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Lardner, vol. viii. p 293. thinks it was held A. D. 363. This is the council of Laodicea which, in its last two canons, declared what sacred books were to be publicly read in the churches.
Of the Time when the Epistle to the Colossians was written: and of the
Persons by whom it was sent. At the time the apostle wrote this letter, he was in bonds for preaching the gospel, Col. iv. 3. But this confinement was not so strict as to prevent his preaching occasionally. For he mentions, chap. iv. 10. His fellow labourers in the kingdom of God, who had been a consolation to him. This agrees with Paul's first confinement at Rome, where, Acts xxviii. 30. He dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all who came in unto him ; 31. preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him —Now, on the supposition that this epistle was written during the apostle's first confinement at Rome, since it was sent by the persons who carried bis letter to Philemon, in which he desired him to provide him a lodging at Co. losse, because he hoped to see him soon, ver. 22. we have reason to think, that both letters were written in the second year of the apostle's confinement, and towards the end of that year, answering to A. D. 61. when the apostle had a prospect of being soon released.
The letter to the Colossians was not sent by Epaphras their own pastor. That good man, from the time of his arrival in Rome, had exerted himself so strenuously in the cause of Christ, that he became obnoxious to the magistrates, and was imprisoned, Philem. ver. 23. The apostle, therefore, sent this letter by Tychicus, and Onesimus, a slave who had run away from his master Philemon, but whom the apostle converted in Rome, and sent back to Colosse.
Because Tychicus, the bearer of the apostle's letter to the Colossians, carried likewise his letter to the Ephesians, Ephes. vi. 21, 22. and because there is a remarkable agreement in the sentiments and language of both epistles, many have conjectured that they were written about the same time. See Pref. to the Ephes. sect. 5. This too was Locke's opinion, who says, “ They
seem to be writ at the very same time in the same run and 6 warmth of thoughts, so that the very same expressions, yet 6 fresh in his mind, are repeated in many places: The form, “phrase, matter, and all the parts quite through of these two 4 epistles, do so perfectly correspond, that one cannot be mis“ taken in thinking one of them very fit to give light to the “ other." —But though this observation be just in general, it will not hold in every instance. For in comparing some of the similar passages
of the two epistles, we must not fancy, because the expressions are the same, or nearly the same in both, that their meaning is precisely the same. The different circumstances of the churches to which these letters were addressed, ard the different views which the apostle had in writing to them, occasioned him, in some instances, to affix different meanings to the same expressions. The false teachers moulded their errors into different forms, suiting them, as was observed above, to the characters and prejudices of the persons whom they wished to persuade. And therefore in confuting them, the apostle was obliged to give his arguments a new turn ; so that although in words, some pas. sages may be the same in different epistles, they are not the same in sense. Of this we have an example in the inscriptions of the epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians; where, in the former, we have, τοις αγίοις τοις εσιν εν Εφεση, και τους πισοις εν Χρισω Ιησg: and in the latter, τοις εν Κολοσσαις αγίοις, και πισεις ad radars ay Xersw. For, in the epistle to the Ephesians, the phrase xao Tong TISOIS Ev Xeisw Inox, signifies, to the believers in Christ Jesus ; namely, who were in the province of Asia, as distinguished from the saints who were in Ephesus. Whereas the same phrase, in the epistle to the Colossians, signifies, to the faithful brethren in Christ; as is plain from the clause, rois a Κολοσσαις, which is connected both with αγιοις, and with πισοις αδελφοις εν Χρισω. The reason is, if τους πισοις αδελφοις εν Χρισο, in the inscription to the Colossians, is translated, to the believing brethren in Christ, it will be of the same import with tous dysois, to the saints.-For other examples, see Col. ii. 13. note 2. and ver. 14. note 2.—Wherefore, a proper attention to the above observation is necessary, in many instances, to our understanding the true meaning of the apostle Paul's writings.
