel is

designated “God’s firstborn, only-begotten,” in the apocryphal Psalms of

Solomon (18:4; also 4 Esdras 6:58); and so entirely had the former become

a title of sovereignty that God Himself is called “Firstborn of the world”

(Rabbi Bechai: see Lightfoot). Philo uses the equivalent prwto>gonov

protogonosof the Divine Word as the seat of the archetypal ideas

after which creation was framed. This phrase has been a famous battle-ground

of controversy. It was a chief stronghold of the Arians, who read “of (out of) all

creation” as partitive genitive. This interpretation, while grammatically allowable, is

exegetically and historically impossible. For vs. 16 and 17 expressly and

emphatically distinguish between “Him” and “the all things” of creation.

The idea of the Son of God being part of creation was foreign to Paul’s

mind (ch. 2:9; I Corinthians 8:6; Philippians 2:6-8), and to the thought of his day.

Had such a misunderstanding occurred to him as possible, he would, perhaps,

have expressed himself differently. Some of the early opponents of Arius gave

to prwto>tokov prototokos first begotten; first born - against all usage,

an active sense — “First-begetter  of all creation.” Athanasius, with other Greek

Fathers of the fourth century, in the stress of the same controversy, were led to

propose whatsubsequently became the standard Socinian interpretation,

understanding “creation” to mean “the new (moral) creation” (so also

Schleiermacher) — against the whole scope of the context, and cutting the

very nerve of the apostle’s argument. The Jewish theosophy of the day distributed

the offices of representing God, and of mediating between Him and the creatures,

amongst a variable and nebulous crowd of agencies — angels, words, powers —

 neither human nor strictly Divine. The apostle gathers all these mediatorial and

administrative functions into one, and places them in the hands of “the Son of

His love.”  Looking up to God, He is His Image: looking down on creation,

He is its primal Head and Lord. “Creation,” standing collectively without the

article in antithesis to “Firstborn,” is used qualitatively, or (as the logicians would

say) intensively (compare v. 23 and Ephesians 2:21, Revised Text). This is better

than making kti>sivktisiscreation - a quasi-proper noun or rendering

distributively, “every creature.”



16  “For by (in) Him were all things created,” -  (v. 17; John 1:3-4). En is “in,”

never “by,” in Paul. Ta< pa>nta ta pantaall things -  (collective plural with

singular predicate, literally,  was created) corresponds nearly to our “the universe.”

 John 1:4 (R.V. margin;  preferable, as we think) is the true parallel to this sentence.

John sees in “the Word”  the animating principle of creation; Paul in “the Son of

 God’s love” its ground and raison d’etre. He is the Source of its life, the Center of

all its developments, the  Mainspring of all its motions. As the spiritual life of believers

was formed “in Christ” ch. 1:2, 4; 2:10-15), so, in its measure, the natural life of

creation. The added “that are in heaven , and that are in earth,” (v. 20;

Philippians 2:10; Matthew 6:10) reduces to the same subordination to the Lord

Christ the two worlds so widely separated in common thought and in the religious

philosophy of the time. The polemic bearing of this distinction comes out more

clearly when to the distinction of sphere is added that of nature “visible and

invisible” -  (ch. 2:18; II Corinthians 4:18; Romans 1:20; Hebrews 11:3); and

when amongst the latter are specified those highest  orders of invisible beings

whose power might be most readily supposed to come into comparison with that

of the Son, — “whether they be thrones, or dominions or principalities or

powers:”  - (ch. 2:10, 15,18-19; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; 4:10; 6:12;  Romans 8:38;

I Corinthians 15:24; Hebrews 2:5; Revelation 4:4). By their low and vague

conceptions of the position of Christ, and by over-exalted notions of that of the

angels, the Colossian errorists had all but, if not altogether, identified their powers

with His. The apostle, therefore, declares that the invisible beings of the worlds above

us, however lofty their names or mighty their powers, are His creatures as much as

the lowliest objects within our sight (compare Hebrews chps. 1 and 2; where also

false views are corrected of the importance of the angels, exaggerated at the

expense of Christ).  This list of angelic titles is not intended to be exhaustive, or

authoritative. It is rather quoted as current at the time, and in a certain tone of 

impatience with this elaborate angelology – “all things were created by Him,

and for Him.”  (I Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2; John 1:3). “In Him” carries us

back to the beginning of creation (with verb ejkti>sqhektisteswere created –

 in aorist, indefinite past); “through Him” leads us along its process; and “unto

Him” points us to its end (verb e]ktistaiekistaihas been created - in

perfect tense, of abiding  result). Compare Philo  (‘On Monarchy,’ it. § 5): “

Now the image of God is the Word, through which the whole world was framed.”

Already Paul had said, “Through Christ are all things” (I Corinthians 8:6).

Hitherto the “unto (for) Him” has been reserved for “the Father”

(Ibid.)  Romans 11:36; compare Hebrews 2:10). But the apostle speaks from a

standpoint different from that of the earlier Epistles. In the Roman and Corinthian

passages he is concerned with the relations of God to man, and His dealings with

mankind through Christ; here, with the relations of Christ Himself to His own

kingdom. The final “delivering up of the kingdom to the Father”  (I Corinthians

15:24-28) lies outside the scope of this passage, which begins with the delivering up

of us by the Father to “the kingdom of the Son” (v. 13). Till “the end,” which

is “not yet,” Christ must reign (I Corinthians 15:25), and all things owe allegiance

to Him; they are created unto this end (Ephesians 3:9-10), and therefore unto Him,

to serve His kingdom (Philippians 2:10).  The apostle asserts of creation what he has

already said (II Corinthians 5:15; Romans 14:9; Acts 20:28) and is about to say again

(v. 20) of the redeemed Church. That both exist for Christ (relatively and proximately)

is a truth perfectly consistent with their existing for God (absolutely and ultimately);

I Corinthians 3:23 gives the unity of the two ideas “And ye are Christ’s; and

Christ is God’s.”




Colossian error was undermining the Christian system by introducing into

it a false, dualistic theory of nature, then widely prevalent in other quarters.

And the leaders of Christian thought can never afford to be indifferent to

the current philosophic views of their day. Indeed, in the contact of

Christian teaching with philosophy, and in the reflection of thoughtful men

at all times, the question was sure to arise and must constantly recur in new

forms, “What is the relation of Christ to the universe? At what point does

He enter the scheme of things? He who died on Calvary, who claims to

save the souls of men, what has He to do with nature and the common

world?” If this question could not be answered, or if any inferior and

limited position in the world of being must be assigned to Him, then, as the

Colossian heresy shows, His spiritual authority and the efficacy of His

redemption become, in the same degree, limited and uncertain. Hence the

teaching of the Epistles of this group (Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians)

respecting the Person of Christ is the logical and theological sequel of that

of the second (Galatians, Romans, I and II Corinthians), respecting our

salvation through Him. We gather from the apostle’s teaching here:


  • That in Christ God becomes visible, and nature becomes intelligible.

            To earnest philosophic thought, as to sound religious instinct, it has

            always been evident that “what is seen hath not been made out of things

            which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3). An “everlasting power and divinity

            are clearly seen from the creation of the world” — but as “invisible

            things” (Romans 1:20). Our latest Agnosticism is but a despairing echo

            of the cry of Job: “I go towards the east, but He is not there; and

            westward, but I cannot perceive Him; toward the north, where He is

            working, but I cannot see Him; where He veileth Himself in the south,

            but I cannot find Him”  (Job 28:8-9). God effectually hides Himself

            behind His works. All visible point to invisible causes, all finite things

            lead up to the Infinite, all phenomena to the noumenal; but whither

            they point we cannot follow.  From the invisible, Christ comes forth to

             testify of Him whom “no man hath seen nor can see” (John 1:14, 18;

            14:9). We know now what the Maker of the universe is like. The world

            is no longer orphaned. The unknown God proves to be its Father, and His

            Son its older Brother. Human thought has a visible center around which

            to move, a sun which sheds light and warmth over all its speculations.

