The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Colossians 1

Col 1:1

See Lesson, Paul the man.

See Lesson, Paul's ecclesial letters.

Col 1:2

HOLY: Or "saints". Gr "hagios", the holy ones! As God "set apart" or "sanctified" or "made holy" His people in Egypt (Exo 13:2; Lev 11:44), so NT believers were "made holy" in Christ.

All believers are "saints" through their spiritual union with Christ, a fact Paul often expressed by the phrase "in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1,2; Eph 2:6,10,13; 3:6) or "in Christ" (Rom 12:5; 2Co 5:17). This use of the term emphasizes not so much personal holiness, though the believer's conduct should correspond increasingly to his standing (2Co 7:1; 2Th 5:23), but the objective "set apart" status each believer possesses because of the grace conferred upon him or her through Christ.

COLOSSE: A city located on both sides of the Lycus River in Phrygia, about 12 miles from Laodicea in sw Asia Minor. The histories of Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis were closely associated. The great trade route from Ephesus to Tarsus and Syria went through Colosse and made it a prosperous city by the time of Xerxes. The city had owed its wealth chiefly to its red or violet woolens, called colossinus. But it was already declining in importance by Paul's day because of competition especially from Laodicea, and no letter was sent there by John when he wrote the churches in Asia (Rev 1-3). The ecclesia in Colosse may have been founded by Epaphras (Col 1:2; 4:12). Paul had not visited Colosse previous to his letter to them (Col 2:1). The church seems to have met in the home of Philemon (Phm 1:2).

Col 1:4

SAINTS: All believers are "saints" through their spiritual union with Christ, a fact Paul often expressed by the phrase "in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1,2; Eph 2:6,10,13; 3:6) or "in Christ" (Rom 12:5; 2Co 5:17). This use of the term emphasizes not personal holiness, though the believer's conduct should correspond increasingly to his standing, but the objective status each believer possesses because of the grace conferred upon him or her through Christ.

Col 1:5

The believer's hope: an anchor to the soul (Heb 6:19); a treasure in heaven (Col 1:5); a person in the heart (Col 1:27); and a power in the life (1Jo 3:3).

THE HOPE: The hope of glory (v 27), which is with Christ in heaven, but shall be manifested to the believers when he shall appear, out of heaven, bringing it with him (Col 3:3,4). Cp Heb 9:28.

STORED UP: Sw 2Ti 4:8, re Paul's anticipated "crown".

Col 1:6

THIS GOSPEL IS BEARING FRUIT: The purpose of the proclamation of the gospel is the bearing of fruit. This fruit produces glory to God (so also in v 10). Cp John 15:16; Rom 15:28; Eph 5:9; Gal 5:22,23.

Col 1:7

EPAPHRAS: A "beloved fellow servant" and a "faithful minister of Christ," held in high esteem by Paul (Col 1:7-8; 4:12-13). In Phm 1:23 he is referred to as "my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus". While the name is a contracted form of Epaphroditus, most commentators do not connect him with the Philippian man of that name in Phi 2:25-30. From Col 1:6,7 it appears that Colosse has received "the grace of God in truth" not from Paul himself but from Epaphras. On the basis of Col 4:13, he had been Paul's representative in bringing the gospel not only to Colosse, but also to Laodicea and Hierapolis. Later he shared Paul's imprisonment and sent greetings to Philemon.

WHO IS A FAITHFUL SERVANT: Examples of faithfulness in service: Samuel (1Sa 3:20); David (1Sa 22:14); the temple overseers (2Ki 12:15); the workers (2Ch 34:12); Hananiah (Neh 7:2); Abraham (Neh 9:8); the treasurers (Neh 13:13); Daniel (Dan 6:4); Timothy (1Co 4:17); Epaphras (Col 1:7); Tychicus (Col 4:7); Onesimus (Col 4:9); Paul (1Ti 1:12); Moses (Heb 3:2,5); Gaius (3Jo 1:5); Jesus Christ (Rev 1:5); Antipas (Rev 2:13).

Cp Luk 16:10; 2Ch 31:12.

"The present life in Christ is pre-eminently one of ministration to God through him, to him through service to our brethren, it being the prerogative of love to serve. Whether on the platform, in the home, in the sickroom, in the business meeting, the Sunday School or the study class, the ideal is to serve, to minister, to give, not to take or display. Tychicus is termed 'a beloved brother and a faithful minister of the Lord' (Eph 6:21), whilst Epaphras is called 'a dear fellowservant' and 'a faithful minister of Christ' " (FCE 71).

Col 1:8

LOVE IN THE SPIRIT: That is, love founded upon mutual affection for spiritual things.

Col 1:9

TO FILL YOU WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL THROUGH ALL SPIRITUAL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING: "We are absolutely nothing, except as God chooses to use us in His purpose. All our meaning and value lies in being part of His work. Outside of that, we are empty, uninteresting chunks of flesh, like the cattle. If we wish to have any meaning or permanence -- to be anything other than dumb, perishing animals -- we must fill our minds with God's Word, and fill our lives with His service" (GVG).

