Category Archives: COLOSSIANS 1

The setting forth of the glories of Christ as God’s Firstborn Son., so that the Colossians, grounded in the truth, may resist error.

COLOSSIANS 1

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NOTES ON COLOSSIANS CHAPTER ONE

Survey of the epistle as a whole
The epistle was written because of the concern the apostle Paul had for the spiritual well-being of the Colossian believers. Epaphras, one of their number, had evidently visited the apostle when he was imprisoned in Rome, and whilst he could give a good report of the progress the believers in Colosse were making, he nonetheless had told the apostle of those who were trying to draw them away from their allegiance to Christ. The heretics were either of two sorts, or of one sort with a double agenda. There was a danger that the believers would be attracted to Judaism, and thus lose confidence in the finality of the work of Christ for them. There was also a danger that they would be drawn away by the speculations and mysticism of a group called the Gnostics, who claimed to have superior knowledge.

The epistle is full of the glory and work of Christ, the perfect antidote to error. No heresy can be successful when the truths about Christ are set forth plainly and faithfully. This the apostle does in this epistle, and, of course, because the epistle is inspired of the Spirit of God, it is the perfect answer to all the heresies that were assailing the Colossian believers. When fortified by the truth of this epistle, we too can resist the attacks of the enemy, and also have a grasp of the great truths about Christ that the epistle sets forth.

The epistle also sets out the responsibilities that those have who believe in Christ. Those responsibilities are in relation to our personal lives, our lives in relation to others, and also in relation to the world. The believer is called to live in such a way that the glories of Christ are maintained, and in no way tarnished.

Structure of the epistle

(i) 1:1-11 The effect of the gospel of Christ.
(ii) 1:12-2:3 The excellence of the person of Christ.
(iii) 2:4-19  The enemies of the truth about Christ.
(iv) 2:20-3:17 The expression of life in Christ, (personally).
(v) 3:18-4:1  The expression of life in Christ, (socially).
(vi) 4:2-6  The expression of life in Christ, (generally).
(vii) 4:7-18  The examples of those true to Christ.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 1, VERSES 1 TO 8:

1:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,

1:2  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.

1:3  We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

1:4  Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,

1:5  For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;

1:6  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:

1:7  As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;

1:8  Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.

 

Structure of chapter 1

(a) Verses 1-2 Greetings from Paul and Timothy.
(b) Verses 3-8  Gratitude to God for their faith and love.
(c) Verses 9-11 Goals set before them.
(d) Verses 12-14  Gratitude to God for His work in them.
(e) Verses 15-20 Glories of Christ.
(f) Verses 21-23 Grounding in the faith.
(g) Verses 24-29  Greatness of the mystery.

(i) 1:1-11 The effect of the gospel of Christ

(a) Verses 1-2 Greetings from Paul and Timothy.

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,

Paul- the usual way of starting any letter in New Testament times. Even though this letter is inspired by the Spirit of God, (I Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21), the apostle does not override the custom of the day. The letter is written by the apostle as the expression of his heart.

An apostle of Jesus Christ- the word apostle is made up of the Greek preposition “apo”, meaning “away from”, and a form of the verb “stello”, meaning “sent”. The apostles were sent by Christ to undertake a task for Him. As such, they were servants, despite being apostles. As the Lord Jesus said, “The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than He that sent him”, John 13:16. He prefaced that statement with “Verily, verily”, assuring us of its truth, since He knew there would be those who would doubt it and dispute it. And so it came to pass, for not only did some false teachers try to pass themselves off as apostles, and as such try to dominate the believers, but also there were others who disputed the authority of the apostle Paul. He had to assert the genuineness of his apostleship in such passages as 1 Corinthians 9:1-6, and 2 Corinthians 11.

By the will of God- no doubt those who were bold enough to dispute the authority of the apostle Paul did so because he had not been with the Lord in His earthly ministry, and Peter had defined an apostle as one who had “companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that He was taken up from us”, Acts 1:21,22. The apostleship of Paul was of a distinctive kind, however, for whereas the twelve apostles bare testimony as to Christ upon the earth, as John makes clear in 1 John 1:1-3, Paul’s special task was to bear testimony that Christ was in heaven. In fact in Galatians 1:1 he emphasised the fact that he was not an apostle “of man”, that is, as a result of man’s initiative; nor “by man”, as if Christ had used the Twelve to make him an apostle, but his authority came from Jesus Christ directly, and God the Father also, because Jesus Christ always acts in line with God’s will. A word had come to him from the Lord when he was in the temple courts in Jerusalem, and that word was, “Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles”, Acts 22:21. So he was sent by Jesus Christ, yet this was fully within the confines of the will of God.

We should ever remember the word of 1 Corinthians 14:37, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord”. The next verse reads, “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant”. In other words there are only two options, knowledge through apostolic writings, or ignorance. We do well to note these things, and never make the mistake of despising the writings of Paul as some have done to their spiritual detriment, and of the others they have led astray.

And Timotheus our brother- the apostle here joins Timothy with his greeting, and this combined aspect of the epistle continues during the thanksgiving until 1:23, where a change occurs, and the apostle uses the emphatic personal pronoun “I”, as he makes known his distinctive ministry. The Scripture says, “A brother is born for adversity”, Proverbs 17:17, and Timothy was evidently by the apostle’s side in his prison cell, although some time later he was set free, as Hebrews 13:23 indicates. Tradition says that the epistle was written down by Tychicus and Onesimus, so perhaps they were simply visiting Paul in prison, and served God by writing what Paul dictated to them. Timothy may have been in chains, and hence not able to write.

It is interesting to note the different cultures that are represented by these two men. Paul was a Hebrew, of Hebrew parents, Philippians 3:5, yet he had Roman citizenship, Acts 16:37; 22:27,28. Timothy’s mother was a Jewess, but his father was a Greek, Acts 16:1. So the three main divisions of humanity at the time, Israel, Greece and Rome, are represented by these two men. But they both now had better citizenship, that of heaven, Philippians 3:20 (“conversation” has the idea of citizenship in this place), and how that had come about is the theme of the epistle to the Colossians. Christianity knows no linguistic, social, or ethnic barriers, and Christians have been lifted above the distinctions of earth. So it is that Paul, born a Jew, is no longer a Jew, for he wrote to the Corinthians, “to the Jew I became a Jew”.

All this furthers the intent of the apostle in the letter, for the Gnostic heretics suggested that all faiths and religions were valid, whereas Paul will argue for the exclusive right of Christ to have the allegiance of men.

1:2 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.

To the saints- this is a word that originally was used of those who were idol-worshippers, and as such were “dedicated to the gods”. Examples of these could be heard chanting “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” for two whole hours in the theatre in Ephesus, Acts 19:34. The word was taken up by the Holy Spirit, separated from its pagan use, and used of those who were dedicated and consecrated to God, and separated from the world. So the very word that was separated from things pagan, and consecrated to the things of God, is used as a description of those who had been likewise separated from pagan thing, and consecrated to God.

Every true believer is a saint by status or standing before God, for the sacrifice of Christ has sanctified him, Hebrews 10:10, and the Holy Spirit indwells him to mark him out as such, 1 Corinthians 6:11. The gospel is a call to sainthood, for Paul describes the believers at Corinth as those who were “called to be saints”, 1 Corinthians 1:2.

The idea that a saint is a person who has been canonised, and given the title saint because of some alleged goodness or ability finds no support at all in Scripture. We have to make up our minds whether we are going to regulate our beliefs and practices by Scripture, or by the traditions and fables of men. There is no middle ground, because the Lord Jesus said, “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition”, Matthew 15:6. And in Mark the word is, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition”, Mark 7:9.

And faithful brethren- this is not a separate class of believer, as if some were unfaithful. The normal description of all believers is that they are faithful, simply because they are believing; belief and faithfulness go together, for the latter is the expression of the former. Lydia was judged faithful the day she was saved, so it is not a question of time and experience, Acts 16:15.

The opposite of faithful in this context is not unfaithful, but false, like the heretics who troubled them. When it is a question of service, or stewardship, then there are indeed degrees of faithfulness, but unfaithful persons in this setting are unbelievers.

In Christ which are at Colosse- to be in Christ means to be completely secure, because wherever Christ is reckoned to be, so is the believer. But Christ is in heaven, having dealt with our sins and risen and ascended up to the right hand of God. To be reckoned by God to be “in Him” is to be safe. It is also a dignified position to be in, for there is no more noble person than the Lord Jesus.