            The incarnation and resurrection of Christ, with the whole course of His

            miracles (His signs – shmeion semeionthe Gospel of John sets

            Christ forth – also, I recommend El Shaddai – Names of God by Nathan

            Stone – this web site – CY - 2011), assure us that natural law is,

            and must prove itself ultimately to be, subservient to spiritual law, the lower

            to the higher order, the material world to the moral being of man. His

            miracles and parables and His general teaching furnish many fruitful hints,

            some that lie on the surface, others that await our deeper searching or future

            need, respecting the meaning and use of the natural world. He is, after all, its

            chief Interpreter, the Master of poets and philosophers of nature who often

            owe most to him when they are least aware of it, as well as of religious

            thinkers and social reformers. While we hold fast this faith in the “Image of

            God the invisible,” the “Firstborn of all creation,” we may witness

            science and philosophy pursuing their inquiries without misgiving, and we

            may follow them, warily indeed, but without mistrust; for they can discover

            no truth which will not in the end support the “TRUTH AS IT IS

            IN JESUS” (Ephesians 4:21) – “In whom are hid all the treasures

            of wisdom and knowledge”  (ch. 2:3) -and they labor, though they know

             it not, only to add their own to the “many crowns” that are preparing for

            the head of our Immanuel.



17   “And He is before all things,” -  (v. 15; John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5; Revelation 3:14;

Proverbs 8:22-31 – Christ as a child romping and tagging along with His

Father – CY - 2011). This emphatic “He” -(aujto>v - autos) meets us in every clause

and in every possible grammatical form, as though in the very grammar of the sentence

Christ must be “all in all.” “He” is kept ringing in the cars of those who were in

danger of forgetting Him in the charm of other sounds (ch. 2:4,19: compare ch. 2:9-15;

Ephesians 2:14-18, for the same rhetorical feature; also Ibid. v.11; I John 2:2;

Revelation 19:15, Greek).  We now pass from the origination (ve. 16a), through the

continuance (v. 16b, present perfect e]ktistai has being created), to the present

constitution (v. 17b) of the universe as resting upon this antecedent and perpetual

He Is, which affords the underlying basis uniting in one the redemptional and the

creative offices of Christ (vs. 17-18). In the mouth of a Hebraist like Paul, the

coincidence of the doubly emphatic “He Is” with the etymological sense of

Jehovah (Yahweh;  oJ w]n, - I AM - LXX), as interpreted in Exodus 3:6., can

scarcely be accidental. And Greek readers of the LXX might be reminded of

such declarations as those of Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12 (compare John 1:1-2;

8:24,28,58; 13:19; Revelation 1:8,17; 21:6). In Paul’s Christ, as in Isaiah’s Jehovah,

sovereignty of redeeming, rests upon sovereignty of creative power, and both alike

upon that perpetuity of being which “the Son of God’s love” shares with the

Father. Socinian exegetes give to “before” an ethical sense (“at the head of,”

“superior to”), in harmony with their reference of vs. 15-18 to the relation of

Christ to the Church. But pro< - pro  - before - never has this sense in Paul:

compare also the “Firstborn” of v. 15, and again “Beginning,” “Firstborn”

(v. 18). If v. 15 left us in any doubt as to the writer’s intention to assert

Christ’s premundane existence, this expression ought to remove it.  Language can

hardly be more explicit - “and by Him all things consist.”  (John 1:3-4, R.V.

margin; Hebrews 1:3; 11:3); i.e. have their common standing, are constituted a

whole. The apostle speaks here the language of philosophy. In Plato and Aristotle,

the term consist (consistence) is found expressing the essentially philosophical

conception of the inherent unity, in virtue of which the universe is such and forms a

single, correlated whole. The Alexandrine Judaists had already found this unifying

principle in the Logos: “He is the Image of God, to whom alone fullness belongs.

For other things of themselves are loose; and if they happen to be consolidated

anywhere, it is the Divine Word by which they are tied fast. For it is the cement

and the bond of things, that has filled all things with its essence. And having

chained and woven together everything, it is itself absolutely full of itself” (Philo,

‘Who is Heir of Divine Things?’ § 38). Paul’s declaration meets the questionings

indicated by language of this kind


18  — The words, “And He is the Head of the body, the Church:”

(ch. 2:10, 19; Ephesians 1:22-23; 3:8-10; 4:15-16; Hebrews 1:3; John 15:1-6),

identify the mediatorial Lord of creation (vs. 15-17) with the redeeming Head

of the Church, and claim the prerogatives belonging to Him in the former capacity

as the basis of His position and offices in the latter (compare Ephesians 1:22).

The Pauline doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ is developed in Colossians

and Ephesians, especially in the later Epistle, where it receives its fruitful

application. Here the doctrine of the Person of Christ and the doctrine of

the Church find their meeting-point as mutually implying each other, and

together opposed to the double effect of early Gnosticism, which tended

first to lower the dignity of Christ, and then to impair the unity of His

Church (see ch. 2:19, note). I Corinthians 12:12-27 and Romans 12:4-5

the figure of the body and members is merely a passing illustration of the mutual

relation of believers in the Church; now the body of Christ becomes the formal

title of the Church, expressing the fundamental and fixed conception of its nature as

related to Him, who is the center of its unity, the source of all vital energy and

directing control within it (compare the vine and branches, John 15:1-8). In vs.

16-17 the writer passed from the thought of the origin to that of the constitution of

the cosmos; now he proceeds in the reverse order. (He is the head) “who is

the Beginning” - (Revelation 3:14; 21:6; 22:13; Acts 3:15; 5:31; Hebrews 2:10;

12:2). Arch> - archaebeginning -  is without article, used as a proper noun.

It is arbitrary to identify it with ajparch< - aparchae - firstfruits” - of I Corinthians

15:20, 23; Romans 11:16. As explained by the following words, it denotes, as in

philosophical Greek, a first principle, an originating cause.   To borrow

“of the dead” from the following parallel clause weakens the force of both. His

body, the Church, begins in Him, dating and deriving from Him its “all in all”

(ch. 3:11, 4; I John 5:12; Revelation 21:5; II Corinthians 5:17). This is quite

consistent with the “all things are of God” (Ibid. v.18; for the apostle is thinking

here of the relative, historical beginning of “the kingdom of the Son” (v. 13), there

of the absolute beginning of the Divine work of redemption (compare I Corinthians

1:30; 3:23; and note on “unto Him,” v. 16).  John, writing to the neighboring

Laodicea, echoes, apparently, this language of our apostle (Revelation 3:14)

“the Firstborn from the dead” - (ch. 2:12-13; 3:1; Ephesians 1:19-20; Romans

1:4; 6:1-14; I Corinthians 15:13-18; II Corinthians 13:4; Acts 13:30-39; I Peter 1:3,

21;  Revelation 1:5, 18; 2:8; John 11:25), this Beginning actually begins; Christ

becomes the source, of a new humanity, a new creation (II Corinthians 4:14 and

Romans 8:21).   The apostle derives the whole life and power of Christianity, whether

as seen in Christ or proved by His people, from His resurrection (see parallels). The

name Firstborn brings over with it into this verse the glory which surrounds it in v.15.

