1. For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
1. Volo autem vos scire, quantum certamen habeam pro vobis et iis qui sunt Laodiceae, et quicunque non viderunt faciem meam in carne;
2. That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
2. Ut consolationem accipiant corda ipsorum, ubi compacti fuerint in caritate, et in omnes divitias certitudinis intelligentiae, in agnitionem mysterii Dei, et Patris, et Christi;
3. In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
3. In quo sunt omnes thesauri sapientiae et intelligentiae absconditi.
4. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
4. Hoc autem dico, ne quis vos decipiat persuasorio sermone.
5. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
5. Nam et si corpore sum absens, spiritu tamen sum vobiscum, gaudens et videns ordinem vestrum, et stabilitatem vestrae in Christum fidei.
1. I would have you know. He declares his affection towards them, that he may have more credit and authority; for we readily believe those whom we know to be desirous of our welfare. It is also an evidence of no ordinary affection, that he was concerned about them in the midst of death, that is, when he was in danger of his life; and that he may express the more emphatically the intensity of his affection and concern, he calls it a conflict. I do not find fault with the rendering of Erasmus -- anxiety; but, at the same time, the force of the Greek word is to be noticed, for agon is made use of to denote contention. By the same proof he confirms his statement, that his ministry is directed to them; for whence springs so anxious a concern as to their welfare, but from this, that the Apostle of the Gentiles was under obligation to embrace in his affection and concern even those who were unknown to him? As, however, there is commonly no love between those who are unknown to each other, he speaks slightingly of the acquaintance that is contracted from sight, when he says, as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; for there is among the servants of God a sight different from that of the flesh, which excites love. As it is almost universally agreed that the First Epistle to Timothy was written from Laodicea, some, on this account, assign to Galatia that Laodicea of which Paul makes mention here, while the other was the metropolis of Phrygia Pacatiana. It seems to me, however, to be more probable that that inscription is incorrect, as will be noticed in its proper place.
2. That their hearts may receive consolation. He now intimates what he desires for them, and shews that his affection is truly apostolic; for he declares that nothing else is desired by him than that they may be united together in faith and love. He shews, accordingly, that it was by no unreasonable affection (as happens in the case of some) that he had been led to take upon himself so great a concern for the Colossians and others, but because the duty of his office required it.
The term consolation is taken here to denote that true quietness in which they may repose. This he declares they will at length come to enjoy in the event of their being united in love and faith. From this it appears where the chief good is, and in what things it consists -- when mutually agreed in one faith, we are also joined together in mutual love. This, I say, is the solid joy of a pious mind -- this is the blessed life. As, however, love is here commended from its effect, because it fills the mind of the pious with true joy; so, on the other hand, the cause of it is pointed out by him, when he says, in all fullness of understanding. The bond also of holy unity is the truth of God, when we embrace it with one consent; for peace and agreement with men flow forth from that fountain.
Riches of the assurance of understanding. As many, contenting themselves with a slight taste, have nothing but a confused and evanescent knowledge, he makes mention expressly of the riches of understanding. By this phrase he means full and clear perception; and at the same time admonishes them, that according to the measure of understanding they must make progress also in love.
In the term assurance, he distinguishes between faith and mere opinion; for that man truly knows the Lord who does not vacillate or waver in doubt, but stands fast in a firm and constant persuasion. This constancy and stability Paul frequently calls (plerophorian) full assurance, (which term he makes use of here also,) and always connects it with faith, as undoubtedly it can no more be separated from it than heat or light can be from the sun. The doctrine, therefore, of the schoolmen is devilish, inasmuch as it takes away assurance, and substitutes in its place moral conjecture, as they term it.
Is an acknowledgment of the mystery. This clause must be read as added by way of apposition, for he explains what that knowledge is, of which he has made mention -- that it is nothing else than the knowledge of the gospel. For the false apostles themselves endeavor to set off their impostures under the title of wisdom, but Paul retains the sons of God within the limits of the gospel exclusively, that they may desire to know nothing else. (1 Corinthians 2:2.) Why he uses the term mystery to denote the gospel, has been already explained. Let us, however, learn from this, that the gospel can be understood by faith alone -- not by reason, nor by the perspicacity of the human understanding, because otherwise it is a thing that is hid from us.