View and Illustration of the Doctrines and Discoveries contained in this
Chapter. EFFECTUALLY to silence the false teachers, who endeavoured to seduce the Colossian brethren to Judaism, the apostle began the doctrinal part of this epistle with confuting their leading error ;
the error for the sake of which all the rest were introduced; namely, that the institutions of Moses, but especially the Levitical sacrifices, were still necessary, because there were no propitiatory sacrifices in the gospel. This false and most destructive doctrine the apostle exploded, by shewing that they who are translated into the kingdom of God's beloved Son, have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sin ; consequently, that in the gospel dispensation, God hath appointed a propitiatory sacrifice of real efficacy; namely, the sacrifice of the blood of Christ, to which believers can have sure recourse for pardon, and have no need of any other propitiatory sacrifice whatever, ver. 13, 14.-But, lest the Colossians might have been told by the Judaizers, that the pardon of the sins of the whole world, was an effect too great to be ascribed to the once shedding of Christ's blood, the apostle observed, that the atonement made by that one sacrifice, is perfectly sufficient for the taking away the sins of all who believe, because the supereminent dignity of Christ, enhanced the merit of his death.-Christ's dignity the apostle described in a magnificence of language suggested by the grandeur of the subject. He is the image of the invisible God, and the Lord of the whole creation, ver. 15.for he created all things in the heavens, and upon the earth, visible and invisible, ver. 16.-and by him all things are upheld, ver. 17.–The apostle having thus described the original dignity of Christ as God's beloved Son, for the purpose of displaying the merit of his death, proceeded to speak of the honour and
power which he received, in the human nature, as the reward of his death; whereby he hath shewed in a conspicuous light, the folly of those who endeavoured to persuade the Colossians, to prefer the mediation of angels to the mediation of Christ. He is the head of the body, even of the church, and the beginning or author thereof. He is also the first born or Lord of the dead; having died to raise them again to life, ver. 18.–This greatness, both in the natural and moral world, he hath receiv. ed from his Father, that he may unite angels and men in one great community under himself as their head, in order that they may be happy in their subjection to God, and in the society of one another, to all eternity. For, saith the apostle, it pleased the Father, that in him all the fulness of perfection and power should constantly abide, ver. 19.—and through the exercise of his authority and power, by him to unite all things under him as head, having made peace between them by the blood of his cross, ver. 20.-Even the idolatrous Gentiles, notwithstanding their former wickedness, he hath thus united, ver. 21.-in one body with the Jews, in his church, through the death of his Son, to render them holy and unblameable in Christ's sight, at the last day, ver. 22.-To be in that manner presented before Christ, the apostle told the Colossians, would be their happy lot, since they were continuing firm in the faith of the gospel doctrine, which, because of its efficacy to sanctify sinners, was preached to every creature under heaven; of which gospel Paul was made a minister by Christ himself, ver. 23.
But lest his imprisonment, for having preached salvation to the believing Gentiles, equally with the Jews, through the death of Christ, although they did not obey the law of Moses,
GREEK Text. CHAP. I. 1 Paul an 1 Παυλος, ασοςολος Ιησου apostle of Jesus Christ by Χριςου, δια θεληματος Θεου, the will of God, and Ti- και Τιμοθεος ο αδελφος, motheus our brother.
Ver. 1.-1. Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ, &c. To convince the Colossians, that all the things contained in this epistle were dictated by the Spirit of God, Paul began it with assuring them, not only that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ, but that he was made an apostle by the will of God the Father; an honour which none of the false teachers could claim.
might have led the Colossians to suspect the truth of his doctrine, the apostle told them, that he rejoiced in the afflictions he was enduring for them; that is, for maintaining their title to salvation; and that these afflictions were expressly appointed to him by Christ, for the purpose of building his body, which is his church, ver. 24.-Of which church, he told them a second time, he was made a minister, or apostle, to build it by fully publishing God's determination to save the believing Gentiles, ver. 25. -Then he informed them, that this determination was a mystery or secret, which, during the Mosaic dispensation, was kept hid both from the Jews and from the Gentiles; but was now discovered to such of the Jews as God thought fit to employ in publishing it to the world, ver 26.To these preachers, God was pleased to make known by revelation, the greatness of the glory of this mystery concerning the Gentiles; that is, the glorious excellence of that part of his plan which relates to the Gentiles; namely, That Jesus Christ, to them also, is the author of the hope of a glorious resurrection to eternal life, as well as to the Jews, ver. 27.-Him, therefore, all the inspired Christian teachers preach as the only Saviour of the world, exhorting every man to receive him as Saviour, and teaching every man with all wisdom, the true doctrines of religion, that at the day of judgment, they may present every man perfect, both in respect of holiness and pardon, ver. 28.–And to accomplish that glorious end, Paul himself laboured with the utmost vigour in preaching Jesus Christ the hope of glory to believers of all nations, and în defending that doctrine with success, in proportion to the supernatural gifts bestowed upon him as an apostle, ver. 29.
COMMENTARY. CHAP. I. 1 Paul an CHAP. I. I Paul, made an aposapostle of Jesus Christ 1 ile of Jesus Christ by the appointment by the will of God, and of God, (see Galat. chap. i. Illust.) Timothy Our brother, ? and Timothy, who, though not an
apostle, is our brother in the ministry,
2 And Timotby our brotber. Timothy's early piety, his excellent endow. ments, his approved faithfulness, and his affectionate labours in the gospel with the apostle, well known to most, if not to all the Gentile churches, rendering him highly worthy of their regard, Paul allowed him to join in writ. ing several of the letters which he addressed to these churches : Not how. ever to add any thing to his own authority, but rather to add to Timothy's