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:
24. Nunc gaudeo in passionibus pro vobis, et adimpleo ea quae desunt afflictionibus Christi in carne mea, pro corpore eius, quod est Ecclesia:
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;
25. Cuius factus sum minister, secundum dispensationem Dei, quae mihi data est erga vos, ad implendum sermonem Dei:
26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
26. Mysterium reconditum a saeculis et generationibus, quod nunc revelatum est sanctis eius.
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:
27. Quibus voluit Deus patefacere, quae sint divitiae gloriae mysterii huius in Gentibus, qui est Christus in vobis, spes gloriae:
28. Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
28. Quem nos praedicamus, admonentes omnem hominem, et docentes omnem hominem in omni sapientia, ut sistamus omnem hominem perfectum in Christo Iesu.
29. Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
29. In quam rem etiam laboro, decertans secundum potentiam eius, quae operatur in me potenter.
24. I now rejoice. He has previously claimed for himself authority on the ground of his calling. Now, however, he provides against the honor of his apostleship being detracted from by the bonds and persecutions, which he endured for the sake of the gospel. For Satan, also, perversely turns these things into occasions of rendering the servants of God the more contemptible. Farther, he encourages them by his example not to be intimidated by persecutions, and he sets forth to their view his zeal, that he may have greater weight. Nay more, he gives proof of his affection towards them by no common pledge, when he declares that he willingly bears for their sake the afflictions which he endures. |But whence,| some one will ask, |arises this joy?| From his seeing the fruit that springs from it. |The affliction that I endure on your account is pleasant to me, because I do not suffer it in vain.| In the same manner, in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians, he says, that he rejoiced in all necessities and afflictions, on the ground of what he had heard as to their faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:6, 7.)
And fill up what is wanting. The particle and I understand as meaning for, for he assigns a reason why he is joyful in his sufferings, because he is in this thing a partner with Christ, and nothing happier can be desired than this partnership. He also brings forward a consolation common to all the pious, that in all tribulations, especially in so far as they suffer anything for the sake of the gospel, they are partakers of the cross of Christ, that they may enjoy fellowship with him in a blessed resurrection.
Nay more, he declares that there is thus filled up what is wanting in the affliction of Christ. For as he speaks in Romans 8:29,
Whom God elected, he also hath predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, that he may be the first-born among the brethren.
Farther, we know that there is so great a unity between Christ and his members, that the name of Christ sometimes includes the whole body, as in 1 Corinthians.12:12, for while discoursing there respecting the Church, he comes at length to the conclusion, that in Christ the same thing holds as in the human body. As, therefore, Christ has suffered once in his own person, so he suffers daily in his members, and in this way there are filled up those sufferings which the Father hath appointed for his body by his decree. Here we have a second consideration, which ought to bear up our minds and comfort them in afflictions, that it is thus fixed and determined by the providence of God, that we must be conformed to Christ in the endurance of the cross, and that the fellowship that we have with him extends to this also.
He adds, also, a third reason -- that his sufferings are advantageous, and that not merely to a few, but to the whole Church. He had previously stated that he suffered in behalf of the Colossians, and he now declares still farther, that the advantage extends to the whole Church. This advantage has been spoken of in Philippians 1:12. What could be clearer, less forced, or more simple, than this exposition, that Paul is joyful in persecution, because he considers, in accordance with what he writes elsewhere, that we must
carry about with us in our body the mortification of Christ, that his life may be manifested in us? (2 Corinthians 4 10.)
He says also in Timothy,
If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him: if we die with him, we shall also live with him, (2 Timothy 2:11-12)
and thus the issue will be blessed and glorious. Farther, he considers that we must not refuse the condition which God has appointed for his Church, that the members of Christ may have a suitable correspondence with the head; and, thirdly, that afflictions must be cheerfully endured, inasmuch as they are profitable to all the pious, and promote the welfare of the whole Church, by adorning the doctrine of the gospel.
Papists, however, disregarding and setting aside all these things, have struck out a new contrivance in order that they may establish their system of indulgences. They give the name of indulgences to a remission of punishments, obtained by us through the merits of the martyrs. For, as they deny that there is a gratuitous remission of sins, and allege that they are redeemed by satisfactory deeds, when the satisfactions do not fill up the right measure, they call into their help the blood of the martyrs, that it may, along with the blood of Christ, serve as an expiation in the judgment of God. And this mixture they call the treasure of the Church , the keys of which they afterwards intrust to whom they think fit. Nor are they ashamed to wrest this passage, with the view of supporting so execrable a blasphemy, as if Paul here affirmed that his sufferings are of avail for expiating the sins of men.