The Divine Firstborn, who is before and over all things, wins His title a second time for

His earthly brethren’s sake (Hebrews 2:10-15). As He appears “out of the dead,”

born anew from the dark womb of the grave, the nether abyss (Romans 10:7;

Ephesians 4:9; Philippians 2:8), the Father declares to Him, “Thou art my Son,

this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5); the Church exclaims,”

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28); “all authority in heaven and on earth”

 becomes His (Matthew 28:18; John 17:2); He is made “Firstborn over many

brethren,” who call Him Lord (Romans 8:29; 14:9; Revelation 5:12); and proceeds

to “subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 2:9-10; 3:21; I Corinthians 15:25;

Hebrews 10:13; Revelation 19:11-16).  “Firstborn out of the dead” in the source

of His new birthright of lordship in the Church, He is “Firstborn of the dead”

(Revelation 1:5, R.V.: compare v. 15) in His abiding relation to dying humanity. And

He won this title so as to carry out an antecedent purpose in His mind (compare

Romans 14:9; - “that in all things He might have the preeminence.”  (v. 13;

ch. 2:6; Ephesians 5:5; I Corinthians 15:25; Luke 19:12-27; 22:29-30; John 18:36;

Revelation 1:5; 3:21; 19:16; Psalm 2:7-8). The purpose of creation as “unto Christ”

(v. 17) had been frustrated, so far as related to man, by the entrance of sin and death,

and His rightful preeminence denied Him (John 1:10). He must, therefore, recover it,

must become preeminent; and this He does by His death and resurrection (John 12:

31-32; Hebrews 2:14-15; 12:2; Philippians 2:6-11; Isaiah 53:12). “To this end

Jesus died and lived again” (Romans 14:9: compare II Corinthians. 5:15;

Revelation 1:18).


19   “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell;”

(ch. 2:9; Ephesians 1:10; John 1:14,16; Acts 2:36; Hebrews 7:25; Matthew 28:18).

Vs. 19-20 stand to v.18 as vs. 16-17 to v. 15. The creative work of the Son

explains and justifies is supremacy over the natural universe, and His reconciling work

accounts for His lordship over the Church, as it establishes His “preeminence

in all things.” In Him dwelt the forces and laws of the first creation; in Him,

likewise, all the fullness engaged in the new creation. It is hard to say what is the

grammatical subject of “was pleased.” The great majority of interpreters, both

ancient and modern, understand “the Father” as borrowed from vs. 12-13, and

suggested by the apostle’s use of this verb elsewhere (see I Corinthians 1:21;

Galatians 1:15; Philippians 2:13;  Ephesians 1:5, 9, 11);  the Revised Version

margin, adopts the immediately following “all the fullness.”  Others prefer

“the Son,” the exclusive and all-absorbing subject of vs. 15-18. Paul

has dwelt on the sovereignty of Christ in every clause from v. 14

onwards; and, lastly, that his point of view is historical (note the aorists

throughout vs. 18-20), as concerned not with the “eternal purpose” and

absolute initiative of the Father, but with the establishment; of His own

kingdom by the Son (v. 13; see note on “unto him,” ver. 16). There is

nothing in the term “well pleased” (“good pleasure”) to prevent the apostle

applying it to the Son, if he finds occasion to do so. But “this view

confuses the theology of the passage hopelessly”. The same can be said of the

“unto him” of v. 16, and the “all in all” of ch. 3:11, as compared with the

language of  I Corinthians and Romans; and the same answer holds good in each

case, viz. that the apostle speaks concerning Christ and the Church, and his

thoughts move within the circle of their mutual relations, grounded as these

are in the Christian constitution of the universe itself. God’s good pleasure

(Ephesians 1:5, 9) lay within and behind Christ’s choice and action (John 8:29);

but it was his own good pleasure too (John 10:30).  So in John 10:18 (compare

also Ephesians 5:2 and Galatians 2:20 with Romans 5:8 and 8:32) the initiative of

Christ in the work of redemption is recognized along with that of the Father.

“He emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:7); and again “was pleased” that “all the

fulness should be His: compare Ephesians 4:8-11 (quite consistent with

I Corinthians 12:28), Hebrews 1:3b, where Christ appears regally assuming His own

glory. “All the fulness is not precisely “the fulness of the Godhead” of ch.2:9.

Had the more definite expression preceded, it would have been fair to interpret

 this more general one by its aid. Pleroma is a word so varied and elastic in Pauline

usage (see Romans 11:12; 13:10; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10, 23; 3:19; 4:13) that

it can scarcely have hardened suddenly into “a recognized term in theology, denoting

the totality of the Divine Person and His attributes. (Arthur Pink has written a treatise

on the Attributes of God which I can recommend highly – three of them, Patience,

Mercy and Wrath of God - #’s 2-4 – this web site  - I can recommend highly –

CY – 2011) - No earlier example of such a usage is furnished. To import it

here is to make the Epistle speak the language of the second century. “All

the fulness” ascribed to “the Son of God’s love” as “Head over all things

to the Church,” alike “Beginning of the creation of God” and “Firstborn

out of the dead,” embraces that entire plenitude of nature and of power

residing in Him since the time that he ascended to the right hand of power

(ch. 3:1; I  Peter 1:21; Hebrews 1:3-4; 5:9; 7:28), and in virtue of which He

“becomes in all things pre-eminent.” Katoike>w - katoikeoto settle down

 in a dwelling - denoting a “fixed dwelling” (ch. 2:9; Ephesians 3:17); but is aorist

in tense here (present in ch. 2:9) along with eujdo>khseeudokaesewas pleased”)

“should make its dwelling in Him” (see Acts 7:2,4), pointing to a distinct event,

viz. in this case the Ascension which consummated the Resurrection set forth in the

last clause.  Ephesians1:20-23 and 4:8-10 strongly confirm the correctness of this

view; there “the fulness with which Christ is charged, and wherewith He proceeds

to“fill all things,” dates from His ascension (John 12:32; Acts 2:32-34; 5:30-31;

Romans 8:34). (pleroma –- Pleroma – fullness - is passive in derivation, denoting

that wherewith anything is filled or made complete.) “From henceforth”

Christ is a complete Christ, and we are “made complete in him”

(ch. 2:9-10; see notes). This plenitude (influenced by plenty) qualifies Him as

plenipotentiary (a diplomatic agent invested with full power to transact business)

in His work of reconciliation.


20  “And having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to

reconcile all things unto Himself;  (v. 16; Ephesians 1:10; Hebrews 9:26;

10:12-13; Psalm 2:7-8).  katalla>ssw katallasso – to exchange money-

of persons – to change from enmity to friendship – hence to “reconcile  ) is

used here with eijv eisinto -  in correspondence with v. 16, and implying,

in contrast with dia< - dia - “through”), the end for which rather than the

 person to whom one is reconciled (v. 18b; also Romans 14:9; II Corinthians 5:15;

I Corinthians 3:23).  Brought back again to peace with God, we are brought into

the kingdom of His Son (vs. 13-14). The rebels are made to “kiss the Son.”

(Psalm 2:12) - He wins back His kingdom in them. And so the design of

creation as His dominion is answered at last. “Reconcile” (“reconciliation”)

in New Testament usage implies previous resentment in Him to whom the

offender is reconciled (Romans 5:10). For such resentment in Christ, compare

ch. 3:13; I Corinthians 8:12; Luke 19:27; Acts 26:14; Revelation 6:16; Psalm 2:12.

Katalla>ssw (reconcile) is “to take into favor or allegiance,” and, with ajpo>,

-apo = apokatallazai - “to take back into favor.” This reconciliation to

Christ the King  concerns the “all things” of v. 10, restoring the broken unity

of creation (see note on “the things in the heavens,” below). And there is an actual

reconciliation now being carried on by the Son from heaven (Philippians 3:20-21;

I Corinthians 15:25), resting upon the potential reconciliation effected on the cross

(compare the same double sense in II Corinthians 5:18-21). “by Him, I say,

whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”  - ch.2:13-14; Ephesians

2:13-18; II Corinthians 5:18-6:1; Romans 3:25; 5:10; Hebrews 9:11-14; Revelation

1:5; 5:9; Matthew 26:28). The apostle “glories”only “in the cross” Galatians 6:14),

the sole means of salvation, viewed from whatever side (I Corinthians 1:23-24).

Peace is made for those who were “alienated and enemies in wicked works” \

(v. 21), who were under the dominion of the enemy of God and His Christ (vs.

