The Epistle to the Colossians (Volume XXI)
3. We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
praying always for you,
3. Gratias agimus Deo et Patri Domini nostri Iesu Christi, semper
pro vobis orantes,
4. Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love
which ye have to all the saints;
4. Audita fide vestra, quae est in Christo Iesu, et caritate erga
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;
5. Propter spem repositam vobis in coelis, de qua prius audistis,
per sermonem veritatis, nempe Evangelii,
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:
6. Quod ad vos pervenit: quem-admodum et in universo mundo fructificat
et propagatur, sicut etiam in vobis, ex quo die audistis, et cognovistis
gratiam Dei in veritate.
7. As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellow-servant, who is
for you a faithful minister of Christ;
7. Quemadmodum et didicistis ab Epaphra, dilecto converso nostro,
qui est fidelis erga vos minister Christi:
8. Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
8. Qui etiam nobis manifestavit caritatem vestram in Spiritu.
3. We give thanks to God. He praises the faith and love of the
Colossians, that it may encourage them the more to alacrity and constancy
of perseverance. Farther, by shewing that he has a persuasion of this kind
respecting them, he procures their friendly regards, that they may be the
more favourably inclined and teachable for receiving his doctrine. We must
always take notice that he makes use of thanksgiving in place of congratulation,
by which he teaches us, that in all our joys we must readily call to remembrance
the goodness of God, inasmuch as everything that is pleasant and agreeable
to us is a kindness conferred by him. Besides, he admonishes us, by his
example, to acknowledge with gratitude not merely those things which the
Lord confers upon us, but also those things which he confers upon others.
But for what things does he give thanks to the Lord? For the faith and
love of the Colossians. He acknowledges, therefore, that both are conferred
by God: otherwise the gratitude were pretended. And what have we otherwise
than through his liberality? If, however, even the smallest favors come
to us from that source, how much more ought this same acknowledgment to
be made in reference to those two gifts, in which the entire sum of our
To the God and Father. 2 Understand the expression thus -- To
God who is the Father of Christ. For it is not lawful for us to acknowledge
any other God than him who has manifested himself to us in his Son. And
this is the only key for opening the door to us, if we are desirous to
have access to the true God. For on this account, also, is he a Father
to us, because he has embraced us in his only begotten Son, and in him
also sets forth his paternal favor for our contemplation.
Always for you, Some explain it thus -- We give thanks to God
always for you, that is, continually. Others explain it to mean -- Praying
always for you. It may also be interpreted in this way, "Whenever we pray
for you, we at the same time give thanks to God;" and this is the simple
meaning, "We give thanks to God, and we at the same time pray." By this
he intimates, that the condition of believers is never in this world perfect,
so as not to have, invariably, something wanting. For even the man who
has begun admirably well, may fall short in a hundred instances every day;
and we must ever be making progress while we are as yet on the way. Let
us therefore bear in mind that we must rejoice in the favors that we have
already received, and give thanks to God for them in such a manner, as
to seek at the Same time from him perseverance and advancement.
4. Having heard of your faith. This was a means of stirring up
his love towards them, and his concern for their welfare, when he heard
it that they were distinguished by faith and love. And, unquestionably,
gifts of God that are so excellent ought to have such an effect upon us
as to stir us up to love them wherever they appear. He uses the expression,
faith in Christ, that we may always bear in mind that Christ is the proper
object of faith.
He employs the expression, love towards the saints, not with the view
of excluding others, but because, in proportion as any one is joined to
us in God, we ought to embrace him the more closely with special affection.
True love, therefore, will extend to mankind universally, because they
all are our flesh, and created in the image of God, (Genesis 4:6;) but
in respect of degrees, it will begin with those who are of the household
of faith. (Galatians 6:10.)
5. For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven. For the hope
of eternal life will never be inactive in us, so as not to produce love
in us. For it is of necessity, that the man who is fully persuaded that
a treasure of life is laid up for him in heaven will aspire thither, looking
down upon this world. Meditation, however, upon the heavenly life stirs
up our affections both to the worship of God, and to exercises of love.