If “in Christ” signified security and dignity, “in Colosse” meant danger and duty. The city of Colosse was in Asia Minor, a hotbed of pagan religions of various sorts. So the Colossian believers were constantly assailed by the false ideas of men, and needed to be on their guard. Nothing could destroy their place in Christ, but false ideas could destroy the enjoyment of that position.

Grace be unto you, and peace- the word used for grace here is the normal salutation when Gentile met Gentile, “Charis!” The word used for peace is the normal salutation when Jew met Jew, “Shalom!”. Here both terms are used to the believers in the assembly at Colosse, whether they were Greek or Jew. This reminds us that in Christ there is not Jew or Greek, Galatians 3:28, for even Divinely-made distinctions are erased in Christ, as are human distinctions, like bond and free. But these words are not just a combination of everyday salutations. Rather, they express the heart-felt wish of the apostle for the believers to whom he writes. It is his profound desire that they might know the grace and peace of God in practice. They would do so if they took note of the teaching of this epistle. The two errors that confronted the Colossians were legalism, but God’s grace would deliver them, and mysticism, with its accompanying uncertainty of mind. God’s peace would deliver them from that.

(b) Verses 3-8 Gratitude to God for the believers’ faith and love.

1:3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ- the apostle and Timothy were alike thankful to God for the fact that there were those in corrupt Colosse who believed in Christ. There had been joy in the presence of the angels when they had believed, and now Paul and Timothy share that joy, and express their thanksgiving to God for the news. In verse 2 the emphasis was on the fact that God was their Father. Here the point is that He is God and that He is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. As God He had put forth His power in salvation; as the Father of the Lord Jesus, He is the source of everything that those who have been saved, (and hence can call the Lord Jesus Christ “our Lord Jesus Christ”), need to maintain them in the faith. All that the Father was to Christ, He has become for us, as the Lord Himself indicated in John 20:17, for He said, “I ascend unto My Father and your Father; and to My God and your God”. So the thanksgiving is to God as God, the source of all blessing, and to God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who delights to bless on the basis of who His Son is, and what He has done.

Praying always for you- they never missed an opportunity to pray for the Colossian believers, even though, in Paul’s case at least, they had never met them. The Lord Jesus said, “men ought always to pray, and not to faint”, Luke 18:1, and the apostle exhorted the Thessalonian believers to “pray without ceasing”, 1 Thessalonians 5:17. This does not mean, of course, that we should pray instead of sleeping, but it does mean regularly being in an attitude of prayer, never missing an opportunity to lift our hearts to God. The idea that the Lord Jesus invariably spent the whole night in prayer to God has no support in Scripture. The reality of His manhood meant that this was not possible, or indeed advisable. Constant lack of sleep is detrimental to health, both physically and mentally.

When he writes “for you”, the apostle does not mean to suggest that the Colossians could not pray for themselves. Rather, Paul and Timothy prayed concerning them, but not vicariously for them, as if the prayer of an apostle availed more than the prayer of the Colossians. The idea that believers need a substitute to pray for them is contrary to the Christian faith, for every true believer in Christ is a priest in his own right. The New Testament knows nothing of the division of believers into clergy and laity. If some believers have to take up a disproportionate amount of meeting-time, then this may be because others are not rising to their responsibilities as they should. Such should not criticise those who are exercised to take part.

We learn from these verses and elsewhere that prayer should be incessant, (“always”, verse 3); intelligent, (“since we heard”, verse 4, “who also declared unto us”, verse 8); intense, (“the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”, James 5:16), and interested, (“to desire that ye may be filled”, verse 9).

It is best to think of “praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which ye have to all the saints” as being in parenthesis, with the words “Giving thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” connecting with “For the hope that is laid up for you in heaven”. This thanksgiving extends to the end of verse 8. In verses 9-11 the apostle again prays for them, and then in verse 12 resumes an attitude of thanksgiving for past grace, rather than a prayer for future progress on the part of the Colossians.

1:4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,

Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus- the prayers of the apostle were immediate upon hearing of their faith. He knew how important it is for saints to pray for one another. This is far different to the channelling the modern gnostics, (those of the New Age Movement), engage in, who seek to tune in to “The Force”, the imagined power behind the universe. Paul and Timothy were in direct touch with the God of heaven, and as such their prayers were effectual. They had heard of the Colossians’ faith, so they were not responsible for the founding of the assembly. It seems Epaphras had come to Rome to inform Paul of the assembly, and also express concern about the heresies that were all around them.

As Christ Jesus, He is the Man in the supreme place, far above the supposed intermediaries of the gnostic system. Faith in such a person is certain and sure, for nothing shall unseat Him from His position of pre-eminence. None whose faith is genuinely in Christ Jesus can ever be lost.

And of the love which ye have to all the saints- it is one of the marks of the genuineness of a person’s faith that he shows love to other believers. Writes the apostle John, “We know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death”, 1 John 3:14. And again, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him”, 5:1. The explanation for this connection between faith and love is found in 1 John 4:7,8, where the apostle writes, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love”. Since God is love, and the believer is born of God and hence shares His life, it becomes instinctive for him to express that love to others who are similarly born of God.

Having spoken of their faith and love, the apostle now turns to their hope. Faith is upward, to God; love is outward, to others; hope is onward, towards that which is ahead.

1:5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;

For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven- “For” means “because of”, “on the basis of”. This was why the apostle was so thankful, because he knew that those who believe in Christ Jesus have this hope. Since God made promises to Abraham, Israel’s hope has been in the Land of Israel, which Hebrews 11:9 calls the land of promise. The Lord Jesus indicated that He would tell of heavenly things, John 3:12, and this came to pass in His ministry as recorded by John, and also as the apostles set out the truth of the gospel. We only hear of heaven through the gospel, for the Old Testament prophets spoke of the earthly kingdom of the Messiah. Nor did the heretics who were troubling the Colossians know it, despite their vaunted claims to knowledge. The hope is laid up, and is safe, for it is in Christ that our every blessing is preserved, Ephesians 1:3. Many a time the enemies of Israel made inroads into the land and spoiled and pillaged. Not so our inheritance, which God keeps under His eye in heaven, 1 Peter 1:4.

Whereof ye heard before- that is, before the heretics came with their false and damaging theories, the gospel had reached the Colossians and they had come into the good of the very highest blessings. Nothing that man could present afterwards could bring them more blessing. In fact, what the heretics brought would damage the appreciation they already had of the blessings, if they allowed it to do so.

In the word of the truth of the gospel- notice that the gospel comes by a word; it is not mystical speculation, but authoritative and inspired information. The heretics despised revelation, and preferred individual experiences, often brought on by the use of drugs. The Colossians were on the solid foundation of the revealed will of God, and when the storms came their “house” would stand, Matthew 7:24,25.

It is also the truth of the gospel, the word truth meaning “that which corresponds to reality”. The God of heaven has made known the truth about heavenly things to those who have accepted His word. So the gospel is not just about how to get saved, but also informs us about all that Christ has secured by His death and resurrection.

1:6 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:

Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world- the word of the gospel is the same throughout the world- it is not culturally challenged, as if it needs to be modified to appeal to local views. It is a word from heaven, and as such is relevant in all parts of the globe. The way in which it went out into the world is the way in which it came to Colosse; there was no modification because of local circumstances, nor was there any attempt to appeal to different cultures, as if the preachers were ashamed of the gospel they brought, and felt they needed to allow man’s thoughts to intrude. There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5; He is the same for everybody and every situation. Those who preach the gospel should remember that there is a curse pronounced by God on those who modify it, as a reading of Galatians 1:6-9 will show.

The word for world here is not “oikoumene”, the world as a place where people live. Nor is it “”aion”, the world as passing through a period of time. But it is “cosmos”, the world as a system, governed by the god of this world, and as such under his control. It was into such a world that the gospel came, and coming, triumphed in the hearts of the believers to whom Paul writes. Satan was defeated at the cross, and now he is defeated again by the word of the cross.

The apostles had been obedient to the command issued by the Lord Jesus just before He ascended back to heaven. The words recorded by Matthew are:

“All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever that I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”, Matthew 28:18-20.

Mark records other words, spoken at the same time:

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned”, Mark 16:15,16.

Luke gives us yet other words the Lord spoke at this time:

“Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”, Luke 24:46,47.

John records the words of the Lord Jesus in the upper room after His resurrection, “Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you”, John 20:21.