13-14). It begins as the peace of forgiveness (ver. 14; 2:13; 3:13; Romans 3:24-26;

5:1), and continues as an abiding fellowship with God through the Spirit, in obedience

to Christ, the one Lord (v. 13; ch.2:6; Romans 5:1-2; 8:5-9, 28; Galatians 5:22;

Philippians 4:7; II Corinthians 10:4-5; Acts 2:32-36). There can be peace only

when  He is Lord (I Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 10:13; Revelation 19:11-16).

In this all the present blessings of salvation are comprised (v. 2). “The blood of

the cross” is the one all sufficient atonement which brings men into peace

with God, and so puts them back into the kingdom of Christ, who is “Prince

and Saviour, Priest and King” (Romans 3:25-26; 14:9; II Corinthians 5:15;

Titus 2:14). (You want to know what is sad?  I bet there are many

Kentuckians who would run, sprint, lift weights, practice over and over, if

what they did would only help Kentucky to have beaten UCONN April 2,

2011, but will not be that disciplined when it comes to the saving of their

soul, PUTTING FAR OFF THE DAY – My testimony is:  I marvel

at the teaching and meaning of these scriptures, all the ducks set up in a row,

plainly, over and over, repetitiously, explain the WORK and  SALVATION

of Jesus Christ  who died for their soul.  But the interest is just not there,

the sacrifice to “KNOW THE LORD” is not that important, and

unfortunately, they will die, unconverted, aliens from God’s Kingdom,

strangers to the covenant of promise, dying,  having NO HOPE and

WITHOUT GOD in the world.  (Ephesians 2:12) – Surely one’s soul

is more important than a basketball game or championship!  Trust Jesus

Today!  - How to Be Saved - # 5 – this web site – CY – 2011)

Faith, the subjective condition of peace, appears in v. 23 - (Romans 5:1; 15:13).

“Having made peace,” as a single compound verb, occurs only here in the New

Testament (compare Matthew 5:9).  The repeated “through Him” is textually

doubtful; copyists were more likely to omit than to insert it here. This emphatic

repetition  suitably introduces the bold and startling words, whether the things on

the earth, or the things in the heavens (v. 16). The things “in the heavens,” as in

v. 16, include the whole creation, spiritual or material, other than “the things upon the

earth.” In Romans 8:19-21 we learned that the earthly creation shares man’s fall and

his redemption. But “sin entered” (Romans 5:12) here from outside, and how far its

influence extends beyond our planet we cannot tell. Paul does not positively affirm

that the reconciliation of the cross embraces other worlds than ours. He speaks

hypothetically. Christ’s death is in his eyes an event parallel only to creation

in its magnitude, and he can set no limit to its potential efficacy. Its virtue is sufficient

to “reconcile all things,” wherever such reconciliation is needed and is possible

(yet see Hebrews 2:16). The difficulty is not to be evaded by putting a milder sense on

“reconcile” as applied to “the things in the heavens”  - “the blood of the

cross” forbids any thought but that of the propitiatory atonement. Nor does the

text say anything of a reconciliation between “earth and heaven”, “men and angels,”

“Jews and Gentiles,” “secular and spiritual affairs,” etc.; such glosses are opposed

to Paul’s strict use of the word “reconcile,” and to the parallelism of v. 16.


In vs. 21-23 the apostle descends, with characteristic boldness and suddenness,

from the vast generalizations of vs. 15-20 to the closest personal application of his

theme — from “all things in earth and heaven” to “you” (compare Ephesians

1:22-2:1-2). With Lightfoot, we place only a comma, or a colon at most, after ver. 20.


21   “And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind, by

wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled” or, were ye reconciled

 (ch. 2:11; 3:7; Ephesians 2:1-3,11-12; 4:18; 5:5-8; I Corinthians 6:4; Romans

6:21; I Peter. 1:11; 4:3). The combination of o]ntav (“being”) with perfect passive

participle (“having been alienated”) implies a fixed condition, that has become as

a part of one’s nature (so in Ephesians 4:18, Revised Text). As the opposite of

“reconciled,” “alienated” is strictly passive, and denotes, not a subjective feeling

on the part of the sinner, but an objective determination on the part of God, an

exclusion from the Divine favor, from “the kingdom of the Son” and “the lot of the

saints” (vs. 12-13; Ephesians 5:9; 2:3, 11-13; 4:18; Romans 1:18). “Enemies in your

thought” sets forth the disposition of the sinner towards God (Romans 8:7;

Philippians 3:18:  for the passive sense of “enemies,” as found in Romans

5:10; 11:28; Galatians 4:16. On the latter view, th~| dianoi>a| - tae dianoia

mind - instrumental dative, “by,” “in virtue of your state of mind;” on the former,

it is dative of reference or definition - dianoi>a (here only and Ephesians 2:3 and

4:18 in Paul) has possibly a polemical reference. It denotes in Greek philosophy,

the faculty of thought, as opposed to the bodily powers. In Philo’s teaching it

signifies the higher part of human nature, akin to God, and opposed to evil which

belongs to the senses:  “Thought (dianoi>a) is the best thing in us” (‘On Fugitives,’

§ 26); “Every man in regard to his intellect (dianoi>a) is united to the Divine Word,

being an impression or fragment or ray of that blessed nature; but in respect of his

body he belongs to the entire world” (‘On the Creation of the World,’ § 51). But

here sin is associated with the intellect in man, and redemption with “the body of

Christ’s flesh” (v. 22): compare notes on “reason,” ch. 2:18, and “body,”Ibid. v. 23;

also Ephesians 4:18, where the reason is vain, the intellect darkened. “Wicked

[emphasized by its position in the Greek, denoting active evil;  on ponhro>v

poneroswicked] - works” is a phrase common in John, only used here by Paul

(compare ch. 3:7;  Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 6:19-20; Galatians 5:19; Hebrews 9:14).

These works are the practices of life in which the sinner is abidingly excluded from

“the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5), and manifests the radical antipathy

of his mind toward God. “Yet [or, ‘but’] now:” (I remember the late John Tong who

used to be the announcer at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s Sweet

Sixteen Basketball Tournament – also the announcer for the University of Louisville

when he would introduce the teams he would start out by saying “And now…….”

– this is a very inferior type of introduction of worldly things, when compared the great

gravity of the heavenly things which Paul was introducing in his writings!  – CY – 2011) 

- compare v. 26; ch. 3:8; Ephesians 2:13; Romans 3:21, etc. — a lively form of

transition characteristic of Paul, primarily temporal, then also logical in sense. “were

 ye reconciled” breaks through the grammatical structure of the sentence, as in vs.

26-27  - If “did He reconcile” (or, “hath He reconciled”) be the correct reading,

“Christ” is still subject of the verb, as in vs. 19-22, and consistently with Ephesians

2:15-16. (On “reconcile,” see ver. 20.)


22  “In the body of His flesh” -  (v. 20; ch. 2:11; Romans 8:3; 7:4; I Timothy 3:16;

I Peter 2:24; 3:18; 4:1; Hebrews 2:14-15; 10:20; I John 4:2; II John 1:7; Luke

24:39). With a significant emphasis, the material body of Christ is made the

instrument of that reconciliation in the carrying out of which “his whole

fullness” is engaged (vs. 19-20); see note on “thought,” v. 21, and on

“body,” ch.  2:23. The necessity of the double expression was

shown by the fact that the Gnostic Marcion erased “of his flesh” from the

text of this Epistle, and interpreted “the body” as “the Church - some suppose

“of His flesh “to be added to prevent this mistake. This phrase was the crux of

Docetism, whose principles were indeed implicitly contained in the

Alexandrine-Jewish philosophy with its contempt for matter and the

physical life, which was now first beginning to leaven the Church. Body is

antithetical to soul: flesh to spirit. The former is individual and concrete,

the actual physical organism; the latter denotes the material of which it

consists, the bodily nature in its essence and characteristics (compare note on

v. 11. “In the body” is not “by the body,” nor “during His earthly life” (as though

opposed to “out of the body,” II Corinthians 5:6-8; 12:3), but “as incarnate.” The

Epistle to the Hebrews in 2:14-18; 10:5-10; expands the thought of our Epistle

in its own way. That reconciliation is  “through death,” - through the (or, His)

death (Romans 3:25; 4:25; 5:10; I Corinthians 15:3; II Corinthians 5:14-15;

Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 2:9; 9:15-16; (Reader, Are you tired of repetition yet? 