They urge in their support the term husteremata, (things wanting,) as if Paul meant to say, that the sufferings which Christ has endured for the redemption of men were insufficient. There is no one, however, that does not see that Paul speaks in this manner, because it is necessary, that by the afflictions of the pious, the body of the Church should be brought to its perfection, inasmuch as the members are conformed to their head. I should also be afraid of being suspected of calumny in repeating things so monstrous, if their books did not bear witness that I impute nothing to them groundlessly. They urge, also, what Paul says, that he suffers for the Church. It is surprising that this refined interpretation had not occurred to any of the ancients, for they all interpret it as we do, to mean, that the saints suffer for the Church, inasmuch as they confirm the faith of the Church. Papists, however, gather from this that the saints are redeemers, because they shed their blood for the expiation of sins. That my readers, however, may perceive more clearly their impudence, allow that the martyrs, as well as Christ, suffered for the Church, but in different ways, as I am inclined to express in Augustine's words rather than in my own. For he writes thus in his 84th treatise on John: |Though we brethren die for brethren, yet there is no blood of any martyr that is poured out for the remission of sins. This Christ did for us. Nor has he in this conferred upon us matter of imitation, but ground of thanksgiving.| Also, in the fourth book to Bonifacius: |As the only Son of God became the Son of man, that he might make us sons of God, so he has alone, without offense, endured punishment for us, that we may through him, without merit, obtain undeserved favor.| Similar to these is the statement of Leo Bishop of Rome; |The righteous received crowns, did not give them; and for the fortitude of believers there have come forth examples of patience, not gifts of righteousness. For their deaths were for themselves, and no one by his latter end paid the debt of another.|
Now, that this is the meaning of Paul's words is abundantly manifest from the context, for he adds, that he suffers according to the dispensation that was given to him. And we know that the ministry was committed to him, not of redeeming the Church, but of edifying it; and he himself immediately afterwards expressly acknowledges this. This is also what he writes to Timothy,
that he endures all things for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 2:10.)
Also, in 2 Corinthians 1:4, that
he willingly endures all things for their consolation and salvation.
Let, therefore, pious readers learn to hate and detest those profane sophists, who thus deliberately corrupt and adulterate the Scriptures, in order that they may give some color to their delusions.
25. Of which I am made a minister. Mark under what character he suffers for the Church -- as being a minister, not to give the price of redemption, (as Augustine dexterously and piously expresses himself,) but to proclaim it. He calls himself, however, in this instance, a minister of the Church on a different ground from that on which he called himself elsewhere, (1 Corinthians 4:1,) a minister of God, and a little ago, (Colossians 1:23,) a minister of the gospel. For the Apostles serve God and Christ for the advancement of the glory of both: they serve the Church, and administer the gospel itself, with a view to promote salvation. There is, therefore, a different reason for the ministry in these expressions, but the one cannot subsist without the other. He says, however, towards you, that they may know that his office has a connection also with them.
To fulfill the word. He states the end of his ministry -- that the word of God may be effectual, as it is, when it is obediently received. For this is the excellence of the gospel, that it is the
power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. (Romans 1:16.)
God, therefore, gives efficacy and influence to his word through means of the Apostles. For although preaching itself, whatever may be its issue, is the fulfilling of the word, yet it is the fruit that shews at length that the seed has not been sown in vain.
26. Hidden mystery. Here we have a commendation of the gospel -- that it is a wonderful secret of God. It is not without good reason that Paul so frequently extols the gospel by bestowing upon it the highest commendations in his power; for he saw that it was
a stumblingblock to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks. (1 Corinthians 1:23.)
We see also at this day, in what hatred it is held by hypocrites, and how haughtily it is contemned by the world. Paul, accordingly, with the view of setting aside judgments so unfair and perverse, extols in magnificent terms the dignity of the gospel as often as an opportunity presents itself, and for that purpose he makes use of various arguments, according to the connection of the passage. Here he calls it a sublime secret, which was hid from ages and generations, that is, from the beginning of the world, through so many revolutions of ages. Now, that it is of the gospel that he speaks, is evident from Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:9, and other similar passages.
The reason, however, why it is so called, is demanded. Some, in consequence of Paul's making express mention of the calling of the Gentiles, are of opinion, that the sole reason why it is so called is, that the Lord had, in a manner, contrary to all expectation, poured out his grace upon the Gentiles, whom he had appeared to have shut out for ever from participation in eternal life. Any one, however, that will examine the whole passage more narrowly, will perceive that this is the third reason, not the only one, in so far, I mean, as relates to the passage before us, and that other in the Romans, to which I have referred. For the first is -- that whereas God had, previously to the advent of Christ, governed his Church under dark coverings, both of words and of ceremonies, he has suddenly shone forth in full brightness by means of the doctrine of the gospel. The second is -- that whereas nothing was previously seen but external figures, Christ has been exhibited, bringing with him the full truth, which had lain concealed. The third is, what I have mentioned -- that the whole world, which had up to this time been estranged from God, is called to the hope of salvation, and the same inheritance of eternal life is offered to all. An attentive consideration of these things constrains us to reverence and adore this mystery which Paul proclaims, however it may be held in contempt by the world, or even in derision.
