Chapter 1

(From Notes supplied by Mr. R. Lundin Brown.)

Kilmarnock, Scotland:
John Ritchie, Publisher Of Christian Literature.

Chapter 1

This Epistle is intimately connected with the Epistle to the Ephesians. They were both written about the same time by Paul when he was a prisoner. Ephesians brings before us fully our position in Christ. Colossians—as we shall see—calls us solemnly to let that love of His, sway us wholly. While in Ephesians we learn how Christ has loved us, saved us, and brought us nigh to God, Colossians brings before us that He is our Lord, whom we are bound to obey. It is as if the apostle had said, “I have heard, through Epaphras, of your salvation. I was glad to hear of your faith in Christ, of your love to all the saints, and that you had heard of the hope laid up for you in heaven. But there is a great deal yet for you to learn, and I, the apostle of the Lord pray, that you may go on and learn more of Christ. You are only babes as yet, but I desire that you may grow and be filled with the knowledge of your Lord’s will, and have spiritual intelligence, sensitiveness, and quickness to know at a glance what is His will, so as to walk worthy of Him.”

It is Jesus the Saviour, the Lover, the Bridegroom in Ephesians; it is Jesus the Lord and Head in Colossians. The same Person, but in a different character.

Verse 2.—“Grace and peace.” Saints need both, and shall need them as long as they are here. There is no “mercy” here, that is for the individual (see 1 Tim. 1 and 2; Titus 1:2, &c).

Verse 3.—“We give thanks.” …“Praying always for you.” It is a sign of grace, to be able to praise and pray on behalf of others. These Colossian saints were well prayed for (see chap 4:12).

Verse 4.—“Since we heard of your faith.” Paul had not been instrumental in their conversion. He had heard of it. The first thing he puts his finger on, is their faith in Christ Jesus; not in men, or dreams, or feelings, but “in Christ Jesus.” This is the first feature of a true Christian. The next is “love to all the saints.” There is only One who knows “all the saints,” but as sure as we get to know a saint, we love him, not because he is kind, and amiable, and loveable, but because he is Christ’s.

Verse 5.—“For the hope.” We are not to be for ever in this world, or to be thinking of it as our home. The moment a sinner is saved, his eye is directed to “the hope”—the coming of the Lord Jesus. It is really a part of the gospel; if you leave that out, you do not preach a full gospel. “The hope” brightens all the path. You may have to rough it for a little, but cheer up, the Lord is coming (see 1 Thess. 1:6, 10).

Verse 6. —Their conversion was manifest; the gospel had borne its fruit, for they had known “the grace of God in truth.”

What a blessed reality, is “the grace of God.” God was gracious to sinners; enjoy that. He saved you, not according to your feeble experience of it, but according to what He Himself is. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor. 5:20). God did it all.

Verse 7.—“A faithful minister”—not the minister, of course. There is nothing in Scripture of the minister, or the pastor of a church. They are always spoken of in the plural, or where an individual is mentioned, it is with the indefinite article—“an elder,” “a witness”—(1 Pet. 5:1).

Verse 8.—“Your love in the Spirit.” This is the only allusion to the Holy Ghost in the whole Epistle: it is very remarkable. It is not human charity, but “love in the Spirit”—that which is of God. This is what He values. “Love in the Spirit”—“Love in the truth” (2 John, verse 2).

Verses 9-10.—“Filled with the knowledge of His will.” We are accountable to our Lord and Master, who has done so much for us, to know His will. Paul did not say as some evangelists now, “To get sinners saved is all; my only aim.” He desired that those who had become saints, might be filled with the knowledge of their Lord’s will. And Epaphras, who had been the means of their conversion, and had since then heard Paul’s teaching, and learned more of the will of God, prayed that they might stand complete “in all the will of God” (chap. 4:12). They had faith, hope, and love (verses 4—5), but Paul did not say they might seek no more, or settle down to do as they liked. Ah, no; he said, “Now that you have a new Master, you must go on to learn His will and ways, and walk worthy of Him.” To be saved is not the end, but the beginning of the Christian life. We enter the path and the service of a new Master, very ignorant of His will, so we must begin at the beginning, and learn it. We need to have our ears open, and our senses exercised “in all wisdom.” It implies there is a sort of spiritual instinct required in the saint. He must have the well-tuned ear, to hear the whispers of the Spirit.