Take heart!  We are talking about a crown bigger than the NCAA can offer! –

CY – 2011)  John 10:11; 11:51-52; Revelation 1:18; 2:8) is the fundamental axiom

of the gospel (v. 5), already implied in vs. 14 and 20. And the atoning death

presupposes the Incarnation (Hebrews 2:14). The two foregoing

phrases belong grammatically to v. 21 – “to present you holy and unblameable

and unreprovable in His sight.” (v. 28; Ephesians 1:4; 5:25-27; I Thessalonians

2:19; 5:23; Romans 2:16; I Corinthians 4:5; II Corinthians 4:14; 5:10; Acts 17:31);

before “Christ” (v. 19), who is “Judge” (John 5:22-23) as well as “King” and

“Redeemer”(vs. 13-14): this also belongs to His fullness. He will “Himself present the

Church to Himself” (Ephesians 5:27, Revised Text; also II Corinthians 4:14). In this

presentation His redeeming work culminates (compare Philippians 1:6,10; 2:16; and,

in view of the connection of vs. 22 and 23, I Corinthians 1:6-9).  (On “holy,” see note,

v. 2; also ch. 3:12.) “Apropos is not “without blame,” but “without blemish,”

“immaculate;” Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; Philippians 2:15:  Compare Hebrews 9:14; I Peter

1:19). In the LXX it is the equivalent of the Hebrew tamim (“integer”), “faultless” in

bodily condition or in moral character. “Unreprovable,” as a judicial term (“without

charge that can be preferred”), points to the judgment day, and hence is wanting in

Ephesians 1:4 (compare I Corinthians 1:8; Romans 8:33-34; I Timothy 3:10; Titus



23   “If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled,” - (v. 4; ch.  2:6-7;

Ephesians 3:18-19; 6:10-17; Philippians 1:27; I Thessalonians 3:2; II Thessalonians

2:15-17; I Corinthians 15:2, 58; Galatians 1:6; 5:1). All that Christ has

done and will do for the Colossians, yet depends on their continued faith.

Ei] ge (only Pauline in New Testament; containing “the volatile particle ge”)

suggests, actually (Galatians 3:4) or rhetorically (Ephesians 3:2;  4:21), a

conceivable alternative; if as appears, as one hopes, or fears, or may assume.

“Are continuing in” (ejpime>nete -– epimenete) is both “abiding by” and

“adhering to” (Romans 6:1; Philippians 1:24, R.V.; I Timothy 4:16). As present

indicative, it implies a (supposed) actual state. “The faith,” as regularly in the

New Testament, is the act and exercise of faith (subjective), not the content or

matter of faith (objective). “Grounded” or “founded,” perfect passive, implies

a fixed condition (compare  ch. 2:7; Ephesians 3:18, coupled with “rooted;”

I Corinthians 3:10-12; Ephesians 2:20; II Timothy 2:19; also Luke 6:48). “Settled”

(eJdrai~ov –- hedraios -  from e[drahedra -  a seat) is opposed to

“moved away,” just as in I Corinthians 15:58. The words, “and be not

moved away” -  (or, letting yourselves be moved away), put the same

assumption negatively, and more specifically as he adds, “from the hope of

the gospel;,” -  good tidings (vs. 5, 27; ch. 3:15, 24; Ephesians 2:12;

I Thessalonians 1:3, 10;  II Timothy 1:9-11; I Corinthians 15:58; II Corinthians

4:13-5:8; Romans 8:17- 25; Hebrews 3:6, 14; 6:11,18-19; 10:35-36) — that

which is its peculiar property and glory, the crown of Christ’s redeeming work

(v. 22), the end of his servant’s labors (v. 28), for which, by anticipation,

he already gives thanks (v. 5). but which was directly threatened and

brought in question by Colossian error (see notes on ch. 2:18; 3:15). (The gospel)

“which ye have heard (vs. 5, 7: notes), and which was preached to every

creature which is under heaven;” in all creation that is under the heaven

(v. 6; Romans 16:26; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20; 24:14). The transition

from “you” to “all creation” resembles that of vs. 5-6 (comp. vs. 20-21).

“Preached” is literally “heralded,” “loudly and officially announced;”

so, frequently in Paul (see II Timothy 1:11), also in Mark 16:15. Greek

usage does not support the interpretation which makes

kti>siv (“creation “) equivalent to “humanity.” This sense of the word,

which, even in Mark, interpreters reject, is quite Hebraistic and exceptional.

The phrase, “all creation,” the writer has already used in v. 15; here, as there

(see here), without the article (Revised Text). The universal meaning it carries

there is now limited by “under the heaven.” The earthly creation subject as it is

to Christ, is the sphere of this proclamation, the preaching room which is to

resound everywhere with the glad tidings (compare Psalm 50:1; 98:7;

Isaiah 52:7; 55:12; Revelation 10:2; 14:6). And with this range it was

proclaimed, for from the first it claimed universal audience. Whereof I

became, I Paul, a minister (vs. 24-29; Ephesians 3:1-13; I Timothy 1:11-14;

2:7; II Timothy 1:11; Romans 1:5; 11:13; 15:15-19; I Corinthians 3:5, 10; 9:1-2,

16-17; II Corinthians 4:1-6; 6:1-10; Galatians 1:1,15-16; I Thessalonians 2:4;

Acts 9:15; 26:16-18). (For “minister,” see v. 7.) The later Epistles betray a

markedly heightened sense in the apostle of the unique dignity and

importance of his own position, and those who question their authenticity

press this fact against them. But the difference of tone is what one would

expect in “such a one as Paul the aged, and now a prisoner also of Christ

Jesus” (Philemon 1:9). As the Gentile Churches grew, reverence for

his person deepened; and the success of his life mission became more

assured, especially now that the struggle with reactionary Judaism,

signalized by the Epistles of the third missionary journey, was to a large

extent decided in his favor. The false teachers he is now opposing did not,

we should gather, attack the apostle personally; but may rather have

claimed to be on his side.



That in Christ God becomes visible, and nature becomes intelligible.

To earnest philosophic thought, as to sound religious instinct, it has always

been evident that “what is seen hath not been made out of things which do

appear” (Hebrews 11:3). An “everlasting power and divinity are

clearly seen from the creation of the world” — but as “invisible things”

(Romans 1:20). Our latest Agnosticism is but a despairing echo of the

cry of Job: “I go towards the east, but He is not there; and westward, but I

cannot perceive Him; toward the north, where He is working, but I cannot

see Him; where He veileth Himself in the south, but I cannot find Him”

(Job 23:8-9). God effectually hides Himself behind His works. All

visible point to invisible causes, all finite things lead up to the Infinite, all

phenomena to the noumenal; but whither they point we cannot follow.