Which is now revealed. Lest any one should turn aside to another meaning the term mystery, as though he were speaking of a thing that was still secret and unknown, he adds, that it has now at length been published, that it might be known by mankind. What, therefore, was in its own nature secret, has been made manifest by the will of God. Hence, there is no reason why its obscurity should alarm us, after the revelation that God has made of it. He adds, however, to the saints, for God's arm has not been revealed to all, (Isaiah 53:1,) that they might understand his counsel.
27. To whom God was pleased to make known. Here he puts a bridle upon the presumption of men, that they may not allow themselves to be wise, or to inquire beyond what they ought, but may learn to rest satisfied with this one thing that it has so pleased God. For the good pleasure of God ought to be perfectly sufficient for us as a reason. This, however, is said principally for the purpose of commending the grace of God; for Paul intimates, that mankind did by no means furnish occasion for God's making them participants of this secret, when he teaches that he was led to this of his own accord, and because he was pleased to do so. For it is customary for Paul to place the good pleasure of God in opposition to all human merits and external causes.
What are the riches. We must always take notice, in what magnificent terms he speaks in extolling the dignity of the gospel. For he was well aware that the ingratitude of men is so great, that notwithstanding that this treasure is inestimable, and the grace of God in it is so distinguished, they, nevertheless, carelessly despise it, or at least think lightly of it. Hence, not resting satisfied with the term mystery, he adds glory, and that, too, not trivial or common. For riches, according to Paul, denote, as is well known, amplitude. He states particularly, that those riches have been manifested among the Gentiles; for what is more wonderful than that the Gentiles, who had during so many ages been sunk in death, so as to appear to be utterly ruined, are all on a sudden reckoned among the sons of God, and receive the inheritance of salvation?
Which is Christ in you. What he had said as to the Gentiles generally he applies to the Colossians themselves, that they may more effectually recognize in themselves the grace of God, and may embrace it with greater reverence. He says, therefore, which is Christ, meaning by this, that all that secret is contained in Christ, and that all the riches of heavenly wisdom are obtained by them when they have Christ, as we shall find him stating more openly a little afterwards. He adds, in you, because they now possess Christ, from whom they were lately so much estranged, that nothing could exceed it. Lastly, he calls Christ the hope of glory, that they may know that nothing is wanting to them for complete blessedness when they have obtained Christ. This, however, is a wonderful work of God, that in earthen and frail vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7) the hope of heavenly glory resides.
28. Whom we preach. Here he applies to his own preaching everything that he has previously declared as to the wonderful and adorable secret of God; and thus he explains what he had already touched upon as to the dispensation which had been committed to him; for he has it in view to adorn his apostleship, and to claim authority for his doctrine: for after having extolled the gospel in the highest terms, he now adds, that it is that divine secret which he preaches. It was not, however, without good reason that he had taken notice a little before, that Christ is the sum of that secret, that they might know that nothing can be taught that has more of perfection than Christ.
The expressions that follow have also great weight. He represents himself as the teacher of all men; meaning by this, that no one is so eminent in respect of wisdom as to be entitled to exempt himself from tuition. |God has placed me in a lofty position, as a public herald of his secret, that the whole world, without exception, may learn from me.|
In all wisdom. This expression is equivalent to his affirming that his doctrine is such as to conduct a man to a wisdom that is perfect, and has nothing wanting; and this is what he immediately adds, that all that shew themselves to be true disciples will become perfect. See the second chapter of First Corinthians. (1 Corinthians 2:6.) Now, what better thing can be desired than what confers upon us the highest perfection? He again repeats, in Christ, that they may not desire to know anything but Christ alone. From this passage, also, we may gather a definition of true wisdom -- that by which we are presented perfect in the sight of God, and that in Christ, and nowhere else.
29. For which thing. He enhances, by two circumstances, the glory of his apostleship and of his doctrine. In the first place, he makes mention of his aim, which is a token of the difficulty that he felt; for those things are for the most part the most excellent that are the most difficult. The second has more strength, inasmuch as he mentions that the power of God shines forth in his ministry. He does not speak, however, merely of the success of his preaching, (though in that too the blessing of God appears,) but also of the efficacy of the Spirit, in which God manifestly shewed himself; for on good grounds he ascribes his endeavors, inasmuch as they exceeded human limits, to the power of God, which, he declares, is seen working powerfully in this matter.