So the command was to go into “all the world”, preach to “every creature”, and do so “among all nations”, and to do these things with the same dignity and authority as Christ showed when He came into the world, sent of the Father. And these things the apostles did.

And bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you- the Lord Jesus said, “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit”, John 15:8. The life that is received when a person gets saved is eternal life, the life of God, perfectly expressed by the Lord Jesus when He was on the earth. Life of any sort manifests itself, and eternal life is no exception. The Lord said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them”, Matthew 7:15-20. There is no middle ground in these statements; a believer will produce good fruits, and unbelievers, and in particular false teachers, (including those who were oppressing the Colossians), can only produce evil fruits. The good fruits are the result of the fact that the Spirit of God indwells every true believer, and empowers the production of fruit that pleases and glorifies God. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law”, Galatians 5:22,23. This is the good fruit that was evident in the lives of the Colossian believers. If they had listened to the false teachers they would have been hindered in this fruit-bearing.

The apostle not only declares that the gospel that came to Colosse was the same gospel that came everywhere else, but also that the fruit the gospel bore in the lives of those elsewhere in the world was the same fruit as was seen in the Colossians.

Since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth- it is not that they heard of the gospel without any interest. Rather, they heard with the hearing of faith, and thus knew the grace of God in salvation in a very real way. It was in truth that they knew the grace of God; it was not an illusion but a conviction.

Notice that there was an immediate evidence of new life within, for the fruit was “since the day ye heard”. Salvation from sin is not a process, but a single event. Once it has happened there is a different outlook on everything. Instead of thinking like the men of the world, the new believer begins to think like a Christian. He has much to learn, of course, as all believers have, however long they have been on the Christian pathway, but the thoughts and outlook, and therefore the practice, are different. If there is no change in the life of one who claims to be a believer, then it may be there is no life and no reality.

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is a pattern conversion, in the sense that the principles at work in his case are in operation in all true conversions. As Paul himself wrote, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them who shall hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting”, 1 Timothy 1:15,16. When we read the account of his conversion, we note that some things happened immediately. He straight away acknowledged Jesus of Nazareth to be Lord, Acts 9:6; he took the place of a servant and asked what the Lord wanted him to do, verse 6 again; when told he was simply to go into the city, he obeyed, even though he was blinded by the light from heaven. When Ananias wanted a description of him, it could be said, “he prayeth”, verse 11. When he had received his sight, he immediately got baptized, verse 18. And all this before he had eaten, so we learn that to him the will of God was more important that necessary food. Then we learn that “straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God”, verse 20. So it is that the pattern conversion shows us the sort of fruit that is immediately apparent when a soul gets saved.

1:7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;

As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant- it seems from this statement that Epaphras had not been in the assembly at Colosse from the beginning as the one who planted it, but he did come and preach and teach the word of the truth of the gospel alongside those who did establish the assembly in its beginning. He had obviously endeared himself to the apostle as one whose life bore the features of a true-hearted Christian, and one who served the same Lord as Paul.

Who is for you a faithful minister of Christ- even in his absence Epaphras had the spiritual interests of the Colossians at heart, (hence the “is for you”, not “was for you”), and Paul is glad to inform the believers this for their encouragement. This also would remind them that they could trust Epaphras, in contrast to the heretics that were seeking to influence them in his absence. Anyone who could be described as the dear fellow-servant of the apostle Paul can be relied upon at all times. The apostle knew from first-hand experience that Epaphras laboured constantly for them in his prayers even whilst absent from them, 4:12. It is more than likely that they knelt together in prayer.

1:8 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.

Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit- the Colossian believers would have heard of Paul and Timothy, and their hearts went out to them as they realised that they were preaching the same truths as those had, who had led them to the Lord. This is true Christian love, one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS, CHAPTER 1, VERSES 9 TO 29:

1:9 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;

1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

1:11 Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

1:12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son:

1:14 In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

1:16 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:

1:17 And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.

1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.

1:19 For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell;

1:20 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.

1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled

1:22 In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight:

1:23 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;

1:24 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:

1:25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

1:26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints:

1:27 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:

1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

1:29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.

 

(c) Verses 9-11 Goals set before the believers.

1:9 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;

The need for perception., (“wisdom”, “understanding”).

For this cause we also- Paul and Timothy, and perhaps others that were with them at the time, were able to join with Epaphras in his prayers for them.

Since the day we heard it- just as the gospel began to bear fruit in the lives of the Colossian believers from the day they heard it, verse 6, so the apostle and Timothy began to pray for them the day they heard this news from Epaphras. There had been joy in the presence of the angels when they had repented, and now this joy was in the hearts of Paul and Timothy when they heard that they were bearing fruit for God’s pleasure. It was not simply an emotion, however, for this joy was translated into active and earnest prayer for them, especially in view of the dangerous heresies they faced.

Do not cease to pray for you- it was Samuel, (a man noted for his prayer, Jeremiah 15:1), who said, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you”, 1 Samuel 12:23. As we saw in connection with verse 3, the apostle was careful to follow his own exhortation to “pray without ceasing”. We must not undervalue the importance of prayer, for, amongst other things, it is a demonstration of concern for the Lord’s interests, and that of His people.

And to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will- the heretics who assailed the Colossians suggested that the full knowledge of God’s will was reserved for the elite few who embraced their teachings. The apostle flatly contradicts that notion here by implying that it was possible for all the Colossian believers to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. Not only does he write about being filled, but he uses the word for knowledge that means full-knowledge. In fact, the whole passage tells us of the high standard that is being set for the believers to attain to:

“that ye might be filled with the (full)knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the (full)knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;”

This is the goal he has in mind for the believers, and this should be our goal too in our day and generation. We should never despise knowledge, for it is the means by which Divine truth is instilled into our souls. The heretics despised written revelation, and relied upon supposed revelations through mystic experiences. God has willed to make His mind known through a written revelation in the Scriptures, and it is to these we must turn if we are to know that mind. The Scriptures are complete, final, authoritative and reliable.

In all wisdom and spiritual understanding- the knowledge of God’s will, obtained as it is through the reading of the Scriptures, is to be applied to our hearts and lives. Knowledge is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. The knowing of God is to be in the context of, and by the use of, two things, wisdom and understanding. Wisdom may be defined as “insight into the true nature of things”, and is available to the believer by subjection to the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. As 1 Corinthians 2:12 says, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God”. In the first instance this refers to those who penned the New Testament, but in a secondary sense it applies to every believer. The wisdom of God is now contained in the inspired Word of God, and as we read that Word in dependence upon the teaching of the Holy Spirit, we advance in wisdom, for we have insight from God Himself into those things we need to know. This wisdom is said to be “all wisdom”, which reminds us that all we need to know is found in the Scriptures, and it gives us an all-round appreciation of things as they really are.

Having gained the wisdom to understand the knowledge aright, we need spiritual understanding to apply it aright. Just as knowledge is not an end in itself, neither is wisdom. Both must result in the practical outworking of the things we have learnt. The understanding that enables the believer to respond to God appropriately is spiritual understanding- it is not mere common sense, but that faculty that is built into us when we are submissive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

The need for progress, (“walk worthy”).

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord- the measure of our knowledge of God’s will, and the wisdom and understanding that should accompany it, will be the measure in which our lives as believers please God. The figure of walking is much-used by the apostles to describe the way believers move through this world. We should not be static, but moving on with God, making our way through this hostile world to His praise.

The word “worthy” is an interesting one, for it originally referred to the fulcrum or pivot of the scales of the apothecary, the point about which the arm of the scales moves. It is the Greek word “axios”, which gives us the English word “axle”. The thought is this. We are to place in the pan on one side of the balance all the virtues and graces that characterised the Lord Jesus when He was down here, and then place in the other scale that which represents the measure in which we imitate Him. Not until the pans are balanced evenly can we say that we “walk worthy of the Lord”. This is, of course, a daunting task, but the apostle John writes, “He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked”, 1 John 2:6. The word “ought” gives us the incentive to do this, for it means we “owe it”; the grace of God in Christ having put us under obligation to walk in this way.

Unto all pleasing- every area of life should have the mark of Divine approval as being modelled after His example. “Well-pleased” was the Father’s verdict on His Son; we do well to seek for His approval too, in our measure.

The need for practice, (“every good work”).

Being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God- no-one can be saved by good works, for salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast”. On the contrary, “we are His workmanship”, for it God alone who can make us to be to His praise. But we are saved “unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”, Ephesians 2:9,10. We cannot be saved by works, but works are required of us afterwards, for “faith without works is dead”, James 2:26.