Verse 10.—“That ye may walk worthy of the Lord.” He is our Lord; we belong to Him. Let us see that our walk corresponds to our calling. The Lord has done everything for us that He, the Eternal Son, could do. He asks us now to do that which is pleasing unto Him.

Verse 11.—“Strengthened with all might, according to the might of His glory” (r.v.). Power and glory are frequently joined together in Scripture. The glory has a wonderful power in it. When the glory of Christ shines into the heart, it gives strength, and when it shines forth openly to the world, it will shew the power of God. Now we walk by faith; then it shall be open to sight To us the word is—“If you shalt believe, thou shalt see the glory” (John 11:16). “Unto all patience.” Strengthened to be patient, and to go on pleasing the Lord and learning His will; roughing it bravely, and going on whole-hearted for Him. If you have to rough it in doing His will, you are serving a good Master, and He will put a crown on your head one day. He will be no man’s debtor.

To learn of Him who is meek and lowly, involves suffering now, but there will be blessing with it in the end. “The might of His glory.” How it cheers us up, and encourages our hearts! It gets nearer and brighter every day. Our flesh hinders and drags us down, but the glory is our strength. When it shines forth in all its power, it will change our bodies of humiliation and fashion them like unto the body of His glory (see Phil, 3:20). But the same power is at work now upon our spirits. As we behold the glory we are changed (2 Cor. 3:18).

“Unto all patience, with longsuffering and joyful-ness.” A very rare combination. “Sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” We sing, even though our eyes be dim with tears, and we rejoice though sorrow fills one heart.

Verse 12.—“Giving thanks unto the Father.” Emphasis is on the word “Father.” Most of our prayers and worship should be addressed to Him, for although Father, Son, and Spirit are equal in nature, they are not alike in office. The Son died for us, but we must never forget that “the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour” (1 John 4:17). Then we get three “haths.” “Who hath made us meet.” “Who hath delivered us.” “Who hath translated us.” How precious they are! “Hath made us meet,”—that is fit, or capable,—“to be sharers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” What a portion! The reference is to the new nature in the saint. He has a nature that can enjoy the light, as sure as he is born of God. He has not only a title, but a nature to enjoy the place into which he has been introduced. Surely the two are better than one. Suppose I had a title, if my nature were unchanged, I could not enjoy the presence of God: I could not be happy, but very wretched there. “The inheritance of the saints in light”: every saint will have a share in that inheritance. In England the eldest son gets all. The Lord Jesus, the First-born from the dead, is Heir of all, but He will not have it for Himself alone: He shares it with us. We are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). “In light.” We are children of light (Eph. 5) and as such we are to walk. Brought to God, who is light as well as love, we are to walk in that light as John tells us (1 John 1:7), and to judge ourselves by it. Just because you are a child of light, you are to bring everything in your life, walk, work, worship, associations, and examine them by the light (John 3:20). If you find anything contrary to the Word of God, let the light sift it, expose it, and put it away. The more we do that, and accustom ourselves to the searchings of the light now, the less painful will it be to go to the judgment-seat. There we shall be manifested in the light. The more we abide in that light now, the more shall we delight in it. God has given us a nature to enjoy it, here and now, and we are to dwell in it eternally. People in the dark, can see what those in the light are doing, but this is not so in spiritual things, but the more you are in God’s light, the more you see the darkness around. Abraham, on the mount of communion with God, abiding in the light, knew more of Sodom’s state, and what was about to happen there, than Lot, who sat in its gate. Lot was a child of light, but he did not walk in the light so as to enjoy God. If men love darkness, and abide in it, preferring it to the light, it just shews that they are children of the devil, and still under his authority. How we ought to thank God for that “hath.” Now we come to the second.

Verse 13.—“Who hath delivered us from the power (authority) of darkness.” What a deliverance! Rescued from that kingdom, its power broken, the love of darkness gone, and the only proper home of the saint, in God’s light.