The Sophists pervert this passage for the purpose of extolling the merits
of works, as if the hope of salvation depended on works. The reasoning,
however, is futile. For it does not follow, that because hope stimulates
us to aim at upright living, it is therefore founded upon works, inasmuch
as nothing is more efficacious for this purpose than God's unmerited goodness,
which utterly overthrows all confidence in works.
There is, however, an instance of metonymy in the use of the term hope,
as it is taken for the thing hoped for. For the hope that is in our hearts
is the glory which we hope for in heaven. At the same time, when he says,
that there is a hope that is laid up for us in heaven, he means, that believers
ought to feel assured as to the promise of eternal felicity, equally as
though they had already a treasure laid up 3 in a particular place.
Of which ye heard before. As eternal salvation is a thing that
surpasses the comprehension of our understanding, he therefore adds, that
the assurance of it had been brought to the Colossians by means of the
gospel; and at the same time he says in the outset, 4 that he is not to
bring forward anything new, but that he has merely in view to confirm them
in the doctrine which they had previously received. Erasmus has rendered
-- it the true word of the gospel. I am also well aware that, according
to the Hebrew idiom, the genitive is often made use of by Paul in place
of an epithet; but the words of Paul here are more emphatic. 5 For he calls
the gospel, kay ejxoch>n, (by way of eminence,) the word of truth, with
the view of putting honor upon it, that they may more steadfastly and firmly
adhere to the revelation which they have derived from that source. Thus
the term gospel is introduced by way of apposition. 6
6. As also in all the world it brings forth fruit. This has a
tendency both to confirm and to comfort the pious -- to see the effect;
of the gospel far and wide in gathering many to Christ. The faith of it
does not, it is true, depend on its success, as though we should believe
it on the ground that many believe, it. Though the whole world should fail,
though heaven itself should fall, the conscience of a pious man must not
waver, because God, on whom it is founded, does nevertheless remain true.
This, however, does not hinder our faith from being confirmed, whenever
it perceives God's excellence, which undoubtedly shews itself with more
power in proportion to the number of persons that are gained over to Christ.
In addition to this, in the multitude of the believers at that time
there was beheld an accomplishment of the many predictions which extend
the reign of Christ from the East to the West. Is it a trivial or common
aid to faith, to see accomplished before our eyes what the Prophets long
since predicted as to the extending of the kingdom of Christ through all
countries of the world? What I speak of, there is no believer that does
not experience in himself. Paul accordingly had it in view to encourage
the Colossians the more by this statement, that, by seeing in various places
the fruit and progress of the gospel, they might embrace it with more eager
zeal. Aujxano>menon, which I have rendered propagatur, (is propagated,)
does not occur in some copies; but, from its suiting better with the context,
I did not choose to omit it. It also appears front the commentaries of
the ancients that this reading was always the more generally received.
Since the day ye heard it, and knew the grace. Here he praises
them on account of their docility, inasmuch as they immediately embraced
sound doctrine; and he praises them on account of their constancy, inasmuch
as they persevered in it. It is also with propriety that the faith of the
gospel is called the knowledge of God's grace; for no one has ever tasted
of the gospel but the man that knew himself to be reconciled to God, and
took hold of the salvation that is held forth in Christ.
In truth means truly and without pretense; for as he had previously
declared that the gospel is undoubted truth, so he now adds, that it had
been purely administered by them, and that by Epaphras. For while all boast
that they preach the gospel, and yet at the same time there are many evil
workers, (Philippians 3:2,) through whose ignorance, or ambition, or avarice,
its purity is adulterated, it is of great importance that faithful ministers
should be distinguished from the less upright. For it is not enough to
hold the term gospel, unless we know that this is the true gospel -- what
was preached by Paul and Epaphras. Hence Paul confirms the doctrine of
Epaphras by giving it his approbation, that he may induce the Colossians
to adhere to it, and may, by the same means, call them back from those
profligates who endeavored to introduce strange doctrines. He at the same
time dignifies Epaphras with a special distinction, that he may have more
authority among them; and lastly, he presents him to the Colossians in
an amiable aspect, by saying that he had borne testimony to him of their
love. Paul everywhere makes it his particular aim, that he may, by his
recommendation, render those who he knows serve Christ faithfully, very
dear to the Churches; as, on the other hand, the ministers of Satan are
wholly intent on alienating, by unfavourable representations, 8 the minds
of the simple from faithful pastors.