As those who have been born of God, we have eternal life within, and thus are able to get to know God increasingly, John 17:3. What greater ambition could there be? The secret of this increase in knowledge is found in the other expression in John 17:3, “and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent”. It is through Him that we gain an increasing knowledge of God. No wonder the apostle Paul desired, “That I may know Him”, Philippians 3:10.

1:11 Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

The need for persistence, (“patience and longsuffering”).

Strengthened with all might- we might be tempted to say that to reach the goal set out in verse 10 is an impossible task. The apostle anticipates this objection, and proceeds to assure us that it is not so, in principle. This phrase may be translated literally as “dynamited with dynamite”. Of course we shall not reach in practice the perfection displayed in Christ down here, for He had no sin-nature, unlike ourselves. But that said, we are to strive for likeness to Him.

The power to do this is the mighty power of God, which is made freely available to us. In the parallel epistle we read of “the working of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in heavenly places”, Ephesians 1:19,20. In that passage the apostle marshals no less than three different words for power, to emphasise the way in which all aspects of Divine power are at our disposal. The energy of the strength of His might is there for us to use, for the Spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead is within us, Romans 8:11.

According to His glorious power- because it is the power of the God of glory, and because it has been put forth in such glorious ways, notably in the resurrection of Christ, and because that power has yielded results that glorify God, it may justly be described as glorious power. It will enable us, if we avail ourselves of it, and do not resort to human energy, to act so as to glorify God in our lives.

Unto all patience- patience is “endurance come what may”, and “self-restraint in the face of provocation”. The power of God enables us to endure in this way, whereas the energy of the flesh will utterly fail. The apostle writes elsewhere that the believer glories in tribulation, because he knows it works patience, or endurance, Romans 5:3. The true believer will not wither away when tribulation because of the word comes, Matthew 13:21. On the contrary, he will bring forth fruit with patience, Luke 8:15.

And longsuffering- this is refusal to surrender to circumstances, and the resolve to continue in the pathway of faith whatever the cost.

With joyfulness- circumstances may be endured and suffered with a miserable attitude, and a passive resignation to what life brings. The spiritual Christian however, will overcome circumstances, saying with David, “By my God I have leaped over a wall”, Psalm 18:29. The apostle envisages that believers will be more than conquerors in all the trials, not when the trials are over, Romans 8:37.

We now come to the second division of the epistle as a whole, 1:12-2:3, which has to do with the excellence of the person of Christ.

 

(d) Verses 12-14 Gratitude to God for His work in the believers.

1:12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

Giving thanks unto the Father- this is the second expression of gratitude by the apostle, and follows on from where he broke off in verse 3 to assure the Colossian saints of his prayers for them. He now resumes and tells us what he was grateful for. This is not a prayer to be recited by others; indeed it is not the substance of his thanksgiving, but the subject of his thanksgiving. If he had told us the exact wording, then some may have been content to simply repeat the words. Prayer, however, should be spontaneous, and from the heart.

Previously he had described God as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ; now he uses the title “Father”, which is entirely appropriate, for he is going to speak much of the Son. The leper of Luke 18:16,17 returned to give thanks, but the Lord had to ask, “where are the nine?”. So now, the Lord is disappointed if we do not readily give thanks to God for the greatness of the deliverance He has brought about.

Which hath made us meet- this means that we have been “equipped with adequate power to fulfil a duty”. The duty in question being to become partakers of the inheritance. As slaves in Egypt the Israelites were unable to break free, nor had they any inheritance there. As believers we have been liberated, made sons, given an inheritance, and given the ability to enter into it and enjoy it. There are those who would prevent this however, and the apostle deals with the hindrances in chapter 2, but for now he is concentrating on the power available to us. Sadly in Israel there were two and a half tribes who preferred to stay the wrong side of the Jordan, Numbers 32. The fact that half the tribe of Manasseh were different to the other half, and did enter into the land, however, shows that it was not a case of environment or ancestry that caused the other half to stay back, but the desire for material prosperity, as represented by their flocks and herds.

The power to both enter into the enjoyment of the inheritance, and resist those forces which would seek to prevent this, is the glorious power put forth by God when He raised Christ from the dead, which power is available “to us-ward who believe”, Ephesians 1:19. Fortified by the truth that Christ is gloriously risen and ascended to heaven, and therefore our blessings are secure, and also by the fact that He has “spoiled principalities and powers”, Colossians 2:15, and therefore the forces of evil have no ground for preventing us enjoying the inheritance, we are free to range over the whole of it.

To be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light- this has been literally rendered as “been made competent for the share of the inheritance”. Nothing can stop us inheriting, but there are forces at work which would seek to spoil our enjoyment of the inheritance. This will result in less thanksgiving to God, for the less we enjoy spiritual things, the less we shall thank God for them. We should aim to increasingly become partakers, and not be content with progress so far.

The idea of inheritance seems to prompt the apostle to think of the way Israel came into their earthly inheritance. It was by deliverance from the darkness of Egypt, redemption by the blood of the lamb, and escape via the Red Sea.

The inheritance is the sum total of God’s heavenly blessings toward us in Christ, and these blessing are listed for us in Ephesians chapter 1. Reference to that chapter will remind us of the repeated expression “in Christ”. Everything is secured in Him, and is therefore safe.

Only saints can enter into this inheritance, those who have been separated from this world and consecrated to God through the work of Christ. In Exodus 8:23 God said He would put a difference between Israel and the Egyptians, and the word for difference is the word for redemption. It was the blood of the Passover lamb that made the difference then; it is the blood of Christ that makes the difference now, and thereby constitutes us saints, the separated ones.

It is also in the light, for the blessings are in heaven, where God and the Lamb shed the light of their glory around. There are creatures that are fitted to live in the darkness, but the saints have been fitted to live in the light of God’s presence.

1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son:

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness- the plague of darkness which God inflicted on the Egyptians was a judgement on the darkness which reigned in a land dominated by idolatry. The plagues God brought upon the land of Egypt were an expression of God’s hatred of their idolatry, for He targetted what was worshipped by them. They worshipped the Nile, the frogs, the lice, the flies, the cattle, so these were plagued. Then the plague was upon those who officiated in their ceremonies, and finally the darkness blotted out the stars to prevent them calculating their feast-days. Thus God blighted all they held dear, to show His displeasure with their failure to worship Him as the True and Living God.

The word “deliver” signifies “to rescue from that with which there had been a close connection”, in this case the authority of darkness, the power of Satan himself. God said beforehand that “I am come down to deliver them”, Exodus 3:8. The word power here has the idea of “capricious tyranny”, the fickle exercise of force, both chaotic and unnerving. Satan was behind Pharoah’s throne, blinding the minds of men and keeping them in his grip.

And translated us into the kingdom- the equivalent word for translate was used in Old Testament times for the transporting of whole nations from one land to another by those who had defeated them. Here it is God who has defeated our enemies, and it is He who brings us into a better land, just as He transported Israel into Canaan. “Till the people pass over, which Thou hast purchased. Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance….” Exodus 15:16,17.

The word kingdom suggests that which is settled and orderly, in contrast to the chaos of the darkness from which we have been rescued. This kingdom is described in 2 Timothy 4:18 as “His heavenly kingdom”. In that passage the deliverance and preservation was in the future, having to do with Paul’s situation as a prisoner awaiting sentence. Whatever the verdict of earthly kingdoms, his place in the heavenly kingdom was sure.

Of His dear Son- There are four main expressions concerning Christ as the One loved of the Father, which may be compared with the description of Isaac in Genesis 22:2. The expression “Only-begotten Son” tells of a Unique Person; “Firstborn Son”, of an Unrivalled Position; “Beloved Son”, of Unspoilt Pleasure; and “His Own Son”, of Undivided Possession.

We see these titles in illustration in Isaac, for God said to Abraham, “Take now thy son, (the one marked out as firstborn and heir in Genesis 21:8-10); thine only son, (the word is “yachid”, meaning darling, or only-begotten); whom thou lovest, (the son of his love, his beloved son), Genesis 22:2.

1:14 In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

In whom we have redemption- the apostle now begins to elaborate on the subject of God’s dear Son, giving reasons why the Father loves Him so much. Redemption is a setting free on payment of a price. It supposes that there is a state of slavery before. Compare Israel under their taskmasters, then redeemed by the blood of a lamb, and then see 1 Peter 1:18,19. In Exodus, the lamb delivered the firstborn sons of Israel from death, but Christ is the Firstborn, as well as the Lamb who has delivered us by His death.