Verse 14.—“Who hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” This comes nearest to any New Testament word, in calling Christ our King. The word most commonly used is “Lord,” telling of His proprietorship of us, but here saints are said to be in His “kingdom.” He is there to exercise His sway over us: to mould and fashion us according to His will, and to bring us into entire subjection to Him. And mark it is the “kingdom of the Son of His love.” When He has perfectly subjugated us, and fashioned us according to His will, He will hand us over to the Father, and then we shall shine forth in “the kingdom of the Father” (Matt. 13:43). Our present place in the kingdom of the Son, shews that He has to break us in, and break us down, to become obedient. He, as a Son, “learned obedience (Heb. 5:9), and He will have us to be obedient too. There is the thought of responsibility all through this Epistle. He is our Master, and His word is, “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me” (Matt. 11:29). He uses crosses, loses, trials, temptations, all for this end. He is so interested in us. Earthly masters often seek their own interests alone in those under them. Not so our blessed Lord and Master. His interests and ours are identical. He has engaged to thoroughly subdue and fashion us unto Himself (Phil. 3:20), to habituate us to obedience, and then to bring us home to God, where we shall not have a wish, or thought, or desire not according to His will. O how glad we shall be to get there, and have nothing in us to kick or rebel against the holy, blessed will of that good God who so loves us.

“The Son of His love.” What an endearing expression! He is no tyrant, no hard master, but the One in whom God’s heart delights, and who so loved His people as to give His life for them. It is an appeal to our affections. As if God had said—“Won’t you yield to My beloved Son, and cannot you trust His love even if He breaks you down while He is subjugating you to His sway?” The Bridegroom in the Song of Solomon (chap. 1:9), compares His Bride to “a company of horses in Pharoah’s chariots,” costly, obedient, under control. A good horse needs little of the whip or the spur: a word or sign, and he is off. So may we be swift to move at the faintest whisper of His voice, and be led on as His Spirit guides in swift obedience to His word.

Verse 14.—“In whom we have redemption through His blood.” What an effecting word to follow immediately after. Everything in the way of grace is perfect. He gave His blood to get us, and God would put that before us, as if to say—“You see how much you owe Him to begin with.” This gives motive to yield to His rule, and love makes obedience easy. “Forgiveness of sins”: all my sins gone through the blood, effectually and for ever. “I write unto you little children because your sins are forgiven you” (1 John 2:12). If I sin as a child, I am told to confess my sin and I shall be forgiven, and restored to the enjoyment of the Father’s face in the light (1 John 1:9).

Verse 15.—“Who is the image of the invisible God.” This first half of the verse refers to what Christ is toward God, the image of God. As John tells us, a God who can be seen, looked upon, handled (1 John 1:1). What a wonderful Being is the Lord Jesus! Well may we bow ourselves ever so humbly at His feet. “The firstborn of every creature.” This has occasioned a deal of difficulty among expositors. I believe the thought is, that in the mind of God, Christ existed as the pattern to which all were to be conformed. As some one has said—“He opened the womb of creation”: God in a creature form. In Proverbs 8:22-30, we get glimpses of the uncreated glories of Christ: our minds are too little to grasp them, but we can believe and adore. Only One truly and fully knows Him —“No man knoweth the Son but the Father” (Matt. 11:27). He was Divine, the Eternal God, yet He would become human. A body was prepared for Him (Heb. 10:5): He is the God-Man. But blessed be God, we are yet to be made like Him, and to see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

Verse 16.—“By Him were all things created.” This shews that He was not a mere creature, but Creator. All things were created “by Him, and for Him.” How wonderful that a Being so infinitely great, should condescend to become our Redeemer and Lord: to acquire us, worthless as we are, and then to subdue and habituate us to obedience after the pattern of His own. These verses make Redemption truly a magnificent thing. “Things in heaven, things in earth, visible and invisible.” The “things in heaven,” we do not know much about, but there is nothing there that does not owe its existence to Him. Various ranks of angels were all made by the wonderful Being whom we know as our Redeemer and our Lord. “All things became through Him, and without Him there was not one thing became that did become” (John 1:3). But for Him there would have been nothing but space. Just think of the sin of putting anything or anyone in the place of such a Christ.

