The Opening Salutation. Col 1:1-2.
V.1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus, our brother, v.2. to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul here, as usual, defines his apostolic position. He is an apostle of Christ Jesus, of the ascended, exalted Lord. Though he did not belong to the original twelve apostles, he was, through the will of God, added to their number, having received the Gospel to be proclaimed by him by a special revelation of Christ, Gal. 1:11. 12, and having been called in particular as the apostle of the Gentiles, Acts 26:16-18; 1 Tim 2:7; Rom. 11:13. As his brother in Christ, as his fellow-worker in the Gospel, Paul names Timothy, at that time his companion in Rome, having either returned from Philippi or not yet entered upon his journey.
The apostle’s address to the Colossian Christians is: To the saints in Colossae and faithful brethren in Christ: Grace to you and peace from God, our Father (and the Lord Jesus Christ). They are saints, cleansed by the blood of Christ, separated from the sinful world, consecrated to Christ. And this is their title because they are incidentally believers, believing brethren, in Christ. They believe in Christ as the Savior of the world and their Redeemer; their faith keeps them in communion with Christ, that is the sphere of their life and activity; they are brethren in their mutual relation; the love of Christ governs all their actions over against one another.
All Christians are saints by the call of God in Christ, by which faith has been wrought in their hearts; they are united by the bonds of a common faith, a common love in Christ. And therefore the opening greeting of Paul applies to them all. The grace of God is our possession in Christ Jesus, who has transmitted to us the grace and the peace of God by reconciling us to God. This greeting, this blessing, is the daily comfort of all believers; they put their trust in its wonderful assurance.
Paul’s Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession. Col 1:3-14.
A prayer of grateful joy:
V.3. we give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, v.4. since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, v.5. for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the Word of the Truth, of the Gospel; v.6. which is come unto you as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth; v.7. as ye also learned of Epaphras, our dear fellow-servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; v.8. who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
It is characteristic of the Apostle Paul that he always finds some reason for thanksgiving, that he finds evidences of blessings all around, that he feels himself to be under the necessity of praising God for some special spiritual benefit: We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, always praying for you. In the midst of a situation which the average person would have considered decidedly gloomy and disagreeable, Paul wasted no time in lamentations. He prayed, continually, habitually, for his readers, for all Christians. And his prayer was, first of all, a prayer of thanksgiving.
Seeing the glorious fruits of the Gospel in the various congregations, praise and thanksgiving rose from his heart to his lips and overflowed in words, in hymns of blessing. To God, the Giver of all good gifts, he addressed his prayer of thanksgiving; for this God is at the same time the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore our Father through the atoning work of Christ. The will of God and the will of Jesus Christ for our salvation were identical. We may have a firm and certain confidence and faith in our heavenly Father through Christ, a childlike trust in His gracious will, knowing that He always hears the cries of His children.
The occasion of Paul’s thanksgiving he names in the words: Having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have toward all saints, on account of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven. The report which had reached Paul concerning the status of the congregation at Colossae spoke in glowing terms of their faith, which was centered in, and rested upon, Christ Jesus, the Savior. For there was abundant evidence of the existence of this faith in the love which the Colossian Christians showed to all saints, the true brotherly love, which feels a fellowship with all the saints, both near and far, and gives a practical proof of this feeling at every opportunity.
Note that Paul here refers to the universal character of the Christian Church. In Jesus Christ all differences of rank, station, and sex are forgotten, for in Him, through his blood, we are one. These conditions obtaining in Colossae, Paul could give thanks on account of the hope which was laid up for them in heaven. Since they showed the unmistakable signs of being true Christians, Paul was certain that the object of their Christian hope, their inheritance as children of God, was laid up, reserved, for them in heaven. It is the hope to which we have been begotten by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, 1 Pet 1:3-6. For the full possession and enjoyment of this hope we long with fervent desire, but also with the calm certainty based upon the promise of the Lord.