The gnostics used the word redemption, but in the sense of deliverance of the soul from the hindrance of an evil body. We must beware of the use of Bible words in non-Bible senses. This is a favourite trick of the cults, so as to lead men astray. For example, the Mormons state in their creed that they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. But they only mean that He is a son of God in the same sense that angels are sons of God.

To the gnostics, redemption was through self-effort, by engaging in meditation, yoga, (which is thoroughly Satanic, the very name meaning “serpent”), drugs and other devices to take them out of themselves, and supposedly give them other-world experiences. The apostle emphasises that redemption is through the work of another, not through any striving of ourselves.

Through His blood- the bondage of sin can only be broken by One who is prepared to go into death (implied in the word blood), to free us. By His death Christ met every Divine claim that was against us because of our sin, and enabled God to set us free righteously.

Even the forgiveness of sins- the apostle has to define the redemption, because, as we have noticed, the gnostic false teachers were using Bible words in non-Biblical senses, saying that redemption was the freeing of the spirit from the evil, material body. To them sin was only an imbalance, and could be corrected by the man himself. Note that redemption, the formation of the church, and reconciliation all needed His death, whereas creation did not, being brought in simply with a word. Creation is the stage on which the drama of redemption is enacted.

(e) Verses 15-20 Glories of Christ.

1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Who is the image of the invisible God- there are two characteristics that are central to the doctrine the apostle is setting out here. This one, which emphasises Christ’s relationship with God, and the next one, which emphasises His relationship to men and creation. He is the one who bridges the divide between God and men, and God and creation.

Because He is the image of God, He perfectly manifests and represents God. He is able to do these two things because He is in every respect equal with God, for “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”, Colossians 2:9. As such, He possesses and displays all the attributes and characteristics of God. This is why His blood avails to redeem.

As the image of God, Christ is uniquely able to make God known. He does this in the following ways:

1. He created, to make the eternal power and Godhead of God known, Romans 1:19,20.

2. He maintains what He created, to give witness to God’s goodness, Acts 14:17.

3. He intervened in this world’s affairs, to constantly remind man that they were responsible to the Moral Governor of the universe, John 1:10, (where the “was” is in the imperfect tense, telling us that before He came into the world He was behind the scenes).

4. He came into the world, and so “God was manifest in the flesh”, 1 Timothy 3:16, and therefore God is fully revealed in a way men can grasp if they are minded to. This manifestation of God took bodily form, and thus was visible, so the invisible God was made visible. But He was also made visible to the eye of faith, even to the spiritual insight of those who believe. Hence the Lord said to Philip, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”. Even those who have never physically seen Christ have seen the Father, for the sight is not physical but spiritual, with what the apostle called the eyes of the understanding, Ephesians 1:18.

5. He sends forth evangelists to make known the gospel which reveals the righteousness of God, Romans 1:17.

6. He will come to judge the world, so that God’s wrath against sin may be manifest, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

7. He will reign in glory, so that God’s peace, righteousness and joy may be exhibited, Romans 14:17.

We can easily see why God was so insistent that Israel should not go over into idolatry, for it not only denied the truth of His uniqueness, but it also overshadowed the person of His Son. He alone is the true image of God- all other images are blasphemous. God is a jealous God, (as He said in connection with making idols, Exodus 20:3-5), and He will not let the sin of idolatry go unpunished.

It is significant that Christ is called the Image here because the apostle has in mind the redemption of Israel from Egypt. At that time God said, “against the gods of Egypt will I execute judgement: I am the Lord”, Exodus 12:12. As we have noticed, the plagues He brought on Pharoah’s land were directed against the objects of their worship. So it is that here we are told that Christ is the image of God, and therefore all idols, (which are made by those who have rejected the revelation the true God has given of Himself), are a slight upon Him.

The firstborn of every creature- as God’s only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus is unique and alone. But as Firstborn He is associated with others and with creation. It is the latter here, the former in verse 18. Old Testament usage makes clear, (and it is from the Scriptures we must learn the meaning of the title), that a son was ordinarily the firstborn if he was the first son born. This was not invariably the case, however. Ishmael was Abraham’s first son, yet Isaac was his heir, the first son being cast out and dispossessed. Isaac’s first son of twins was Esau, yet Jacob became the heir. Reuben was Jacob’s first son, but his right was taken away in favour of Joseph, his eleventh son, who became the firstborn, 1 Chronicles 5:1,2. So the role of firstborn does not relate to time, but title, for it was a transferable right, at the discretion of the father.

Since the Lord Jesus is the one responsible for creating all things, (for all things have been brought into being by Him, John 1:3), He cannot be the first one created. He stands at the head of creation as its originator and controller.

The firstborn in an Eastern family acted as the prophet, priest and king of the family. He unfolded the will of the father to the family, thus acting as prophet. This the Lord Jesus did in His public ministry, beginning at His baptism. Then the first born introduced the rest of the family to the father in a priestly way. This the Lord Jesus does in His current heavenly ministry, beginning at His ascension. Then the firstborn governed the family for the father, and thus acted as a king. This the Lord Jesus will do when He reigns upon the earth as King of Kings. We could connect the three-fold use of the expression, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee”, Acts 13:33; Hebrews 5:5; Hebrews 1:5, with these three aspects of Him as Firstborn,.

1:16 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:

The apostle will now give us reasons why the Lord Jesus is described as God’s Firstborn Son:

First reason why He is called firstborn

For by Him were all things created- by beginning this phrase with “for”, meaning “because”, the apostle gives an inspired account of what being firstborn means. As if to say, “He is firstborn because…”

The creation of all things was done by the word of His mouth, as Psalm 33:9 declares, “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast”. When it came to redemption, however, the shedding of His blood was necessary, at infinite cost.

The preposition used here for “by” is “en”, telling us that just as an architect formulates a house in his mind before ever he starts to draw on his board, so the Lord Jesus had creation in mind before He began it. So creation is pre-meditated, not haphazard. This is the mind that is behind the universe. Atheists are confounded here, for they have to use their minds to articulate their arguments, yet the fact that they have a mind is evidence that there is a Creator-God. Any system of thought that uses a fact that it denies to prove its case is fatally flawed, being self-contradictory.

That are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible- one of the features of the firstborn in Old Testament times was that he had a double portion of his father’s estate, since he had a greater burden in administering it, see Genesis 48:22. So Joseph had two dreams about himself; in one the sheaves of the field bowed to him, in the other the stars, sun and moon did the same. So Christ is Firstborn in relation to earth, (things visible), and heaven, (things invisible). Those who were inclined to Judaism had a religion based on seen things, whereas those inclined to gnosticism had a religion based on imagined unseen things. Christ is superior to both real unseen and real seen things, being the Creator of them both.

Whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers- because the gnostic heretics had much to say about angels, the apostle emphasises that the Lord Jesus is the Maker of angels. In the first day of creation all the angels were made, as Exodus 20:11 says, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is”. And as Nehemiah said, “Thou, even Thou, art Lord alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and Thou preserveth them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth Thee”, Nehemiah 9:6.

Whatever their rank and ability, it came from Christ. These four names may relate to four ranks of angels, or to the fourfold dignity of all angels. They all administer governmentally for God, hence are thrones; they assert the dominion of God, hence are called dominions; they have first rank in the array of creatures God has made, hence are called principalities, and they all have tremendous power, and hence are called powers.

Second reason why He is called Firstborn

All things were created by Him- this time the preposition translated “by” is “through”, so that we learn that by His power He brought all things into existence. So creation is the product of power, not evolution. Creation was a deliberate act of power on the part of Christ. If “in Him” denotes He is the designer, “through Him” means He is the builder. Other Scriptures bear the same testimony, such as John 1:3,10; Hebrews 1:2,8-10; Hebrews 3:3,4. Only Divine power can create, so that there is something, where before there was nothing.

Third reason why He is called Firstborn

And for Him- the preposition translated “for” is “eis”, literally meaning unto. The act of creation had the pleasure of Christ as its goal. We read in Revelation 4:11 that “Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are, and were created”. Only Deity can act for Its own pleasure alone, without selfishness.

He is heir of all things as the Firstborn, Hebrews 1:2, therefore all things are at His disposal; He can fold them up when it pleases Him, as Hebrews 1:11,12 says He will do. So we may say that the act of creation was purposeful, not indifferent. He did not instigate a process and leave that process to work out a random result. Theistic evolution has no support in Scripture.