Some of the most profound and minute of modern scientific inquirers

testify most strongly to this (e.g. M. Dumas and M. Pasteur, in their

addresses at the French Academy, 1880, 1882). From that invisible, Christ

comes forth to testify of Him whom “no man hath seen nor can see”

(John 1:14, 18; 14:9). We know now what the Maker of the universe

is like. The world is no longer orphaned. The unknown God proves to be

its Father, and his Son its older Brother. Human thought has a visible

center around which to move, a sun which sheds light and warmth over all

its speculations. The incarnation and resurrection of Christ, with the whole

course of His miracles (His signs), assure us that natural law is, and must

prove itself ultimately to be, subservient to spiritual law, the lower to the

higher order, the material world to the moral being of man. His miracles

and parables and His general teaching furnish many fruitful hints, some that

lie on the surface, others that await our deeper searching or future need,

respecting the meaning and use of the natural world. He is, after all, its

chief Interpreter, the Master of poets and philosophers of nature who often

owe most to Him when they are least aware of it, as well as of religious

thinkers and social reformers. While we hold fast this faith in the “Image of

God the invisible,” the “Firstborn of all creation,” we may witness science

and philosophy pursuing their inquiries without misgiving, and we may

follow them, warily indeed, but without mistrust; for they can discover no

truth which will not in the end support the “truth as it is in Jesus,” and they

labor, though they know it not, only to add their own to the “many crowns”

that are preparing for the head of our Immanuel.



                        ADDITONAL NOTES ON VS. 15-23


* All the relations which nature holds to God center in Christ.

 If the world rests on God, is grounded in Him, refers secretly and

everywhere to God as the immanent, perpetual Cause of its being and its

energy; if in Him we live and move and are;” (Acts 17:28) — then we are to

understand all this of Christ. In him were created, in him consist all things”

(vs. 16-17). “God was in Christ” creating the heavens and the earth; is “in

Christ” sustaining, coordinating, directing the march of the circling worlds, the

evolution of their teeming, endlessly varied forms of life. The “winds and

the sea” that “obeyed Him,” disease and death and the mighty spirits of

darkness that fled at His word, knew something of this secret, if men do



* If through God the universe came to be (Romans 11:36); if He

supplied the agencies of creation, the matter and the force (unless matter is

really force) out of which it was generated, the laws which shaped its form

and governed its development; — then it appears that all this was done

through Christ.


* If the world moves towards God (Romans 11:36), in spite of all

divergence and confusion; and if throughout the unmeasured cycles of its

duration past and to come it advances towards the fulfillment of its destiny,

“that God may be all in all” (I Corinthians 15:28); — then its course is

directed also unto Christ. The will of God respecting the kingdom of His

Son was the secret of creation (Ephesians 3:9-10). Man’s sin did not

give birth to that purpose. It called for its vindication in new forms of

superabounding grace; but from the beginning it was “the Father’s will that

all should honor the Son as they honor the Father” (John 5:23). He

is “the Heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2), and it is “the glory of God

the Father” “that every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things

on earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:9-11). So far, therefore, as we can

trace any Divine working in the course of nature or history, we may refer it

to Christ as truly as the forgiveness of sins or the resurrection of the dead.

Nature and grace, body and spirit, history and revelation, the secular and

sacred, are essentially one, are parts of the same scheme, each being the

complement of the other (instance the inseparable connection of Christ’s

miracles of healing with his spiritual work), and are working UNDER THE

SAME MANAGEMENT -  (Matthew 28:18), towards the same issue, that

“purpose of the ages which God purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, to

sum up all things IN CHRIST” (Ephesians 1:10; 3:9-11).



The movement of thought we have followed in vs. 15-23 proceeds from

Christ’s redeeming work to the experience of the Colossians in receiving

it, and the labours of the apostle in publishing it; and is parallel to that of

Ephesians 1:20-3:13. Here, however, the second of these topics has

been made quite subordinate (vs. 21-23: comp. Ephesians 2.). The third

is the subject of our next section.





  • The apostle’s ministry is at present one of suffering (v. 24)
  • Christ, the Hope of the Gentiles, the Secret of the ages, is its theme

(vs. 25-27);

  • and its aim the individual perfection of all to whom it is addressed

(v. 28).

  • In seeking which he is sustained by a supernatural power (v. 29).



24   “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you,” - (ch. 4:3; Ephesians 3:1, 13;

6:19-20; Philippians 1:12,16,29; 2:17; Philemon 1:9,13; II Timothy 1:11-12;

Acts 9:16; 26:29). “Who” is wanting in the older manuscripts. The abruptness of

expression indicates a sudden outburst of feeling (compare II Corinthians 7:9;

I Timothy 1:12). “Now — as these thoughts fill my mind” - “In my present position

(with the chain round my wrist:).  Paul’s sufferings as apostle of the Gentiles and in

defense of their rights in the gospel — so “for your sake” (compare Acts 13:44-50;

22:21-22; I Thessalonians 2:14-16; Romans 15:16; Galatians 5:11; I Timothy 2:7) —

were matter of joy to him as they were of benefit to them – “and fill up that which

is behind (lacking) of the afflictions of Christ” - (Mark 10:39; John 15:20;

Romans 8:17; II Corinthians 1:5; II Timothy 2:12; Philippians 3:10). “Am filling up”

(ajnaplhro>w – anaplerooto fill completely) has the same object

(uJste>rhmahusteremathat which is lacking) in I Corinthians 16:17;

Philippians 2:30 (compare II Corinthians 9:12; 11:9;  I Thessalonians 3:10). Here

it is further compounded with (ajnti> - anti - “over against”), which implies some

sort of correspondence — between defect and supply, but this is surely contained

in the idea of filling up, whereas ajnti< bears as a rule, and always in Paul, a

distinct and pointed reference of its own. “He says not simply ajnaplhrw~,

anapleroo but ajntanaplhrw~, antanapleroo - that is, Christ, the Head, had

borne His part, now the apostle in turn fills up his part, in the great sum of suffering

to be undergone on behalf of the body of Christ (see parallels). The verb being

so understood, we infer that “the afflictions of Christ” (a phrase peculiar to

this passage) are:


  • Christ’s own ministerial sufferings, endured at the hands of men.

            Affliction is a common term for all that Christians suffer as being in “this

            present evil world” (II Thessalonians 1:4-6; Romans 5:3; II Corinthians 4:17:

            compare John 16:33). Such suffering is common to the Master and His

            servants (Ibid. 15:20), and He leaves behind to each his fitting and

            correspondent share therein. These afflictions are “the sufferings of the

             Christ” in their ministerial as distinguished from their mediatorial aspect.


  • The latter sense is, however, put on the phrase by Romanist divines,

            who quote the text in support of the doctrine of the merit of the saints, in

            contradiction to the uniform teaching of Paul and the whole New

            Testament, that the sacrifice of Christ is the sole meritorious ground of

            salvation for all men, leaving nothing to fill up (vs. 20-22; Ephesians

            2:16; Romans 3:25-26; II Corinthians 5:18-19; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 2:9;

            9:26; 10:14; Acts 4:12; 13:38-39; John 1:29; I John 2:2; I Peter 2:24). It is

            worthy of note that, unless it be in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Paul never uses

            the words “suffer,” “suffering” (much less “affliction”) in connection with

            the atoning sacrifice. He dwells rather on the objective fact itself —

            “the death,” “the cross,” “the blood.”


“in my flesh” - (II  Corinthians 4:10-11; 7:5; Galatians 4:13-14); for Paul’s physical

nature felt keenly the pangs of imprisonment, the chafing of “these bonds.” And thus

he puts honor on the despised flesh, as capable of such high service (see note, v. 22).

“for His body’s sake, which is the Church.”  (v. 18; ch. 2:19; Ephesians 1:23; 4:16;

5:23; II Timothy 2:10). The interests of the Church demanded his sufferings. They are

“for you” (Colossian Gentiles); but, in his view, the full possession of the gospel by the

Gentiles and the existence of the Church itself were vitally bound up together

(Ephesians 2:15, 21-22; 3:6). If “Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for

her” (Ephesians 5:25), He might well in his turn suffer on the same account. The

 magnitude of the interests involved are measured by His greatness whose body the

Church is (vs. 15-18). (On “body,” see note, v. 18 .)