Verse 17.—“By Him all things consist”—that is, cohere, or stand together. Were it not for that Christ, whom philosophers and great men despise, all things would tumble into a mass. Power proceeds from Him to keep every angel and every star in their ordered place. The first Servant God had, was His Son, and that Divine Servant made and upholds all things (Heb. 1:3).

Verse 18.—“He is the Head of the body the Church.” Head of all authority here: Head of all fulness in Eph. 1:22, 23: Head of all affection in Eph. 5:23: three grand themes to think of. He will be equal to all His people’s needs, here and hereafter. O, let us think of His authority, His fulness, and His love! “The first-born from the dead,” literally, “out of the dead ones.” He is the Beginning of a new order of creation. He originated the first creation: He is the Beginning of the new (Rev. 3:14). He is the Firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29): God will have many sons brought to glory (Rev. 5:6), but in all things He is to have “the pre-eminence.” Creation is divided into three parts (Phil. 2:10), all in heaven, earth, and hell shall yet be subjected unto Him. There is not an infidel or a scorner, but will have to bow at the Name of Jesus by and bye.

“That in all things He might have the pre-eminence,” or be supreme. The wisdom of everyone else is to remember His nothingness, but we must never forget who the Lord Jesus is, and where God has placed Him now. God can never forget it, nor will He fail to claim for Him the honour due to Him there. Do we as saints really let the Lord Jesus always have “the preeminence?” Do we give Him the supreme place in our hearts and in our objects in life? God’s way is to head up the creature in something higher, and He would have us own Him, refer everything to Him, and judge everything in His light. No more to be living to ourselves, but to make it our aim to be “well-pleasing unto Him.”

Verse 19.—“For it seemed good that in Him should all fulness dwell.” God as God you cannot see. If you would know Him, look at Christ. “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18). “God “here means Deity: God in the abstract (see 1 Tim.6:16). But the Son declared Him—told Him out. He is “the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:2). How wonderful are the words of 1 John 3:2, in the light of this! “We shall see Him” not as now, but “as He is.” What if I am empty: all fulness dwells in Him. We are the empty vessels into which He is pouring His mercy now (Rom. 9:23), and His glory by and bye. Even now, His glory is being put into us, for we are “being changed from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Verse 20.—The purpose of God is “to reconcile all things unto Himself.” The next verse shews that God has made a beginning of this. Enemies once, yet “now hath He reconciled.” What a beautiful “now” that is! Reconciliation means readjustment, for we had got away from God; our relationship with Him had been broken by sin. This the Lord Jesus through His death hath restored. Consider how far off we were. “Alienated and enemies.” In Eph. 4:18, “Alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them.” Here it is “by wicked works.” What a picture, of all the world too! How fit for hell each one of us was! “Yet now hath He reconciled.” The “nows” of Scripture are very sweet (See Rom. 8:1; Eph. 2:13; 1 John 3:2). How does He reconcile?

Verse 22.—“In the body of His flesh.” This word occurs only here. It is a marvellous word. Such a contrast to “His body “in verse 24. There He speaks of “His body the Church,” here of the body which was prepared for Him (Heb. 10:5), in which He offered Himself to God (Heb. 10:10)—His literal body. Not “the body of His glory” He now has (Phil. 3:20), or His mystic body the Church (Eph. 1:23), but “in the body of His flesh.” It was the death of Christ upon the Cross and that alone, that wrought reconciliation. By that death, our relation with God is readjusted. On the Cross He was alone; there He bore our sins on His own body on the tree, and the awful wrath of God due to them, but in glory He will not be alone; His people, the members of His body, shall be with Him. “Things on earth and things in heaven” hath He reconciled. In Phil. 2:10, “things under the earth” are included, because there it is Christ subjugating all things; even in hell, His Lordship must be owned. But here where it is reconciling all things, hell is left out. This is an important distinction, and disposes of the theory of the final restitution of the lost. “To present you holy, and unblameable, and unreprovable in His sight.” Holy before God, blameless before others, and unreprovable by Satan. Present you, so that neither God, man, or devil shall find any flaw. He is going to present us up there in heaven “in His sight,” right under His eye, and there in that uncreated light there shall not be a whisper against us. If you are not made fit for that, there is no heaven for you.