1:17 And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.

Fourth reason why He is Firstborn

And He is before all things- He is before creation in time, character, and rank. He is before in time, for “In the beginning was (already) the Word”, John 1:1; He is before in character, for creation is dependent, whereas He is free and self-sufficient; creation is His servant, whilst He is Master. He is before in rank, for creation is His handiwork, and as such is necessarily secondary to Him, as effect is secondary and inferior to cause. It is possible to read the phrase “He is, before all things”, or in other words, His existence conditions and controls all things. Creation is constantly preserved, and not abandoned.

Fifth reason why He is called Firstborn

And by Him all things consist- He is the sustainer of all things, “upholding all things by the word of His power”, Hebrews 1:3. Again, as in the first reason, the preposition is “in”, but here it indicates that all things persist because of the character of His person, they continue in virtue of who and what He is. He exists, and therefore they consist or hang together. Creation is maintained, and is not self-sufficient.

Hebrews 1:10-12 says, “Thou Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands: they shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail”. So we learn from this passage that the creation Christ holds together, (for He is the one referred to in the passage just quoted), shall be brought to an end. He controls creation for the whole of its existence, therefore.

1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.

Sixth reason why He is called Firstborn

And He is the head of the body, the church- the apostle now presents to us a different side to Christ’s place as firstborn. Having spoken of the creation and maintenance of all things, he now writes of believers. As creator, Christ stands at the head of all things, for He is before all things, verse 17. But He is the head of the church; He does not merely stand before it, but joins it to Himself, as a body is joined to its head. At Jerusalem, during the Feast of Pentecost, a new thing was begun. The Holy Spirit was sent by Christ so as to baptise His people into one body, as 1 Corinthians 12:12 explains. As believers, those gathered in the upper room that day were already a new creation in Christ Jesus as individuals, (if any man be in Christ”, 2 Corinthians 5:17. See also Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10. But now they are bonded together in a unique way. The relationship they now have to one another is like the relationship the various parts of our body have to one another, for though we have many limbs and organs we have but one body. And their relationship to Christ is like the relationship of the body to the head. We could survive with only one leg, or hand, or eye, but our head is indispensable, and controls everything. Such is the position Christ has in relation to all the believers of this present age.

Seventh reason why He is called Firstborn

Who is the beginning- in connection with creation, Christ was the Beginner; in connection with the church, He is the Beginning. Everything begins, continues and reaches its goal in reference to Him. This has a very practical bearing on us as believers. We should ask ourselves if Christ is the Beginning of everything for us. Do we give Him the right place, allowing Him to be the start of things? Or do we initiate things ourselves and then ask Him to bless them?

Eighth reason why He is called Firstborn

The firstborn from the dead- we now learn what has given Him this place of supremacy regarding the church. Every true believer is risen with Christ, and signifies that by being baptised. But He rose first! He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, Romans 6:4, the Father’s glory demanding that such a person as Christ should not remain in the grave a moment longer than necessary. But we were not like that. The glory of the Father demanded that we remain in the grave. It is only as associated with Him that we can be on resurrection ground. But He maintains His superior position, for He is “the first that should rise from the dead”, Acts 26:23. As such, He has obtained the right to administer for God in relation to the church.

The preposition “from” means “from among”. In Mark 9:10 the disciples were puzzled when the Lord spoke of a resurrection from among the dead. They knew from Daniel 12:2 that many “from among” them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, “some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”. They rightly understood that it is not that the many who awake are divided into some and some. Rather, the first “some” refers to those who rise at that time, (the end of the tribulation period, see Daniel 12:1). The second “some” refers to those who do not rise at that time, but who rise to stand before the Great White Throne one thousand years later. In other words, the first “some” refers to believers from Israel, the second “some” refers to unbelievers from Israel who await the judgement of the great day. There is no reference to Gentiles in this passage.

What the disciples were learning was that Christ is “the first that should rise from the dead”, Acts 26:23, literally “the first of the resurrection from among the dead ones”. The resurrection of Christ was selective, and is the first of a class, for church saints will be selected from among the believing dead, with Old Testament saints raised later, in accordance with Revelation 11:15-18.

That in all things He might have the pre-eminence- by establishing Himself as head of the church, He has obtained first place in everything. He has pre-eminence in creation by making and preserving it; He has pre-eminence relative to the church by rising from the dead, and becoming the head of the body.

Again, this has a very practical bearing on our lives. Having made Him the beginner of everything, do we give Him the place of pre-eminence? If we did this, our lives would truly be for the glory of God, for everything that honours Christ honours the Father.

There is a man called Quartus, (“fourth”) in Romans 16:23; a man called Tertius, (“third”), Romans 16:22; a man called Secundus (“second”), Acts 20:4; but nowhere do we find Primus, (“first”), for Christ must have this place.

1:19 For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell;

For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell- this is the reason why He is able to function as Firstborn, for He has every attribute needed to carry out His task to perfection. The word fulness was much-used by the heretics in the city of Colosse, and they used it to describe all the various attributes of the intermediary gods in their system of religion. In this they were no different to the other pagan religionists, who, because they had cast off the truth of the one True God, thought of their gods as all contributing to the idea of God, but none of them being able to encompass in himself all the attributes of Deity. This statement about the Lord Jesus dispels all such ideas, for the apostle asserts by the Spirit that in Him every attribute, virtue and characteristic that is proper to God is found in its fulness. And found, moreover, not reluctantly, but dwelling, or in other words, perfectly at home and at ease. That this is so is shown us by what is said about Him in the preceding verses, hence the “for” at the beginning of this verse.

1:20 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.

Having presented Christ as the Redeemer, the Rightful Heir, the Rearer-up and Regulator of creation, we know learn that Christ is the Reconciler.

And, having made peace through the blood of His cross- the subject of these verses is the Father, and so it is He who makes peace by the blood of Christ’s cross. Despite having been brought into being by the Son of God, the creation is now in a state of estrangement from God. This is because of the fall of man, for when Adam the head of creation fell, it was not appropriate for him, as fallen man, to be over an unfallen creation. So it is that the creation was made subject to vanity, and is in the bondage of corruption, Romans 8:21. Scientists speak of the Law of Entropy, which says, in effect, that everything is deteriorating.

The only thing that can remedy the state of alienation that creation is in, is the blood of Christ’s cross. He spoke creation into being with a word, but creation’s fall raises moral issues, since it happened because of the incoming of sin. God must establish His moral right to rescue created things from their bondage. This He does by the blood of Christ; not, indeed, His blood as a living man, but the blood of His cross, the place of death and judgement. (Needless to say “His cross” does not relate specifically to the wood upon which the Lord Jesus was impaled, but rather the doctrine relative to what happened at Calvary).

By Him to reconcile all things unto Himself- reconciliation is one of the results of propitiation, and comes about because by His blood, shed on the cross of Calvary, Christ gave to God the full and satisfactory answer to the presence of sin. More precisely, in this verse, the sin into which man’s fall had brought the creation. So it is that “He by the grace of God tasted death for every man”; Hebrews 2:9. But the words “every man” in that verse could be translated “every thing”, and this assures us of the far-reaching effects of the work of Christ, which has guaranteed the deliverance of a groaning creation, Romans 8:20,21. He gave insights into this deliverance when He was here the first time, as He defeated death, disease, demon-possession, danger and distress, as Matthew 8 details. No wonder the writer to the Hebrews speaks of tasting the powers of the age to come, Hebrews 6:5. Adam tasted of the forbidden tree, and forfeited his rights over the earth, but Christ has tasted death, (on a tree, Acts 5:30), and purchased for Himself the right to have all creation subject to Himself. As the creator of all things, He is supreme over them, but since He has become man He must prove His claim.

By submitting Himself to death, (which was brought in by the fall), Christ has answered every objection that the Devil might raise with regard to the restoration of all things. It suits that evil being to have creation in bondage, for it furthers his aims, but Christ will release all things when He comes to earth, and will reign over an earth that has been delivered from most of its corruption. Not until the present earth and heaven are swept away, however, will the stigma of sin be fully removed. Then there will be a new heaven and a new earth where righteous can dwell. Thus will be fulfilled in its completeness what the angel told Daniel about. Messiah will “finish the transgression”, “make an end of sins”, “make reconciliation for iniquity”, bring in everlasting righteousness”, “seal up the vision and prophecy”, and “anoint the most holy”, Daniel 9:24.