Of this hope of the Christians the apostle writes further: Of which you heard before in the Word of the Truth, namely, the Gospel, which, having come, is present with you, as also in the whole world, bringing forth fruit and increasing as also in you, since the day you heard it and realized the grace of God in truth. The hope of the inheritance in heaven was set before them, the certainty of obtaining the gift of heaven was guaranteed to them in the Word of eternal Truth, which is the Gospel.
What God has promised to His believers in this Word is certain, infallible truth, to be relied upon at all times and under all conditions with a certainty which knows no doubt. When the Gospel was first brought to the Colossians, it had brought them the news of this hope in Christ, present in Him from eternity. And what they had learned at that time Paul here confirms with the authority of his apostolic teaching.
This Gospel, in its course through the world, like a traveler going from one city to another, had reached also their city and had remained there since, bringing to them the tidings of great joy. The influence of the Gospel commonly does not spread with irresistible, crushing blows, but comes with steady penetration, gaining one heart after the other for the Lord’s cause. That was its progress in Colossae, that is its progress throughout the world.
The message is not a vain and ineffectual sound, but it brings forth fruit in virtues and good works, Isaiah 55:10-11. The message of Christ enters a heart, works conviction, faith, and love; it reaches others, and the same process is repeated, there is a continual growth and multiplication of its adherents. From the first day of its introduction in Colossae this had been true, for even then some of them had come to the knowledge and understanding of the grace of God. For as the Gospel was first brought to them by Epaphras, it was preached in genuineness and sincerity; and they had accepted it in the same sense, in its genuine reality, and not in the form of the poor imitation which had been recently introduced. ALL true Christian knowledge must be based solely and alone upon the Word of the Truth in the Gospel, not upon human ideas and opinions.
This is emphasized by the apostle when he writes: Even as you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant, who is in your behalf a faithful minister of Christ, who also made known to us your love in the Spirit. Epaphras had founded and organized the congregation at Colossae. He was a pupil and a dear fellow-worker of Paul, a faithful, untiring servant of Christ for the benefit of the Colossians. And the latter had received his message, upon which Paul here sets the seal of his apostolic approval; they had based their faith upon this teaching; they had realized and accepted the grace of God in truth. Since Epaphras, moreover, had remained in connection with this congregation, his concern for its welfare had driven him to Rome to seek the apostle, when the Judaizing teachers had made their appearance in Colossae.
Paul assures his readers that the report which had come to him through Epaphras was highly satisfactory, for it declared their love in the Spirit. Though they were not personally acquainted with Paul, they had received the Gospel out of the mouth of one of his pupils, and they had learned to love the great teacher of the Gentiles. It was a love in the Holy Spirit, whose power is ever active in the hearts of the believers, and it was a love which naturally included all the brethren everywhere. All these facts gave Paul his reasons for thanksgiving.
The apostle’s intercession for the Colossian Christians:
V.9. for this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, v.10. that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; v.11. strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long- suffering with joyfullness; v.12. giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; v.13. who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son; v.14. in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.
The good report from Colossae, which had caused Paul to break forth in a prayer of thanksgiving, now also prompts him to add an earnest intercession in behalf of the Colossian congregation: For this cause also we, since the day we heard, do not cease praying in your behalf and desiring that you might be filled with reference to the understanding of His will in all wisdom and spiritual insight. Just when the condition of a congregation is most gratifying and hopeful, this prayer for the continued success of the Gospel is most necessary.
The prayer of Paul had been unceasing from the very first day that the good news from Colossae had reached him. But it had culminated in a definite request, in a specific petition, a cordial, urgent supplication. He wanted the Colossian Christians to be filled with the understanding, with the knowledge of the will of God. ALL Christians should know that the domain of the gracious will of God extends to them, that God’s thoughts toward them, as toward all men, are thoughts of peace and mercy and love. This knowledge has been in their hearts from the beginning of faith, but it must grow ever fuller, ever more perfect.
