1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,
1. Paulus apostolus Iesu Christi, per voluntatem Dei, et Timotheus frater,
2. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Sanctis qui sunt Colossis, et fidelibus fratribus in Christo; gratia vobis et pax a Deo et Patre nostro, et Domino Iesu Christo.
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 omnes sanctos,
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: quemadmodum 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 fellowservant, 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.
1 Paul an Apostle. I have already, in repeated instances, explained the design of such inscriptions. As, however, the Colossians had never seen him, and on that account his authority was not as yet so firmly established among them as to make his private name by itself sufficient, he premises that he is an Apostle of Christ set apart by the will of God. From this it followed, that he did not act rashly in writing to persons that were not known by him, inasmuch as he was discharging an embassy with which God had intrusted him. For he was not bound to one Church merely, but his Apostleship extended to all. The term saints which he applies to them is more honorable, but in calling them faithful brethren, he allures them more willingly to listen to him. As for other things, they may be found explained in the foregoing Epistles.
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 excellence consists?
To the God and Father. 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 9:6;) 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 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, 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. For he calls the gospel, kaps exochen, (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 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. Auxanomenon, 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, 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, and has, as it were, an internal root, while carnal friendships depend on external causes.