In Leviticus 16:16,20 the tabernacle is said to be reconciled to God, for the sins of the people of Israel, including the priests, had defiled it, and unless the defilement had been dealt with, God would have had to withdraw. So there is such a thing as unholiness by association, just as there is holiness by association. For instance, the mountain on which Christ was transfigured became, by that event, and only during that event, a holy mount, as Peter tells us, 2 Peter 1:18. It was holy by association.

By Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven- not only is the effect of the fall of man rectified on the basis of the blood of Christ, but the effects of the fall of Lucifer too. This is Satan’s former name as the anointed cherub that covered the very throne of God, just as the cherubim overshadowed the mercy seat upon the ark. Ezekiel 28:18 says of Lucifer that he defiled his sanctuaries by the multitude of his iniquities. It seems that he had some role as the leader of the praise of the angelic host, but sought, in pride, to rise higher, and “be like the Most High”, Isaiah 14:14. Like a supernova, a star that suddenly increases in brightness, Lucifer was inflated with pride, (“the condemnation of the Devil”, 1 Timothy 3:6), and as such was cast out of heaven, for “whoso exalteth himself shall be abased”, Luke 14:11. His action in rebelling against God, and of influencing others of the angels to do the same, (possibly one third of the angel-host, see Revelation 12:4), defiled heaven. The stigma of what had happened remained after he was cast out. The blood of Christ, however, (the one who humbled Himself and then was exalted, Philippians 2), avails to deal with this stain, as Hebrews 9:23 states, “It was therefore necessary for the patterns of things in the heavens to be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these”. The tabernacle on earth could be purified by animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things of which the tabernacle was a pattern needed better sacrifices than those. The use of the plural indicates that every aspect of the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary was needed to purge the heavenly sanctuary. It was the sacrifice of one who was entirely acceptable to God, (the burnt offering aspect); of one who was perfectly in harmony with God, (the peace offering aspect), in contrast to Lucifer who waged war on God; of one who had no sin-nature to offend the person of God, nor any sin-record as a sign of rebellion against the government of God, (the sin and trespass offering aspect). So it is that the heavenly sanctuary has been thoroughly prepared for His current ministry.

(f) Verses 21-23 Grounding in the faith.

1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled

And you- having spoken of the eventual rescue, by means of Calvary, of the creation about which he has written in verses 16 and 17, the apostle now writes of the rescue of those who are members of the church, as mentioned in verse 18. For these are people, not things, and special mention must be made of the way they have been reconciled.

That were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind- it is said of creation that it was subject to bondage, but not willingly, Romans 8:20, which does not mean it did not want it to happen, (for creation is not able to express wants), but rather that it has no will. Man is different, however, (for there is one kind of flesh of beasts, and another of man, 1 Corinthians 15:39), and we are described in our unsaved state as being alienated and enemies. Sin brings in separation, (“alienated”), for “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you”, Isaiah 59:2. Sin also brings in enmity, (“enemies”), for “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be”, Romans 8:7.

By wicked works- this is the way the separation and hostility expressed itself; every sinful act of a unbeliever is an act of wickedness, and as such is an evidence of a mind not subject to God. What we thought in our minds and what we did were alike obnoxious to God.

Yet now hath He reconciled- despite what we were like, (hence the “yet”), God has devised means “whereby His banished be not expelled from Him”, 2 Samuel 14:14. The reconciliation is again the result of propitiation, but whereas creation waits for this, we already have it, for the word is hath He reconciled. As Romans 5:11 puts it, we have received the atonement, (reconciliation).

1:22 In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight:

In the body of His flesh through death- when it is the reconciliation of creation that is in view, it is the blood of His cross, whereas when the reconciliation of people is in view it is in the body of His flesh. The false teachers of the day said that God could not have contact with matter, since it was evil. The apostle counters that by declaring that Christ, in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells, had a body. A body, moreover, that was a body of flesh. When angels appear to men they seem to have bodies, but the body of Christ was no semblance. That Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is one of the essential truths of Christianity, as the apostle John makes clear, “every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world,” 1 John 4:3. He must have a body if He is going to die, for death is the separation of body from spirit, James 2:26. To deny that He had a real body is to deny that He had a real death.

So He had a body of flesh, the same sort of body that men generally have, with the important distinction that He had no sin-principle within Him since He was not born of Joseph, nor of any other man, and therefore had not the sin of Adam passed on to Him.

Just as reconciliation for things is brought about by the blood of His cross, (signifying it was not the blood coursing through the veins of a man still living, but the blood of a man crucified on a cross), so the reconciliation of people is brought about not in the body of a man living in the flesh, but that person entering into death.

To present you- just as sin-offerings were presented at the entrance to the tabernacle of the congregation for the scrutiny of the priest, so Christ has presented Himself at Calvary in all the acceptableness of His person. He was truly without blemish and without spot, for the law said, “it must be perfect to be accepted”, Leviticus 22:21, and He came up to the standard. The apostle Paul quotes from Leviticus 4 when he writes “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”, 2 Corinthians 5:21. The vital thing for the Israelite was that he lay his hand on his offering, identifying himself with it. This ensured that the benefit from the offering was attributed to him. In this way those who were once sinners but who have now believed may be presented before God in virtue of what Christ has done for them, and have the assurance that Christ has met every claim against their sin.

Holy- as those who have been made holy through the sanctifying sacrifice of Christ, (for “we are sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ once for all”, Hebrews 10:), we are free to have fellowship with God. The false teachers denied that this was possible, arguing that God was too distant and aloof, and men needed the agency of endless ranks of angels to go between them and God. The apostle will have none of this notion, and nor should we.

And unblameable- the believer is unblameable too, or without blemish; this means that the Burnt Offering aspect of Calvary is attributed to him, and he stands before God in all the acceptableness of Christ, being accepted in the Beloved, Ephesians 1:6. The Lord Jesus was blamed unjustly by men, but He was without blame before God. We were blamed justly by God, but now in Christ the blame is gone.

And unreproveable- this word has the idea of being unchallengeable. All the believer’s sins have been righteously dealt with, and the enemy of our souls can bring no successful charge against us, try as he might, and try as he does. To be unblameable is to be in a position that pleases the Father; to be unreproveable means we displease Satan, for he can lay no charge against God’s elect, Romans 8:33.

In His sight- the true believer can be presented in close proximity to God, not hiding away from Him as Adam did, and can be under His eye without fault. This is the grand climax to the section which began in verse 12.

So if in verse 5 we were like the patriarchs in Genesis, looking for the realisation of their hope, and in verses 12-14 we were like Israel in the book of Exodus, redeemed from the power of darkness and set on their way to their inheritance, in verses 21 and 22 we are like those of the book of Leviticus, who came into the good of sacrifice. In the next verse there is the exhortation to continue, which would remind us of the book of Numbers, with its progress towards the promised land, and also the solemn fact that some never reached that land because they were unbelieving.

1:23 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;

If ye continue in the faith- the position believers have is so wonderful and privileged that the apostle is anxious lest any should miss it through false profession. The test of the reality of profession that the apostle applies here is continuance. In the parable of the sower those who were false professors are said to “for a while believe”, and then, in time of testing, wither and fail, Luke 8:13. Their belief is merely academic assent to the truth of Christianity. They do not say “This is what I believe”, but, “This is what I believe Christians believe”. They believe about Christ, but do not believe in Him. When trials come because of the word, they wither. Their “faith” is tested in relation to the faith, the body of Christian truth.

The early believers continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, Acts 2:42. This is a test of reality, for the apostle John wrote, “he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us”, 1 John 4:6, where the “us” means the apostles. The faith of the Colossians believers was being severely tested by the heretics, who were trying to lead them astray, and the apostle is showing that embracing those doctrines and yet still claiming to be a Christian is not an option. We are told sometimes about Christians who have become Moslems. This is impossible, for a true Christian does not renounce Christ in this way. Such people are only Christians nominally, and simply exchange one form of religious profession for another.

Grounded and settled- to be grounded means to be laid upon a foundation, the foundation in question being “the foundation of the apostles and prophets”, Ephesians 1:20. To be settled is to be seated. When paving stones are being laid, no matter how deep the foundation is, if the stones are not firmly embedded in it, so that they do not wobble, the end result will not be stable. So the believers should be practically established on the sure foundation of the doctrines of the faith, and should not allow anything else to intrude so that they start to “wobble” spiritually. Or to use the figure of Ephesians 4:14, be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine”. The Colossian heresy was neither a good foundation, nor a means of settling the minds of the believers.