We cannot be "filled" with grace and knowledge until we are first "emptied" of our own thoughts and desires (Phi 2:7).

KNOWLEDGE: Gr "epi-gnosis": thorough, exact knowledge.

Col 1:10

A LIFE WORTHY OF THE LORD: "You have your limits. You have more mental capacity than some, and less than others. You have more physical capacity than some, and less than others. This is true of everyone except the single one at the top and at the bottom. Much can be done in both categories by exercise, but still there are limits -- and all are different. It is not important. At his very best and highest, man is still nothing. At worst and lowest, he is still something. What counts eternally is how you use what you have been given, in mental, physical, and circumstantial opportunity. This is your personal stewardship, be it great or small. You will be judged upon it. God requires your most and best, within your limits. This is what love will be eager and anxious to give and still wish it could give more. Do you have this love and zeal for divine service that makes the difference between life and death? It comes with long study and meditation, and prayer. It's not a secret or special gift that some just happen to have. It's something all are commanded to develop, and freely shown how. It is spiritual-mindedness, which is life and peace; and there can be neither life nor peace without it. It is not a matter of sudden and shallow emotional excitement, like orthodox 'conversion.' It is a deep, steady, consistent learning and growing and transforming, and becoming closer and closer to the Divine Perfection" (GVG).

BEARING FRUIT IN EVERY GOOD WORK: Fruitful in bringing many to share the fellowship that we have with the Father: Rom 1:13, Phi 4:17; 2Pe 1:8.

"Don't drift. Don't play. Make all your time sensible and constructive and useful. Play is for children. It is essential for them. Your childhood is over. Grow up. There is plenty of exercise and enjoyment and relaxation in practical and effective work. Eschew the fleshly illusion that time must be wasted to be enjoyed. That's stupid. We have no justification or excuse for wasting God's valuable time in child's play -- for ALL our time is His, for His purpose. We have solemnly agreed to this. So be honest. Live up to it. You know there is no satisfying peace or joy in slipping back into the vacuous and juvenile play of infancy. Grow up! Press on! Keep your eye on the glorious goal. You have a brief, once-only opportunity to secure eternity. Don't bungle it. Disneyland is for immature and empty minds. It's a dressed up skeleton: a grinning corpse. Look beyond the glitter and tinsel to the cold and dead bones beneath. It's the whole mad world in microcosm: shun it as the plague" (GVG).

Col 1:11

ENDURANCE: Or "patience" in KJV (which conveys too much passivity). "Endurance" is "the ability to deal triumphantly with anything life can do to us" (BCol 68).

Col 1:12

WHO HAS QUALIFIED YOU: To be qualified: an educational process and attainment.

"Partakers" / "sharers": of root and fatness of olive tree (Rom 11:17), of spiritual things (Rom 15:27), of one bread (1Co 10:17), of sufferings and consolation (2Co 1:7), of God's promise in Christ (Eph 3:6), of inheritance of saints (Col 1:12), of heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), of Christ (Heb 3:14), of the benefit (1Ti 6:2), of the glory (1Pe 5:1), and of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4).

KINGDOM OF LIGHT: See Gen 1:3; John 8:12; 1Ti 6:16.

Col 1:13

DOMINION OF DARKNESS: The blinding power of sin (2Co 4:4). Cp Joh 12:36, and Paul's commission in Act 26:17-19.

BROUGHT US INTO: " 'Brought' translates 'metestesen', a word that was used in secular literature in reference to removing persons from one country and settling them as colonists and citizens in another country. It might be rendered 'reestablished' " (EBC).

INTO: "Eis" sig "for" or "toward". Through belief in Christ and baptism, men and women have changed their "citizenship" and are being prepared for a new Kingdom, the one that is coming with Christ (Col 3:1-4).

Col 1:14

REDEMPTION: "Apolutrosis" = to be bought away from. See Lesson, Redemption.

The simple truth of the transaction of "redemption", as described in the New Testament, is contained in the key passages that equate redemption with the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14). What has been forgiven cannot also be paid for. The sacrifice of Christ, the culmination of a life of perfect obedience and dedication, was the price paid for our salvation. That is to say, it was necessary that Christ give himself as a suitable basis for the declaring of God's righteousness in offering mercy to sinners. But God's offer requires a corresponding "payment" on the part of those who would accept it. Since they are to be redeemed out of death they must repudiate that which brought death, which is the world and sin (Rom 6:1-7, for example). They must live sober and godly lives, repudiating all iniquity, as a special people belonging exclusively to God (Tit 2:14).

Col 1:15

IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD: "Christ was a divine manifestation -- an embodiment of Deity in flesh -- Emmanuel, God with us... When Jesus said, 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father also,' he did not contradict the statement that 'no man hath seen God at any time', but simply expressed the truth contained in these words of Paul. 'The brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person' (Heb 1:3). Those who looked upon the anointed Jesus, beheld a representation of the Deity accessible to human vision" (RR).