The true and complete knowledge of the gracious will of God in Jesus Christ is not only wrought in the heart by faith, but is maintained and increased in its certainty by the Gospel. It is effected, moreover, in all wisdom and spiritual insight. The enlightened mind of the Christian bears down upon, tries to penetrate ever more deeply into, the wonderful truths of the Gospel. The knowledge of God works true wisdom in us, it increases spiritual understanding in our hearts. All this is the work of the Spirit, it cannot be effected by any purely natural development of human mental life, it is an enlightenment from above. In this way the Christian moves forward day by day toward the perfection of the knowledge of God, the consummation of which will take place in heaven.
The aim of such understanding and knowledge is: To walk, to lead a life, worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, in every good work bringing forth fruit and increasing through the knowledge of God. If a Christian is fully equipped with the wisdom and knowledge from above, if the eyes of his understanding are enlightened through the power of the Spirit, then he is able to make the proper choice of paths in life, then he will know what will please the Lord under certain circumstances, in certain positions and situations. Then his object will be to conduct himself at all times in such a way as to agree with the exalted position of the Lord, to avoid everything that is apt to bring shame and disgrace upon the name of Christ. Pleasing to Christ a believer’s life and conduct must be, that everything which he map say or do will meet with the approval of Him whose name the Christian bears.
“To that end our wisdom and knowledge in the understanding of God shall serve and be of use, that we become such people as are an honor and praise to God, that He be praised through us, and that we thus live to the pleasure of God and in every way please Him according to His Word.” 2) Luther, 12, 376.
This is done, first of all, if the Christians in every good work bring forth fruit. The fruits of a Christian’s faith are his good works, as the apostle writes, Gal 5:22. In every good work the Christian should become proficient, not only in this or that individual case which just happens to strike his fancy. In this way the believers grow through the understanding of God, they increase in sanctification, make progress in every good work, because they are growing up to manhood, to the full stature demanded by the will of God. Thus the knowledge of God is the means, the instrument, of our spiritual growth. As we get to know God better and ever better in His essence, we also advance in the knowledge of His will and are thus enabled to make headway in such conduct and life as will meet with the approval of God on every hand.
Another point that Christians should strive for is: in all strength made strong according to the power of His glory unto all patience and long-suffering. It is impossible for the believers, by their own reason and strength, to lead the life demanded by the will of God. But they have a source of strength and spiritual power which is unlimited, since it flows from the divine supply. They are strengthened with power from above, and the strength thus obtained they apply in every direction, in all efforts of will and understanding, in the home and outside of the home, in the Church and outside of the Church. God gives this strength in proportion to His own almighty power; for through this power His glory is revealed, first to the believer, and through him to all with whom he comes in contact.
But above all does the power of God enable the Christian to observe the right attitude in times of tribulation, when poverty, sickness, and various temporal afflictions, when scorn, mockery, persecution come upon him. It is then that patience and long-suffering are needed, which the believer cannot obtain by his own efforts, but which must come to him according to the measure of God’s majesty and glory. In His power he can patiently endure all sufferings and tribulations unto the end, if he be but instant in prayer.
Another feature of the Christian’s conduct in life is: With joy giving thanks to God the Father, who has qualified us to take part in the inheritance of the saints in light. The thanksgiving of the believers is not one which is dictated to them by a sense of duty: it is a free and joyful, almost a spontaneous outgrowth of their relation to God.
Their entire life, both in good and evil days, both in joy and in sorrow, is one continued round of thanksgiving to God for His unspeakable gifts. This attitude and its expression is wrought in the Christians by the fact that they realize that God is their Father. By keeping this fact in mind, that the Father above, the great God of heaven and earth, guides and governs His children’s lives according to His gracious and good will, and that He will surely lead them home, whether through clouds or through sunshine, these children will always find new cause for rejoicing, and their praise of His fatherly love and care will be ever more sincere and joyful.