25   “Whereof I am made a minister,” -  (II Corinthians 4:5; 6:3-10; 11:28-29;

I Thessalonians 2:1-12; Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1-4). His sufferings are, therefore, matter

of duty, as well as of joy. As the Church’s minister, he is bound to toil and to suffer in

whatever way her welfare requires. Elsewhere he styles himself “minister of the

gospel” (v. 23; Ephesians 3:7), “of God,” “of Christ,” “of a new covenant”

(II Corinthians 3:6). (On “minister,” see note, v. 7 – “according to the

dispensation (stewardship) of God, which is given to me for you,”(Ephesians

3:1-13; I Corinthians 4:1-4; 9:17; I Timothy 1:4, R.V.; 3:15; Luke 12:42; 16:2-4;

Hebrews 3:2-6; I Peter 4:10). Oijkonomi>a oikonomia - “economy” – translated

here “dispensation” primarily signifies the management of a household or

administration of household affairs or property and so a stewardship) is first

“house-management,”  then “administration” generally the oijko>nomov

oikonomos - “house-steward” – manager of a household or estate) was a

confidential upper servant, frequently a slave, who controlled the general

arrangements of a large establishment, and was responsible immediately to

the master. Such an office the apostle holds, along with others (I Corinthians 4:1), in

the Church, “the house of God” (Ephesians 2:19-22; I Timothy 3:15; II Timothy

2:20: this conception, like that of “the body of Christ” - compare note on v. 18 –

is fully developed only in the later Epistles). In this office he “administers the gospel”

(I Corinthians 9:17-18), “the grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2; I Peter 4:10), and here

more especially “the mystery” of vs. 26-27 (compare Ephesians 3:9, R.V.). In

Ephesians 1:10 and 3:2, the oijkonomi>a is referred to God Himself, the supreme

Dispenser in His own house. This office “was given” him, and specifically as “toward

the Gentiles” (for “you” points to the Colossians as Gentiles, vs. 24, 27, notes;

Ephesians 3:1-2; Romans 11:13), when he first became a servant of Christ (Acts 9:15;

22:21; 26:16-18; Galatians 1:15-16; I Timothy 1:11-15; Romans 15:15-16). Some

interpreters connect “to youward with the word “fulfill,” but less suitably (compare

Ephesians 3:2; Romans 15:16) – “to fulfill the word of God.”  (Romans 15:16-19;

16:25-26). “To fulfill” (see vs. 9, 24, and “fullness,” v. 19; also ch. 2:9-10; 4:12)

is either “to complete,” to give full development and extension to the gospel message

(vs. 5-6; II Thessalonians 3:1; II Corinthians 2:14-17; Romans 15:19; Acts 20:20-21,

27); or “to accomplish” the prophetic word (Romans 9:24-26; 15:8 -12; Acts 15:

15-17), as in Acts 13:27, and frequently in the Gospels. This verb plhro>w -

palaeroofulfill -  however, is not used by Paul elsewhere in the latter sense, and

the former precisely suits the context (compare parallels from Romans). Other

interpretations — “to preach abundantly,” “to continue Christ’s preaching”

(Ephesians 2:17; Hebrews 2:3), “to execute the Divine commission” — miss

the sense of the verb. The word which it is the object of the apostle’s ministry to

fulfill, and in regard to which he had a special stewardship, is none other than:


26   “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations,”

(Ephesians 2:2-3; 3:5, 9; Romans 16:25-26; 11:25-26, 33). The word “mystery”

plays a large part in Colossians and Ephesians. It occurs in I Corinthians, and twice in

the Roman Epistle, written from Corinth. Its use in Romans 16:25 is identical with that

of the passage before us. The Greek mysteries were secret religious doctrines and rites

made known only to initiated persons, who formed associations statedly assembling at

certain sacred spots, of which Eleusis near Athens was the most famous. These

systems exercised a vast influence over the Greek mind, and Greek literature is full of

allusions to them; but their secret has been well kept, and little is known of their real

character.  Some of these mystic systems, probably, inculcated doctrines of

a purer and more spiritual type than those of the vulgar polytheism. The

ascetic and mystical doctrines ascribed to Pythagoras were propagated by

secret societies. The language and ideas connected with the mysteries were

readily adopted by the Jewish Broad Church of Alexandria, whose endeavor it

was to expand Judaism by a symbolical and allegorizing method into a philosophic

and universal religious system, and who were compelled to veil their inner doctrine

from the eyes of their stricter, unenlightened (or unsophisticated) fellowbelievers.

Musth>rion  - musterionmystery - appears in the Apocrypha as an epithet

of the Divine Wisdom (Wisd. 2:22; 8:4; etc.): Psalm 49:4; 78:2 (compare Matthew

13:34-35) furnished the Old Testament basis of this usage.  Paul, writing to men

accustomed, either as Greeks or as Hellenistic Jews, to this phraseology, calls the

gospel “a mystery,” as that which is “hidden from the natural understanding and

from the previous searchings of men” (I Corinthians 2:6-16). But in the words that

follow he repudiates the notion of any secrecy or exclusiveness in its proclamation

(compare II Corinthians 3:12-4:6); in his language, “mystery is the correlate

of revelation.” The thrice-repeated ajpo<  - apo - “from,” “away”, with

the double indication of time, gives a solemn emphasis to the statement. Ages are

successive epochs of time, with their states and conditions (compare Galatians 1:4);

generations are successive races of men, with their traditions and hereditary

tendencies. But now it was made manifest to His saints (ch. 2:2; 4:3; Ephesians 1:9;

3:5; 6:19;  I Timothy 3:16; I Peter 1:20). The word “reveal” (Ephesians 3:5;

I Corinthians 2:10) indicates a process, “make manifest” points to the result of

this Divine act (Romans 16:25-26: compare Ibid. 1:17 with 3:21). The

transition from the participle in the last clause to the strongly assertive finite verb in

this almost disappears in English idiom: compare vs. 5-6; Ephesians 1:20-22 (Greek);

There is also a change of tense: the manifestation is a single, sudden event (aorist),

breaking through the long and seemingly final concealment of all previous time

(present perfect participle); similarly in Romans 16:25-26 and I Peter 1:20 (compare

ch. 2:14, note). To His saints; i.e. to the Church at large (v. 2; ch. 3:12); but this

implies a spiritual qualification (I Corinthians 2:14). “His saints” are the recipients;

“His holy apostles and prophets, in the Spirit,” the organs (Ephesians 3:5) of this

manifestation. The Church had long ago formally accepted this revelation

(Acts 11:18); it was Paul’s office to make it practically effectual.


27   “To whom God would (willed to) make known what is the riches of the

glory of this mystery among the Gentiles;” -  (Ephesians 3:5-10; Acts 11:17-18;

Romans 11:11-12, 25-32; 15:9-12). [Of the Gentiles exposure to the Word of

God, Acts 28:28 says “and…they will hear it.” – One of my favorite verses in all

the Bible is Romans 11:32 referred to above – CY – 2011) - “Willed” stands

emphatically first in the Greek.  The revelation was so momentous in its issue, so

signal in its method, and so contrary  to human foresight and prejudice, that it

proceeded evidently from “the will of God” (vs. 1, 9; ch. 4:12; compare Romans

9:18) - “Who was I,” said Peter, “that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17) –

The Ephesian letter delights to dwell on God’s will as the cause of the whole

counsel and work  of salvation. The Revisers have rendered the verb by

“was pleased,” the equivalent  of eujdoke>w  - eudokeowell  pleased - (v. 19;

Ephesians 1:5, 9). There is no need to seek a reference to free grace in the verb

“willed;” the two ideas are concurrent, but distinct. The  apostle’s mind is filled

with amazement as he contemplates the boundless riches which the salvation

of the Gentiles revealed in God himself (compare Romans 11:33-36; 16:25-27;

Ephesians 3:8-10). “The glory of this mystery” is the splendor with which it

invests the Divine character (on “glory,” see note, v. 11; and for “riches of glory,”

Ephesians 1:18; 3:16; Philippians 4:19; Romans 9:23) – “among the Gentiles

defines the sphere in which the riches of the glory is more specially evinced. 