FIRSTBORN: Note that Israel is called God's firstborn nation (Exo 4:22), though other nations were literally created first. Likewise, for believers, "firstborn" is a description of status, not an order of birth: cp Jer 31:9; Gen 48:14,19; Deu 21:17; Psa 89:27; Heb 12:23.

"Firstborn" is explained in v 18: "from the dead"!

ALL CREATION: Which "creation"? The "New Creation: see 2Co 5:17; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:10,15; 4:24; Col 3:10; Jam 1:18.

Col 1:16

See Lesson, New creation.

BY (first): "En": in.

BY (second): "Dia": by means of.

INVISIBLE: Christ has preeminence even over angels (Col 2:18). They have been "created" (ie, reordered, rearranged) by Christ.

FOR: "Eis": toward.

Col 1:18

Examples of personification: riches (Mat 6:24); sin (Joh 8:34; Rom 5:21; 6:16); spirit (Joh 16:13); wisdom (Pro 3:13-15; 9:1); Israel (Jer 31:4,18); people of Christ (Eph 4:4,13; 5:23; Rev 19:7; 1Co 12:27; 2Co 11:2; Col 1:18,24).

THE BEGINNING: Did Christ pre-exist his birth? Only in the ideal and plan of God, not in tangible form: 1Pe 1:20; 2Ti 1:9,10; Mat 25:34. Did the "church" pre-exist? No, of course not: see Rom 8:29.

AND HE IS THE HEAD OF THE BODY: "Remember putting your face above a headless frame painted to represent a muscle man, a clown, or even a bathing beauty? Many of us have had our pictures taken this way, and the photos are humorous because the head doesn't fit the body.

If we could picture Christ as the head of our local body of believers, would the world laugh at the misfit? Or would they stand in awe of a human body so closely related to a divine head?" (Dan Bernard).

Col 1:20

Peace: made (Col 1:20), preached (Eph 2:17), enjoyed (Rom 5:1), filling hearts (Rom 15:13), given (John 14:27), keeping (Phi 4:7), and ruling (Col 3:15).

Col 1:22

BY CHRIST'S PHYSICAL BODY THROUGH DEAD: Christ's participation in flesh (v 22) and blood (v 20), so as to destroy "him that hath the power of death" (Heb 2:14,15).

Col 1:23

UNDER HEAVEN: A phrase suggesting the universality of Yahweh's judgement: Gen 6:17; Exo 17:14; Deu 7:24; 9:14; 25:19; 29:20; 2Ki 14:27. The two NT references (Acts 4:12; Col 1:23) expand the theme to show that the Father is indeed concerned with salvation for all mankind.

Col 1:24

I FILL UP IN MY FLESH WHAT IS STILL LACKING IN REGARD TO CHRIST'S AFFLICTIONS: The head has already suffered; now the "body" must suffer also: 2Co 1:5-7; 2Ti 2:12. Only thus will the purpose of God be complete, to bring many sons to glory! "Now if we are children, then we are heirs -- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Rom 8:17). "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you" (2Co 4:10-12).

FOR THE SAKE OF HIS BODY, WHICH IS THE CHURCH: "Do not take your ecclesia for granted. Labor constantly for its health and welfare. The Truth itself is eternal and indestructible. But in these days of the flesh and of weakness, the Ecclesia is a fragile thing, needing constant tending and care. Ecclesias flourish, and ecclesias languish. Ecclesias live, and ecclesias die. Ecclesias grow and ecclesias shrivel. The difference may be you. The health of the ecclesia depends on the spirit of the ecclesia: the oneness, the unity, the closeness, the mutual affection and care of the members one for another. A body is not healthy unless all parts are alive and active and working. The ecclesia is a body with many members: all are necessary: all have full-time work to do to make the ecclesia a true, living, spiritual, divine entity -- united to God, well-pleasing to God, steadily moving forward and upward to eventual perfect eternal oneness with God. Make the ecclesia's welfare and harmony and spirituality and mutually upbuilding joy your constant prayer and care. Help, strengthen, encourage, support, serve. Subdue your flesh, and all your fleshly reactions. Subdue your natural antagonisms and criticisms and petty, small-minded frictions. All these things are destructive of ecclesial well-being. Forget yourself, especially your baby grievances, and work wholly for the common good. Herein alone will you find peace and joy and fulfillment" (GVG).

Col 1:27

The believer's hope: an anchor to the soul (Heb 6:19); a treasure in heaven (Col 1:5); a person in the heart (Col 1:27); and a power in the life (1Jo 3:3).

Col 1:28

ADMONISHING AND TEACHING EVERYONE WITH ALL WISDOM: 'It is not possible to persuade people to be wise. Wisdom is not a POSITION we take: it is a CONDITION we are in. But it is possible to persuade people to take the course that will make them wise: prayer, and study, and meditation on the Word" (GVG).

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