But the most wonderful gift of the heavenly Father is this, that He has made us meet, ready, has qualified us for taking part in the inheritance of the saints in light. Two things are here stated of the inheritance of heaven; first, that it belongs to the saints, being intended for all believers; secondly, that it consists in light. The final, eternal glory of salvation, the consummation and realization of the Christians’ highest hopes, is given to the believers by God’s free grace. For this He made us ready by having mercy upon our sinful state, by making us His children through faith in Christ Jesus, by guaranteeing to us the glory of heaven for our everlasting possession. It is not an uncertain, indefinite expectation with which the Christians are trying to bolster up their own courage, but a definite certainty, resting upon the promise of the ever-faithful God.
This thought is now expounded at greater length: Who has torn us out of the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
By nature we Christians, with all other men, were under the power, in the slavery, of darkness, in the kingdom of Satan, where there is only curse, wrath, punishment, damnation, not one ray of light or hope. As sinners by nature we were held captive in this slavery and could look forward only to death and damnation.
But God rescued us, He tore us away forcibly from the power of the devil. By the same act and at the same time He transferred us to, gave us a position in, the kingdom of His beloved Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. By sending His one, His beloved Son, in whom the full love of the Father is realized, into this world, by giving Him into death for our sakes and reconciling the world to Himself, God has established the kingdom of His Son, the Church, the realm of light, where righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost are ever present.
Moreover, by working faith in our hearts, He has made us citizens in this Kingdom; we are Christ’s own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and happiness.
In Christ, through Christ’s atoning work, we have redemption; He paid the ransom by which we were delivered from the power of Satan. In His immeasurable mercy and love toward us Christ gave Himself as our Substitute, He shed His holy blood in payment of our debt of sins and transgressions. We now have forgiveness of sins in Him; for His blood cleanses us from all sins, it makes us free from their guilt and power. That deliverance, with all its resulting blessings, is our abiding possession. 3) For vv. 9-14, cp. Hom. Mag., 1906, 321 to 335; Luther, 12, 962-981.
The Work of the exalted Christ through the Medium of the Ministry. Col 1:15-29.
Jesus Christ all in all:
V.15. Who is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of every creature; v.16. for by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him. V.17. And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. V.18. And he is the Head of the body, the Church; who is the Beginning, the First-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. V.19. For it pleased the father that in Him should all fullness dwell; v.20. and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.
This passage is one of the most wonderful and comprehensive in the entire New Testament, for the apostle has crowded into these few sentences almost the entire doctrine of Christ’s person and office.
Of Jesus Christ, whose work of redemption he has just described in its chief parts, the apostle says: Who is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of the entire creation. God’s essence is such as to place Him beyond the senses of man; no man has seen nor can see Him, 1 Tim 6:16; 1 John 4:12; John 1:18.
But God had resolved to reveal Himself to mankind in Jesus Christ, His Son, as His image, in and through whom we can see the Father, John 14:7-10; 1 John 1:1-3. In Jesus Christ the invisible, the unknowable God is both seen and known to us, in Him God has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Cor 4:6. in Him, who is the eternal and living and personal image of the Father, of the same essence with the Father, the eternal love, the gracious and merciful essence of the Father, has been manifested to men. Jesus is incidentally the Firstborn of all creation; He is before them and above them in time as well as in rank, He is superior to all creatures, Heb 1:6.
Luther is right in stating that to be called the first-born in this connection is to be termed true God. 4) Luther, 12, 648.
Just how much is included in these words the apostle shows in the following: For in Him was created everything in the heavens and upon the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; everything through Him and for Him is created, and Himself is before all, and in Him all things subsist. The entire creation rested in the creative power of the Son of God from eternity; the entire counsel of God with regard to the creation of the world was put into execution by Him.
Everything, the whole universe with all that it contains, was brought into being by His creative power, the creatures in the heavens, the angels, as well as those on earth, both the organic and inorganic creatures, with man as their glory and crown. Or, to classify these creatures according to their essence and manner of being: to Christ’s creative sphere belong the invisible creatures as well as the visible. The apostle enumerates some of the invisible creatures, the spirits: thrones and lordships and principalities and powers, both the good and the fallen angels being included. Cp. Eph 1:21; 3:10.