Verse 23.—Here is a word of exhortation and warning. It is like John 15:10, “Continue ye”: mind you do not get “moved away”: there is plenty to do it. “Grounded” means firmly joined to the foundation; “settled” denotes solid work after the foundation has been secured. In Eph. 3:18, it is first the figure of a tree, hence the word is “rooted,” then of a building, hence the word is “grounded,” on a solid foundation. When we know that we are saved, then we can look forward. “The hope of the Gospel”: not hoping to be saved, we know that we are saved already: but Christ is coming. This is the true attitude of the saints. “Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). “Looking for that blessed hope” (Phil. 3:20). “Be not moved away,” implies there are many things to cause us to relax our hold on “the hope,” then worldliness creeps in. “Continue in My love”—“Continue in the faith”—”Be not moved away from the hope.” Christ loved me, and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20). He is coming again to receive me unto Himself (John 14:3): these are the two ends of God’s dealings with us in grace. This is the hope: there is only one. “Now the God of the hope fill you” (Rom. 15:13). It is “the hope of the Gospel,” preached in all creation. It was to be spread in all directions, that all who are brought to believe in Him, may be looking for His coming (1 Thess. 1:10).

Verse 23.—There are two distinct ministries which Paul says were committed unto Him. Here a “minister” of the Gospel, in verse 25, a “minister” of the Church. Verse 24 is very remarkable, coming as it does between. “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25), and His true servants love that Church and suffer for it too. Not that they can ever suffer as He did, for in His sufferings at the hand of God, He stood alone, and bore all the wrath, but we can give ourselves—our time, our energy, our love, our prayers—in service for His Church. In suffering on behalf of His people and in serving them, we may be associated with Him. “Fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ.” He has left us here to serve and to suffer for a little while. It is a great honour He has thus conferred upon us, and when we get home to glory, we shall rejoice that we have been counted worthy to suffer for His Name. He expects us to sympathize with His suffering people, and to suffer with and for them. “In all their afflictions He was afflicted,” and as was the Head so ought the members to be. It is enough to make us love the wilderness, to have the privilege of suffering a little for Christ. Those who have gone to heaven cease to suffer. Some suffer more than others, serve more than others: theirs’ will be a bright reward. God forbid that we should be uninterested spectators, looking on from a distance but taking no part in “the reproach of Christ.” Now we are members of a suffering Christ, and should have hearts full of sympathy for the suffering saints of God: this is a great way of suffering. Paul suffered much in this way; his heart-sympathies were with the saints. When he heard of any walking negligently, he wept bitter tears (Phil. 3:18, 2 Cor. 2:4): when he heard they were divided or troubled, it grieved his heart, and caused him to agonize (Col. 2:1) and be in soul travail for them (Gal. 4:20). Some only laugh at these things: the devil and the ungodly can do that. These are “the afflictions of Christ,” for until the Church is glorified, His sympathies will be drawn out for her sorrows and her sufferings, and so ought ours to be.

Verse 25.—“The Church, of which I am made a minister.” Paul was an evangelist to the world, a teacher to the saints: the former ministry is to the lost, with the Gospel for their salvation, the latter to the saved, with the Word for their edification. They are generally separate, but an evangelist should seek to have those whom he has been used to lead to Christ, led on and taught in the truth. “According to the stewardship of God which was given to me.” This shews that God’s ministers will have to give an account. “It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:1), not frittering away God’s truth to pander to the ungodly. The parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16:1-13, is a warning to unsaved preachers: in the latter part of the chapter we see him in hell, with his tongue on fire. The Lord’s own Word to the faithful one is, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23)—not successful. Ours is to act faithfully, and be true to our Master, waiting for His commendation and reward.

Verses 26, 27.—That which was the great purpose of God in His heart from before the world began, is now made manifest. That mystery is the Church: “the riches of His glory,” the grandest of all His mighty works. “Christ in you the hope of glory.” This thought occurs thrice. He is our life (chap. 3:3): He is all and in all (chap. 3:11).

Verses 28, 29.—The object of true ministry is the growth and edification of the saints: to have every one fully established in Christ, and fully alive to the love God has to him in Christ, and of that glory which even now is revealed to the soul by beholding Christ at the right hand of God (2 Cor. 3:18). Such a ministry can only be in the power of God, and in the agony of the soul.