Love in the Spirit I take to mean, spiritual love, according to the
view of Chrysostom, with whom, however, I do not agree in the interpretation
of the preceding words. Now, spiritual love is of such a nature as has
no view to the world, but is consecrated to the service of piety, 9 and
has, as it were, an internal root, while carnal friendships depend on external
1 "Son simple et priué nom;" -- "His simple
and private name."
2 "A Dieu qui est le Pere. Il y auroit mot a mot, A Dieu
et Pere;" -- "To God who is the Father. It were literally, To God and Father."
3 "Vn tresor en seure garde;" -- "A treasure in safe keeping."
4 "Il dit auant que passer plus outre;" -- "He says before
5 "Ont yci plus grande signifiance, et emportent plus;"
-- "Have here more significancy, and are more emphatic."
6 The term apposition, in grammar, signifies the putting
of two nouns in the same case. -- Ed.
7 "This" (kai< aujxano>menon) "is the reading of the
Vatican and all the most ancient authorities." -- Penn. -- Ed.
8 "Par faux rapports et calomnies;" -- "By false reports
9 "Mais est commencee et comme consacree a l'adueu de
la piete et cognoissance de Dieu;" -- "But is commenced and, as it were,
consecrated to the service of piety and the knowledge of God."
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;
9. Propterea nos quoque, ex quo die audivimus, non cessamus pro
vobis orare, et petere ut impleamini cognitione voluntatis ipsius, in omni
sapientia et prudentia 1 spirituali:
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;
10. Ut ambuletis digne Deo, in omne obsequium, in omni bono opere
fructificantes, et crescentes in cognitione Dei:
11. Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power,
unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness.
11. Omni robore roborati, secun-dum potentiam gloriae ipsius, in
omnem tolerantiam et patientiam, cum gaudio.
9. For this cause we also. As he has previously shewn his affection
for them in his thanksgivings, so he now shews it still farther in the
earnestness of his prayers in their behalf. 2 And, assuredly, the more
that the grace of God is conspicuous in any, we ought in that proportion
specially to love and esteem them, and to be concerned as to their welfare.
But what does he pray for in their behalf? That they may know God more
fully; by which he indirectly intimates, that something is still wanting
in them, that he may prepare the way for imparting instruction to them,
and may secure their attention to a fuller statement of doctrine. For those
who think that they have already attained everything that is worthy of
being known, despise and disdain everything farther that is presented to
them. Hence he removes from the Colossians an impression of this nature,
lest it should be a hinderance in the way of their cheerfully making progress,
and allowing what had been begun in them to receive an additional polish.
But what knowledge does he desire in their behalf? The knowledge of the
divine will, by which expression he sets aside all inventions of men, and
all speculations that are at variance with the word of God. For his will
is not to be sought anywhere else than in his word.
He adds -- in all wisdom; by which he intimates that the will
of God, of which he had made mention, was the only rule of right knowledge.
For if any one is desirous simply to know those things which it has pleased
God to reveal, that is the man who accurately knows what it is to be truly
wise. If we desire anything beyond that, this will be nothing else than
to be foolish, by not keeping within due bounds. By the word sune>sewv
which we render prudentiam, (prudence,) I understand -- that discrimination
which proceeds from intelligence. Both are called spiritual by Paul, because
they are not attained in any other way than by the guidance of the Spirit.
For the animal man does not perceive the things that are of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:14.)