Whether special ranks or orders of angels must be distinguished, cannot be determined from this passage; the apostle seems rather to have the object to bring out the great power of the spirits, which yet is not to be compared with the almighty, creative power of the Son of God. Therefore He summarizes once more that all things, with not a single exception, through Him, through His omnipotence, and for Him, dependent upon Him, for His glory, are created.
He is also said to be the possessor of eternity: He is before all things, He was in existence before a single creature had life and being. He is Providence: all things, the entire universe, exist in Him, hold together through His providential power. He keeps all creatures in their proper place and in the right relation toward one another: He sustains the world in all its parts. Christ is thus the Creator of the world, the Preserver of the world, true God with the Father from eternity.
The apostle now describes the relation of the Mediator to the Church: And He is the Head of the body, of the Church, who is the Beginning, the First-born from the dead, in order that He Himself might become preeminent among all. Since Christ has brought about the cleansing of our sins through Himself, since the Father has rescued us from the rule of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son, since we have in Him the redemption through His blood, we now belong to His Church, the kingdom of Christ. The Church is the body of Christ, who is the Head. Cp. Eph 1:23; 1 Cor 12:27; Eph 5:23.
By their fellowship with Christ, by their union in Christ, all the believers, as members together of the body of which He is the Head, are partakers of all the blessings and glories which pertain to Him in His capacity as the eternal Son of God. He is the Beginning: without Him the Church could not exist, could not have come into being. He is the First-born out of the dead, from among the dead. Both according to time and in rank He is the first in the resurrection of the dead: He is the cause of the resurrection of the dead; through His righteousness justification of life is come upon all men, Rom 5:18; He is the First-born among many brethren, Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 15:20. Among all men, among all creatures, He is preeminent, supreme; that is the result of His resurrection from the dead, of His exaltation on high.
The apostle rises to ever greater heights of sustained eloquence: Because in Him it was the good pleasure that all fullness should dwell. This is the climax of the thought. Christ is the first before all creatures; Christ is the first in the redeemed congregation; Christ is the first in the resurrection and in the subsequent glory. He is the Ruler in the Kingdom of Power; He is the Ruler in the Kingdom of Grace; He is the Ruler in the Kingdom of Glory. So Christ is the vessel in which is contained, in which dwells, the fullness of all the divine counsels for creation and humanity; through Him the fullness of all divine thoughts should be expressed, so that His superiority, His preeminence, might be unquestioned in time and eternity. The thought is almost the same as in chapter 2:9 [Col 2:9].
Not only, however, is the supremacy of Christ emphasized, but also the dependence of the believers upon His work: And that through Him (Christ) everything be reconciled to Him (God the Father), He having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, whether things on earth or things in the heavens.
This was also God’s good pleasure. The apostle evidently does not refer only to the reconciliation which was made through the death of Christ, by which fallen mankind was brought back into the right relation with God. The statement is too broad for that. The culmination of Christ’s work, in His state of exaltation, will be to remove the estrangement which exists ever since the evil angels first revolted against the government of God, to effect the reconciliation by which the sum total of all created things shall be restored to its primal harmony with the Creator. Cp. Rom 8:21.
The connection of thought, therefore, is this: By the fact that God reconciled us to Himself through the blood of Christ He brought about an adjustment of the relations which were thrown out of alignment by the first revolt, and this will finally result in bringing about harmony and unity between heaven and earth. Not only all those that confess the exalted Christ have entered into this state of proper relation with God, but all creatures that are now groaning under the effects of sin will finally, through the power of the exalted Christ, be delivered from their bondage, thus bringing about the union of heaven and earth, while hell with its occupants will be shut out forever from this glorious reconciliation.
All this has resulted and will result from the fact that God has made peace through the blood of His Son’s cross. When Christ was nailed to the accursed tree of the cross, it was in punishment for the sins of the world. But at the same time the shedding of His holy, innocent blood atoned for our transgressions, turned the heart of the Father back to us through our Substitute, and changed the state of warfare existing between the holy, righteous God and the sinful world to one of perfect peace. As a consequence of this sacrifice of atonement the union between God and the believers will be perfect and happy throughout all eternity.