At last this mystery is defined: “which is Christ in you” -  (ch. 2:2-3; I Timothy 3:16;

Ephesians 3:17; Galatians 2:20; 4:19; Romans 8:10). By a bold metonymy, the

mystery is identified with its subject or content. It is “Christ Himself” -  (see ch.2:2,

note), the Divine secret of the ages, the burden of all revelation; and “Christ in

 you” - (ch. 3:11), Christ  dwelling in Gentile hearts — this is the wonder of wonders!

So the “sinners of the Gentiles” receive “the like [equal] gift” with the heirs of

the promises (Acts 11:17). By a further and yet bolder apposition, this mystery of

Christ in Colossian believers is “the hope of glory.”  (vs. 5, 23; ch. 3:4; Ephesians

1:12-14, 18; Philippians 3:20-21; Romans 2:7; 8:18-25; I Corinthians 15:43;

I John 3:2), of which it is a pledge and a foretaste (vs. 4-5; ch. 3:15; Ephesians

1:13-14; Romans 8:10-17). This glory is that which the Christian will wear in his

perfected, heavenly state (ch. 3:4; I Corinthians 15:43; Romans 8:18), when he

 will fully reflect the glory he now beholds in God through Christ (“the

 glory of this mystery”) -  compare the double“glory of  II Corinthians 3:18.

The rights of the Gentile believer in Christ are therefore complete (Ephesians 3:6).

Possessing Him now in his heart, he anticipates all that He will bestow in heaven

(on “hope,” see v. 5).


28   “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all

wisdom;” -  (ch. 3:16; I Thessalonians 2:4-13; I Corinthians 1:23-24; 4:1-5; 15:11;

II Corinthians 4:1-6; 5:18-6:1; Acts 20:18-35; 26:22-23). “We”  (emphatic, like the

“I” of vs. 23, 25) includes Paul’s coadjutors, Epaphras, Tychicus and Justus in

particular (v. 7; ch. 4:7, 11-12: compare II Corinthians 1:19). Katagge>llw

 katangelloannounce, preach, to publish, bears a wider sense than khru>ssw

kerussoto herald, to proclaim, to preach -  (v. 23), Paul’s favorite word.

“Admonishing and teaching” are the two essential parts of the apostle’s ministry,

related as repentance to faith. Nouqete>w noutheteo - to put in mind, to warn -  

peculiar to Paul in New Testament (including Acts 20:31), may denote reproof for

 the past, but more especially warning for the future (see I Corinthians 4:14;

II Thessalonians 3:15: compare note on ch. 3:16). Thrice in this verse “every man”

 is repeated, and “in all wisdom” follows “teaching” with a marked emphasis.

The Colossian errorists, as we should presume from the general tenor and affinities

of their system, sought to form an inner mystical school or circle of discipleship within

the Church, initiated into a wisdom and holiness supposed to be higher than that

attainable by ordinary Christian faith (see note on “mystery,” v. 26; also ch. 2:2-3,

8). An intellectual caste-feeling (see note, 3:11) was springing up in the Church. In

I Corinthians 2:6-16 the apostle denounces the pride of reason which claims “the

 things of God” as its own; here he denounces the pride of intellect which refuses

the knowledge of them to those who stand on a lower level of mental culture. To

every man the Divine wisdom in Christ is accessible (ch.2:3,10; 3:10,16;

Ephesians 2:17; 3:18-19): to none but “the spiritual man” (I Corinthians 2:6,

12-3:1). “Wisdom” here is not subjective, a quality of the apostle (I Corinthians

3:10), but objective, the quality of the truth itself (compare ch. 2:2, 23; 3:16;

Ephesians 1:18; I Corinthians 1:22-25; 2:6-7) – “that we may present every

man perfect in Christ Jesus.”(v. 22; Ephesians 4:13; 5:25-27; II Corinthians

13:7-9; I Thessalonians 2:19-20; II Timothy 2:10): the aim alike of Christ’s

redemption (v. 22) and of the apostle’s ministry. (te>leiov teleiosperfect)

is a word associated with the Greek mysteries (compare I Corinthians 2:6-7;

and in common use denoted “full-grown,” “grown men,” as opposed to

“children “(Ephesians 4:13-14; Philippians 3:12, 15; Hebrews 5:11-6:1). The

philosophic Judaists affected this term considerably. Philo frequently distinguishes

between the “perfect” or “fully initiated” (te>leioi), who are admitted to the sight

of God, and (proko>ptontev prokoptontes - the advancing) compare Galatians

1:14), who are candidates for admission to the Divine mysteries; and he makes Jacob

a type of the latter, Israel of the former. The apostle makes “perfect” designedly

parallel to the “holy and without blemish” of v. 22, holding out a spiritual

ideal very different from that of Alexandrine mystics; and declares that it is

to be realized “in Christ” (vs. 2, 4), as in v. 22 it appeared to be

wrought “through Christ” and “for Christ” (compare v. 16).


29   “Whereunto I also labor striving according to His working,” – ch. 2:1;

4:12-13; I Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 4:11; Philippians 2:16; I Timothy 4:10;

Acts 20:35). Kopiw kopio -  to labor to weariness, often used of manual labor,

is another favorite word of Paul’s (I Corinthians 4:12; II Corinthians 11:27;

I Thessalonians 2:9: compare Ephesians 4:28; I Thessalonians 1:3; John 4:38). The

figurative use of “striving” (“agonizing,i.e. contending in the arena”) is only

Pauline in the New Testament: compare ch. 2:1; 4:12; Philippians 1:30; I Corinthians

9:25; [this is one of the verses that led me to compare modern athletes striving

for glory and having to work after it through great sacrifice – the analogy is – Are

you less concerned about your soul and your spiritual warfare than an athlete

about a trophy?  “Are you willing to put time and energy into learning about God’s

work and will in your life?  You don’t have to worry about salvation in Christ –

THAT IS HIS WORK – what we want to do is grow – CY – 2011) I Thessalonians

2:2; I Timothy 6:12; II Timothy 4:7; also Luke 22:44; in I Timothy 4:10 (R.V.) it is

again connected with (kopia>w kopio - toil ). We need not distinguish inward from

outward striving in this word. The apostle’s bodily sufferings (v. 24) and his mental

anxiety (ch. 2:1) alike enter into the mighty struggle which he is maintaining on the

Church’s behalf, and which strains every fiber of his nature to the utmost (compare

II Corinthians 11:28). “Striving” implies opponents against whom he contends

(Ephesians 6:12; II Thessalonians 3:2; II Corinthians 11:26); “toiling hard,” the

painful efforts he has to make. In this toll he is divinely sustained, for he

“strives according to His [Christ’s: compare Philippians 4:13] working.

Energei>a  - energeia - “energy,” “operative force,” “power in

action”) — another word Paul’s vocabulary (frequent also in Aristotle)

is used by him only of supernatural power, “a working of God,”

“of Satan”  in (II Thessalonians 2:9-11) -  “which worketh in me mightily.”

(v. 11; Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 2:13; 4:13; II Corinthians 12:9-10). The

“energy of Christ” is such that it “effectually works” in the apostle; the

same idea is repeated in noun and verb (v. 11, note). The verb is middle in voice,

as this “working” is that in which the Divine “energy of Christ” puts itself forth

and shows what it can do (compare II Corinthians 13:3-6); see note on “bearing

fruit,” v. 6. So it works unmistakably “in [or, with] power.” Never do we find

this consciousness of the Divine power dwelling in himself expressed by Paul with

such joyous confidence as at this period (see Philippians 1:20-21; 4:13;

Ephesians 3:9, 20; and compare the note on v. 23b).





"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."


This material can be found at:


If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.