So long as men are regulated by their own carnal perceptions, they have
also their own wisdom, but it is of such a nature as is mere vanity, however
much they may delight themselves in it. We see what sort of theology there
is under the Papacy, what is contained in the books of philosophers, and
what wisdom profane men hold in estimation. Let us, however, bear in mind,
that the wisdom which is alone commended by Paul is comprehended in the
will of God.
10. That ye may walk worthy of God. In the first place he teaches,
what is the end of spiritual understanding, and for what purpose we ought
to make proficiency in God's school -- that we may walk worthy of God,
that is, that it may be manifest in our life, that we have not in vain
been taught by God. Whoever they may be that do not direct their endeavors
towards this object, may possibly toil and labor much, but they do nothing
better than wander about in endless windings, without making any progress.
3Farther, he admonishes us, that if we would walk worthy of God, we must
above all things take heed that we regulate our whole course of life according
to the will of God, renouncing our own understanding, and bidding farewell
to all the inclinations of our flesh.
This also he again confirms by saying -- unto all obedience, or, as
they commonly say, well-pleasing. Hence if it is asked, what kind of life
is worthy of God, let us always keep in view this definition of Paul --
that it is such a life as, leaving the opinions of men, and leaving, in
short, all carnal inclination, is regulated so as to be in subjection to
God alone. From this follow good works, which are the fruits that God requires
Increasing, in the knowledge of God. He again repeats, that they
have not arrived at such perfection as not to stand in need of farther
increase; by which admonition he prepares them, and as it were leads them
by the hand, to an eagerness for proficiency, that they may shew themselves
ready to listen, and teachable. What is here said to the Colossians, let
all believers take as said to themselves, and draw from this a common exhortation
that we must always make progress in the doctrine of piety until death.
11. Strengthened with all might. As he has previously prayed
that they might have both a sound understanding and the right use of it,
so also now he prays that they may have courage and constancy. In this
manner he puts them in mind of their own weakness, for he says, that they
will not be strong otherwise than by the Lord's help; and not only so,
but with the view of magnifying this exercise of grace the more, he adds,
according to his glorious power. "So far from any one being able to stand,
through dependence on his own strength, the power of God shews itself illustriously
in helping our infirmity." Lastly, he shews in what it is that the strength
of believers ought to display itself -- in all patience and long-suffering.
For they are constantly, while in this world, exercised with the cross,
and a thousand temptations daily present themselves, so as to weigh them
down, and they see nothing of what God has promised. They must, therefore,
arm themselves with an admirable patience, that what Isaiah says may be
In hope and in silence shall be your strength. 4 (Isaiah 30:15.)
It is preferable to connect with this sentence the clause, with joy.
For although the other reading is more commonly to be met with in the Latin
versions, this is more in accordance with the Greek manuscripts, and, unquestionably,
patience is not sustained otherwise than by alacrity of mind, and will
never be maintained with fortitude by any one that is not satisfied with
1 "Prudence, ou intelligence;" -- "prudence, or understanding."
2 "Comme il a ci dessus demonstré l'amour qu'il
auoit enuers eux, en protestant qu'il s'esiouit de leurs auancemens, et
en rend graces a Dieu, aussi le fait -- il maintenant en son affection
vehemente, et continuation de prier;" -- "As he has already shewn the love
which he cherished towards them, by declaring that he rejoices in their
proficiency, and gives thanks to God for it, so he does the same now by
his intense eagerness and perseverance in prayer."
3 "Mais ils ne feront que tracasser çà et
là, et tourner a l'entour du pot (comme on dit) sans s'auancer;"
-- "But they will do nothing else than hurry hither and thither, and go
about the bush (as they say) without making progress."
4 Lowth's rendering of the passage is similar: "In silence,
and in pious confidence, shall be your strength." -- Ed.
12. Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be
partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
12. Gratias agentes Deo et Patri, 1 qui nos fecit idoneos ad participa-tionem
hereditatis sanctorum in lumine.