The application of these truths to the Christians of Colossae:
V.21. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled v.22. in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in His sight, v.23. if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I, Paul, am made a minister.
All the blessed truths which he has discussed in the previous paragraph the apostle wants to apply to the Colossians, his aim being to make them conscious of the unspeakable glories which are the lot of the believers here and in the world to come: And you that were formerly strangers and enemies as to your mind in wicked works. The Colossian Christians, for the most part Gentiles by birth, had not merely been alienated, estranged, from God, as though they had at one time been in fellowship with Him, but they had been absolute strangers to Him, shut out entirely from His love and mercy; they had been His outspoken and inveterate enemies in their own nature. Cp. Eph 2:1; 2:12; 4:18.
They were in a state and condition of estrangement as to their affections, passions, desires, understanding. The sphere in which they were moving was that of wicked works, of deeds which increased the alienation between God and them day after day, Rom 8:7. They were thus under the wrath of God and doomed to the judgment of everlasting damnation.
But now the miracle of God’s mercy is brought out: But now has He reconciled (you) in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and blameless and unreprovable before Him.
This characterizes the present state of the Colossians, the state into which they entered through faith in conversion. Now they have been reconciled, now they have become partakers of the reconciliation of Christ. By God they were reconciled to Himself, in the body of His flesh. The Son of the God of love, the only-begotten Son, the eternal Word, was made flesh, and earned and effected a full reconciliation between the righteous God and the sinful world, through His vicarious death. He bore the curse of being forsaken by God, of being condemned to the fires of eternal death; He paid the debt, He delivered mankind from sin, death, and the devil. This reconciliation is ours by faith, it is a gift of God’s free love, whose purpose was to set us forth, to present us before Himself and His judgment as holy, as people that have been cleansed from sin and consecrated to God, as blameless, free from the faults and stains of sin, as unreprovable, no one being able to fasten an accusation upon us. Cp. 2 Cor 5:19-21.
How this condition may obtain and continue is shown in the next words: If, indeed, you remain firmly grounded through faith, and firm and not to be moved from the hope of the Gospel which you have heard, which was preached before every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Faith is a condition of salvation inasmuch as it is the instrument and means by which salvation is accepted. Paul writes in a very delicate way: Assuming that, by which he means to say that there could surely be no doubt as to their remaining in faith. With this faith in their hearts, faith in the redemption through the death of Christ, the Christians of Colossae and of all times are grounded, firmly established, they have the surest foundation, for their trust is grounded in Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith.
It was not only thus in the past, it is thus in the present. And with the help of the Holy Spirit the Christians will not be moved away from the hope of the Gospel which they have heard.
The Gospel holds out the aim and object of the believers’ faith, the salvation of their souls, the glory of heaven. No suggestions and persecutions from without, no foolish lusts and desires from within should make us deviate from the directness of our way to heaven. For the promises of the Gospel which have been given us are so sure and certain that no other certainty can compare with their simple assurance.
Paul adds that this same Gospel which the Colossians had heard had been preached in the presence of every creature under heaven. Even then the Gospel had been carried forth into every part of the civilized world; it was being spoken of in all the earth, Rom 10:18. All men in search of the truth were being given an opportunity of hearing and learning the way of salvation, of becoming acquainted with the message of redemption, of which Paul had become a minister. The Gospel as preached by Paul is t he only way to heaven.
The apostle’s joy in his suffering and labor:
V.24. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the Church, v.25. whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you to fulfill the Word of God; v.26. even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints; v.27. to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; v.28. whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus; v.29. whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.
Paul here shows that his ministry includes two parts, namely, to suffer for the congregation and to serve the congregation with the Word of Grace.
His attitude in his sufferings is one of pure joy: Now I rejoice in my sufferings in your behalf, and fill up the lack of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the Church. Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, although not severe, yet proved a suffering to his body and spirit. Instead of spending any time in repining, however, Paul felt only the highest joy in his condition as prisoner, since it was on account of his work for Christ in behalf of the Christian congregations everywhere, and therefore also in behalf of the Colossians, that he was enduring these afflictions.