The mystery of God I understand in a passive signification, as meaning -- that in which God is revealed, for he immediately adds -- and of the Father, and of Christ -- by which expression he means that God cannot be known otherwise than in Christ, as, on the other hand, the Father must necessarily be known where Christ is known. For John affirms both:
He that hath the Son, hath the Father also: he that hath not the Son, hath also not the Father. (1 John 2:23.)
Hence all that think that they know anything of God apart from Christ, contrive to themselves an idol in the place of God; as also, on the other hand, that man is ignorant of Christ, who is not led by him to the Father, and who does not in him embrace God wholly. In the mean time, it is a memorable passage for proving Christ's divinity, and the unity of his essence with the Father. For having spoken previously as to the knowledge of God, he immediately applies it to the Son, as well as to the Father, whence it follows, that the Son is God equally with the Father.
3. In whom are all the treasures. The expression in quo (in whom, or in which) may either have a reference collectively to everything he has said as to the acknowledgment of the mystery, or it may relate simply to what came immediately before, namely, Christ. While there is not much difference between the one or the other, I rather prefer the latter view, and it is the one that is more generally received. The meaning, therefore, is, that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ -- by which he means, that we are perfect in wisdom if we truly know Christ, so that it is madness to wish to know anything besides Him. For since the Father has manifested himself wholly in Him, that man wishes to be wise apart from God, who is not contented with Christ alone. Should any one choose to interpret it as referring to the mystery, the meaning will be, that all the wisdom of the pious is included in the gospel, by means of which God is revealed to us in his Son.
He says, however, that the treasures are hidden, because they are not seen glittering with great splendor, but do rather, as it were, lie hid under the contemptible abasement and simplicity of the cross. For the preaching of the cross is always foolishness to the world, as we found stated in Corinthians. (1 Corinthians 1:18.) I do not reckon that there is any great difference between wisdom and understanding in this passage, for the employment of two different terms serves only to give additional strength, as though he had said, that no knowledge, erudition, learning, wisdom, can be found elsewhere.
4. This I say, that no man may deceive you. As the contrivances of men have (as we shall afterwards see) an appearance of wisdom, the minds of the pious ought to be preoccupied with this persuasion -- that the knowledge of Christ is of itself amply sufficient. And, unquestionably, this is the key that can close the door against all base errors. For what is the reason why mankind have involved themselves in so many wicked opinions, in so many idolatries, in so many foolish speculations, but this -- that, despising the simplicity of the gospel, they have ventured to aspire higher? All the errors, accordingly, that are in Popery, must be reckoned as proceeding from this ingratitude -- that, not resting satisfied with Christ alone, they have given themselves up to strange doctrines.
With propriety, therefore, does the Apostle act in writing to the Hebrews, inasmuch as, when wishing to exhort believers not to allow themselves to be led astray by strange or new doctrines, he first of all makes use of this foundation --
Christ yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8.)
By this he means, that those are out of danger who remain in Christ, but that those who are not satisfied with Christ are exposed to all fallacies and deceptions. So Paul here would have every one, that would not be deceived, be fortified by means of this principle -- that it is not lawful for a Christian man to know anything except Christ. Everything that will be brought forward after this, let it have ever so imposing an appearance, will, nevertheless, be of no value. In fine, there will be no persuasiveness of speech that can turn aside so much as the breadth of a finger the minds of those that have devoted their understanding to Christ. It is a passage, certainly, that ought to be singularly esteemed. For as he who has taught men to know nothing except Christ, has provided against all wicked doctrines, so there is the same reason why we should at this day destroy the whole of Popery, which, it is manifest, is built on ignorance of Christ.
5. For though I am absent in body. Lest any one should object that the admonition was unseasonable, as coming from a place so remote, he says, that his affection towards them made him be present with them in spirit, and judge of what is expedient for them, as though he were present. By praising, also, their present condition, he admonishes them not to fall back from it, or turn aside.
Rejoicing, says he, And seeing, that is -- |Because I see.| For and means for, as is customary among the Latins and Greeks. |Go on as you have begun, for I know that hitherto you have pursued the right course, inasmuch as distance of place does not prevent me from beholding you with the eyes of the mind.|
Order and steadfastness. He mentions two things, in which the perfection of the Church consists -- order among themselves, and faith in Christ. By the term order, he means -- agreement, no less than duly regulated morals, and entire discipline. He commends their faith, in respect of its constancy and steadfastness, meaning that it is an empty shadow of faith, when the mind wavers and vacillates between different opinions.