12. Giving thanks. Again he returns to thanksgiving, that he
may take this opportunity of enumerating the blessings which had been conferred
upon them through Christ, and thus he enters upon a full delineation of
Christ. For this was the only remedy for fortifying the Colossians against
all the snares, by which the false Apostles endeavored to entrap them --
to understand accurately what Christ was. For how comes it that we are
carried about with so many strange doctrines, (Hebrews 13:9) but because
the excellence of Christ is not perceived by us? For Christ alone makes
all other things suddenly vanish. Hence there is nothing that Satan so
much endeavors to accomplish as to bring on mists with the view of obscuring
Christ, because he knows, that by this means the way is opened up for every
kind of falsehood. This, therefore, is the only means of retaining, as
well as restoring pure doctrine -- to place Christ before the view such
as he is with all his blessings, that his excellence may be truly perceived.
The question here is not as to the name. Papists in common with us acknowledge
one and the same Christ; yet in the mean time how great a difference there
is between us and them, inasmuch as they, after confessing Christ to be
the Son of God, transfer his excellence to others, and scatter it hither
and thither, and thus leave him next to empty, 2 or at least rob him of
a great part of his glory, so that he is called, it is true, by them the
Son of God, but, nevertheless, he is not such as the Father designed he
should be towards us. If, however, Papists would cordially embrace what
is contained in this chapter, we would soon be perfectly agreed, but the
whole of Popery would fall to the ground, for it cannot stand otherwise
than through ignorance of Christ. This will undoubtedly be acknowledged
by every one that will but consider the main article 3 of this first chapter;
for his grand object here is that we may know that Christ is the beginning,
middle, and end -- that it is from him that all things must be sought --
that nothing is, or can be found, apart from him. Now, therefore, let the
readers carefully and attentively observe in what colors Paul depicts Christ
Who hath made us meet. He is still speaking of the Father, because
he is the beginning, and efficient cause (as they speak) of our salvation.
As the term God is more distinctly expressive of majesty, so the term Father
conveys the idea of clemency and benevolent disposition. It becomes us
to contemplate both as existing in God, that his majesty may inspire us
with fear and reverence, and that his fatherly love may secure our full
confidence. Hence it is not with our good reason that Paul has conjoined
these two things, after all, you prefer the rendering which the old interpreter
has followed, and which accords with some very ancient Greek manuscripts.
4 At the same time there will be no inconsistency in saying, that he contents
himself with the single term, Father. Farther, as it is necessary that
his incomparable grace should be expressed by the term Father, so it is
also not less necessary that we should, by the term God, be roused up to
admiration of so great goodness, that he, who is God, has condescended
thus far. 5
But for what kindness does he give thanks to God? For his having made
him, and others, meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints.
For we are born children of wrath, exiles from God's kingdom. It is God's
adoption that alone makes us meet. Now, adoption depends on an unmerited
election. The Spirit of regeneration is the seal of adoption. He adds,
in light, that there might be a contrast -- as opposed to the darkness
of Satan's kingdom. 6
1 "A Dieu et Pere, qui nous a faits, ou, au Pere, qui
nous a faits;" -- "To God and the Father, who hath made us, or, to the
Father, who hath made us."
2 "Ils le laissent quasi vuide et inutile;" -- "They leave
him in a manner empty and useless."
3 Statum. The term is commonly employed among the Latins
like sta>siv among the Greeks, to mean the point at issue. See Cic. Top.
25. -- Ed.
4 It is stated by Beza, that some Greek manuscripts have
tw~| Qew~| kai< Patri<, (to God and the Father,) and that this is
the reading in some copies of the Vulgate. Wiclif (1380) reads, "To God
and to the Fadir." Rheims (1582) "To God and the Father." -- Ed.
5 "S'est abbaisé iusques là de vouloir estre
nostre Pere;" -- "Has abased himself so far as to be willing to be our
6 "Afin qu'il y eust vne opposition entre les tenebres
du royaume de Satan, et la lumiere du royaume de Dieu;" -- "That there
might be a contrast between the darkness of Satan's kingdom, and the light
of God's kingdom."