Incidentally Paul states that he was filling up fully what was lacking in the measure of the afflictions of Christ for the sake of His body, which is the Church. Fellowship with Christ brings with it fellowship in His sufferings, John 15:18-21; 2 Cor. 4:10- 11. He Himself told His disciples that any one refusing to take His yoke upon himself could not be His follower, Luke 9:23; 14:27.
These afflictions are severe at one time, less severe at another; they strike the Christians of one city or country, leaving those of another city and country practically unscathed. The Colossians till now had experienced little trouble, and therefore Paul, by bearing a surplus, was acting in their behalf, bearing, as it were, some of the burden which they should have carried.
At the same time the sufferings of Paul advanced the interests of the Church of Christ, the whole body receiving benefit from that of one member, and that a leading member. The sufferings, afflictions, and tribulations of any individual member of the body of Christ redound to the benefit of the whole Church; it makes the Christian fellowship more intimate, it equalizes joys and sorrows, 1 Cor 12:22-25.
Paul now speaks of his office in the Church: Of which I have become a minister according to the stewardship of God which was given to me for you to fulfill the Word of God. Paul here calls himself a minister of the Church, which is synonymous with being a minister of the Gospel.
But his office differs to some extent from that of other servants of the Church. He has been given a stewardship, an administration of God, he was made a steward of the mysteries of God, 1 Cor 4:1, for the whole Church. This office he is discharging toward, that is, with regard to, the Colossians and all Christians with the object of fulfilling the Word of God, of carrying out the purpose and object of bringing it into all the world, Luke 7:1; Acts 19:21.
The content of this message is: The mystery that was hidden from the ages and the generations, now, however, is manifested to His saints. The proclamation of redemption in Jesus Christ was not generally made during the time of the Old Testament. Only the Jews had the preaching of the Messiah, and even they only in type and prophecy. And so far as the content of the Gospel is concerned, it is a sealed mystery to every man by nature. All this was changed by the coming of Christ, and especially after His resurrection and ascension. To every nation, to every creature, the Gospel was to be preached by His command; to every believer, whether of the Jews or of the Gentiles, the mystery is now made manifest that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all sinners.
It is of the Gentiles specifically that Paul writes: To whom God wanted to make known what is the wealth of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. That was God’s purpose and design, that the Gentiles also should come to the knowledge of salvation, should find out how rich the glory of this mystery is, should understand that Christ, as He had entered into their hearts by faith, is the center of the Gospel with His guarantee of the future blessedness in heaven. Christ and the glory of the Gospel, the certainty of salvation, in the midst of the heathen world: that is the wonderful statement which the apostle here makes Cp. Rom 16:25-27.
That these truths may become known throughout the world is the object of Paul’s labor: Whom we preach, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, in order that we may present every man perfect in Christ, toward which end I also labor, striving for it according to His working who works in me mightily.
Christ Jesus is the subject of all Gospel-preaching, as the apostle here says, incidentally placing himself in opposition to all false teachers. Where Jesus Christ the Redeemer is not preached, there the Gospel is no longer found in its purity. But from that preaching it follows that every individual Christian should be admonished unto sanctification and taught in Christian knowledge. For it is not sufficient to lay the foundation of Christian knowledge only and then let progress take care of itself. It is God’s will rather to present every believer as a perfect man in Christ Jesus, 2 Tim 3:17, instructed in all wisdom which the Word of God offers.
This perfection is possible only in Christ, in the knowledge of Him, in fellowship with Him, not by works of the Law and self-righteousness. To that end Paul was working so strenuously, striving like an athlete to attain to his object. At the same time he was not relying on any natural ability, on his own reason and strength, but on the divine energy which was inspiring and strengthening him. From the Lord, in whose interests he was working, he obtained the power to do that work for His glory and for the welfare of the souls whom he could reach with his message of salvation.
That same interest and aim must be the actuating and energizing force in the work of every servant of the Gospel to the end of time.