And be not moved away from the hope of the gospel- as we saw in verse 5, the hope into which the gospel brings the believer is the sum total of blessings in Christ in heavenly places. The heretics could not offer anything better than that, especially since the Christian hope is not a vague aspiration, or a wistful dream, but a certain prospect. For the Christian, there is no reason to move away from the foundation. Satan held out to Eve a hope that was not based on the word of God, and, alas! she moved away from what God had said with disastrous consequences.

Which ye have heard- this they had done, not just in a physical sense, but with the hearing of faith. The whole truth had reached them through Christian evangelists. Nothing Colossian heretics could assail their ears with could possibly supplement or replace this.

And which was preached to every creature which is under heaven- the apostle is not necessarily saying that every single member of the human race had heard the gospel. What he is saying that every one that did hear the gospel heard the same thing. There was not one gospel for Asia, and another for Europe. There was no room for any additional material.

Whereof I Paul am made a minister- the apostle is about to tell of his unique ministry, and also to confront the heretics in chapter 2. So he needs to assert his authority before he does so. He does this twice; here, in connection with the gospel, and in verse 25 in connection with the church and the mystery connected with it. He was a minister of the gospel, so the gospel was more important than he was, (he was minister of it, not it of him), but nonetheless he had importance as the apostle to the Gentiles, commissioned to see to it that the gospel reached their ears.

(g) Verses 24-29 Greatness of the mystery.

1:24 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:

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you- another mark of reality is the determination to continue despite the opposition that the world represents. Faith and the world are on collision course, and the true believer triumphs in that situation.

Wrote the apostle John, “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith”, 1 John 5:4. The apostle Paul gloried in tribulations because they were part of God’s education programme for His people, Romans 5:5,6. The faithful labours of the apostle as he sought to spread the gospel involved much suffering for him, as we see from 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory”, Ephesians 3:13.

And fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh- the word “affliction” is never used of the penal sufferings that Christ endured, so the apostle is certainly not saying here that his sufferings were needed to make up the full quota of Christ’s sufferings on the cross. What he does mean is that just as Christ was afflicted by men during His life because of His stand for the truth, so also they who side with Christ shall meet this affliction. It is the believer’s task to endure this affliction with rejoicing, so that the full measure of suffering that God has in mind for His people will be endured. Because this suffering is for the sake of Christ it has His name attached to it, so it may be called the affliction of Christ, even though He does not endure affliction now. It is His people who are afflicted at the present time.

For His body’s sake, which is the church- not only is the affliction linked with Christ, it is also linked with believers. Again the apostle makes it clear that he is referring to the church when he speaks of Christ’s body; in other words, he is not referring to the physical body of Christ but “the church, which is His body”, Ephesians 1:22,23. The fact that Paul was suffering affliction for the whole church would show the Colossians that although they had not seen him in the flesh, yet nevertheless he had a deep interest in their spiritual welfare.

1:25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

Whereof I am made a minister- as in verse 23, the personal pronoun is emphatic- “I particularly, specially”. It was the apostle Paul’s special task to make known the truth with regard to the church in both its aspects. So he served the gospel, verse 23, and he served the church.

According to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you- a dispensation is the duty given to the steward of a household to faithfully arrange the affairs of that household. The household in question here being God’s. The stewardship had been given to Paul not to elevate him, for it was “for you”; it was a means whereby he served the interests of the church.

To fulfil the word of God- Paul’s special and vital task was to set forth the truths regarding the church, which are the climax of God’s revelation of truth to men. It is not that he wrote the last book of the Bible, for he did not. What he did do was fill up the total of what God has to say to His people. This is what he refers to in 1 Corinthians 13:10 with the expression “that which is perfect is come”.

1:26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints:

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations- the apostle says more about this mystery in Ephesians 3, and shows that he was specially entrusted with the task of revealing God’s purpose for this present age. This purpose had not been hidden in the Old Testament scriptures, nor had the prophets known it but not recorded it- the mystery was completely hidden. During successive Old Testament ages God worked out His purpose, but none involved the church. Generations came and went, but the fathers were not able to pass on the truth of this mystery to their sons, for they did not know it themselves. There is no such thing as “The Old Testament church”, as some speak.

But now is made manifest to His saints- that which Old Testament saints never knew is now revealed through the apostle Paul. Note there is no limit to the number of believers who have this truth made known to them. It is to the saints in general, not to an elite few, that these matters are revealed. The gnostic heretics taught that the highest truth was known only to a few; they alone, they claimed, were able to understand. The apostle will have none of this.

1:27 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:

To whom God would make known- this does not mean God would if He could. Rather, He wills to make known, the word “would” being a form of the verb “to will”. It is His determination to make known now what it was His determination to keep hidden in former times.

What is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles- the theme of this mystery is glorious, as befits the God who reveals it. That being the case, the blessings involved in it are rich and abundant. The wonder of it is that this mystery is among the Gentiles, with converted Gentiles being brought in to the same blessing as converted Jews. Ephesians 3:6 shows us that the essence of the mystery is that Gentiles are fellow-heirs with converted Jews of the vast spiritual inheritance secured for the saints by Christ; fellow-members with them of the same body, the church, and fellow-partakers of all the special and heavenly blessings that the gospel has brought to those who believe.

The mystery is rich because it enriches our spirits, causing us, like the apostle, to bow our knees in worship, Ephesians 3:14. It enriches our hearts as we contemplate God’s goodness to us. It enriches our minds, so that we are enabled to serve God intelligently.

Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory- every godly Jew looked longingly for the day when Messiah would be amongst the nation. Such would indeed be a day of glory. Here, however, the apostle speaks of the Christian hope of glory even though Christ is already in one sense among them. This is clearly different to the hope of Israel. Christ indwells His people during this age, yet there are still hopes not realised.

In Ephesians 3 the apostle highlighted the result of the mystery, that Gentiles had an equal share with converted Jews; here he emphasises the way the truth of the mystery is made good to us, for every believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God, and because of that Christ can be said to be within us. Each Divine person is able to represent the other, as will be seen from John 14:16-23. So it is that Romans 8:9,10 reads, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness”. So to have the Spirit of Christ within is to have Christ within, and to have Christ within is to be assured that all that is yet to be will arrive.

In Ephesians 1:14 the Spirit is said to be the earnest of our inheritance, the guarantee of all that God has promised. The illustration has been used of a farmer who buys some sheep at a market, yet is unable to take them home with him that day. He arranges for them to be looked after, and gives them a bundle of the hay that, when they eventually reach the farm, they will enjoy every day. So we are looked after before we get home to heaven, and meanwhile an earnest or sample of what is ahead is given to us now by the Spirit.

1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

Whom we preach- not only is this a positive statement, but it also contrasts the ministry of Paul and Timothy with that of the gnostic heretics. The latter had nothing positive to say about Christ.

Warning every man- there needed to be a ministry of warning, in view of the spiritual hazards that abounded in Colosse. This warning ministry as far as this epistle is concerned is mostly found in chapter 2.

And teaching every man in all wisdom- positive teaching is needed if we are to have a right appreciation of God and His ways. The apostle and Timothy saw to it that the believers were instructed in the full range of that insight into the true nature of things that the apostles’ doctrine brings to us. There was no avenue of truth to which the apostle could not introduce the saints, so they needed nothing from the heretics.

That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus- the ambition of the apostle was to so teach and warn that every believer might reach the goal that God has in mind, namely, likeness to Christ. Every true believer is in Christ Jesus, but the apostle did not rest until all believers are perfect in Christ Jesus. The word used for perfect here was also used for those who had been fully initiated into the pagan mysteries. Here the Spirit of God lifts it from its pagan setting and uses it to describe those who have been instructed in the things of God.

1:29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.

Whereunto I also labour- this does not mean “I also, as well as others”. Rather, the thought is, “I, as well as preaching as others do, go further and labour and strive”. The word for labour here denotes work to the point of exhaustion. Many have preached, but few, if any, have laboured like the apostle. If he toiled so strenuously for the sake of the truth, should we not at least take an active interest in it?

Striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily- Paul did not labour in his own strength. Spiritual work needs spiritual power to carry it through. Many a time the apostle would have given up if he worked in his own strength. The power of the Spirit of God was in him; but that Spirit is the Spirit of the God that raised Christ from the dead, so no obstacle is great enough to prevent it achieving its goal. What power is greater that the mighty power that raised Christ up? This mighty power is “to usward who believe”, Ephesians 1:19.