Colossians 1:10-29 and Colossians 2

Colossians 1:10‑29; Colossians 2  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 9
In increased fruitfulness, if in every good work they were bringing forth fruit, and increasing by the full knowledge of God. In endurance, as they should be strengthened with all might according to the power of God’s glory unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness. Full certainly were his desires for them. A Christian who answered to them would be a saint indeed. What attainment does he put before them? But what were the antecedents of these people? An answer to that question is furnished in verses 12-14, to which we have already referred. Formerly under the power of darkness, these saints were now set in the kingdom of the Son of God’s love, in whom they had redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The One who died for us has then a kingdom, and believers ‘are translated into it by the Father. Beneficial results o£ the Lord’s death thus introduced, truth about His Person is next dwelt on, and that at some length. First, as to what He is in relation to all intelligent creatures, and to creation likewise; next, what He is in relation to the Church. Then what dwells in Him who walked on earth as a man; and what all fullness has effected and will effect by Him (vss. 15-22)
He by whom we have redemption, the Son of God’s love, is the image of the invisible One representing Him to His creatures, and He is the firstborn of all creation, a position and dignity thus independent of priority in time. And the reason assigned for His place in the universe as man is, that by Him all things were created in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him, and for Him, and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. Such is His place in relation to creation; such, too, is His history in relation to it in the past, the present, and the future. By Him all things were created. By Him all things consist. He upholds all things by the word of His power. For Him too they were all created. So one can understand that the Creator and upholder of all things, and He who is before all things, should not enter the ranks of His creatures and become a man without having the position in creation and the title of the Firstborn. Next we learn of another Headship with which He is invested. He is the Head of the Body the Church, who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence. His place as Firstborn in the ranks of creatures tells us of His incarnation. His title as Firstborn from the dead reminds us necessarily of His cross and resurrection. As risen He is in the relationship of Head of the Body the Church, the beginning too of a new order of things, of which those redeemed by His blood form part, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence, and this pre-eminence He must have, because in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell.
The Firstborn then, in a double sense, Firstborn of all creation and Firstborn from the dead, before all, upholding all, and in all things to have the pre-eminence, such is the One into whose kingdom we are translated, and who has redeemed us by dying on the cross. He to whom this pre-eminence belongs has entered the ranks of creatures. But in what condition was creation found? In what condition were men proved to be when He became incarnate? Things in heaven and things on earth needed to be brought into order. Men needed to have the enmity of the heart removed. Both these are effected by His cross. All the fullness is pleased to reconcile all things to itself, things in heaven and things on earth, having made peace by the blood of His cross. This we wait to see effected by the exercise of sovereign power. Men, however, have been reconciled to God in the body of Christ’s flesh through death. Of this the Colossian saints were an illustration, and such will be presented holy, unblameable, and unreproveable in God’s sight, if they continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which those saints had heard, and which was preached in the whole creation under heaven, of which Paul was made a minister.
The necessity for the Lord’s incarnation and death is thus clearly brought out. Creation as well as man is concerned in it, though as yet the former has reaped no beneficial results from it. But saints in Christ Jesus are already reconciled to God, and have forgiveness of their sins, with the sure prospect of sharing in the kingdom when it shall be established in power. A ministry therefore was needed to proclaim the gospel, and to teach saints full Christian truth; for continuance in the faith, grounded and settled, is what is pressed on all. Now such a ministry God provided, and Paul was an example of it. He was a minister of the gospel, and a minister of the Church to complete the word of God, by bringing out the mystery hid from ages and generations, but now made manifest to God’s saints, to whom He would make known what is the wealth of the glory of it among the Gentiles, even. Christ in them the hope of glory, whom Paul preached, admonishing every man, and teaching every man, in all wisdom, that he might present every man perfect; i.e. full-grown in Christ. Hence he addresses the Colossian saints, and ministers of Christ to them, desiring that they in common with all believers should have their hearts encouraged, they being knit together in love, and unto all the wealth of the full assurance of understanding to the full knowledge of the mystery of God,’1 in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Nothing then can surpass in knowledge what this mystery unfolds. ‘It tells us of Christ, of God’s counsels about Him as Head over all things, the whole inheritance put under Him, and a Body provided for Him, which is the Church of the living God.
Now lest any should beguile them with enticing words, he earnestly exhorts them, that as they had received the Christ, Jesus the Lord, so they would walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith as they had been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (2:6, 7) Various devices of the enemy to corrupt the faith the apostle was acquainted with. Some of them he will specify; but before, doing that he makes very plain that he knew no theory of development which, commencing with Christ, would perfect saints by something else above and beyond Him. The Colossians were to be both rooted and built up in Him, and firmly settled in the faith as they had been taught; for all the faith was now revealed, since the word of God was completed. Now this does not mean that revelation was exhausted, but that the outline of God’s revealed mind for His people was now completed since the mystery of God was now disclosed. And further, taught about Christ, thanksgivings should characterize them. In each chapter is this insisted on. (1:12; 3:15, 16; 4:2)
The apostle now specifies certain snares to which the saints were exposed, opposed to full Christian teaching, and ruinous to souls; viz., philosophy (8), Judaizing teaching (16), and Gnostic reveries (18), the touchstone for the detection of each of them being teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. That applied, the evil would be discerned. Philosophy was according to the traditions of men, according to the elements or rudiments of the world; i.e. principles on which the world was sought to be ordered. This was not after Christ. A short but forcible statement which would readily put godly souls on their guard. Would philosophy hold out the hope of its votaries attaining to a fullness of understanding to which ordinary men were strangers? Would it allure them by the hope of soaring to heights, otherwise incapable of being reached, and which left the crowd far below them? All such delusive prospects only manifested most clearly that it was not after Christ; “for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” and Christians “are filled full in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power.” (10) Simple truth as to His person, and as to His position, would effectually guard obedient hearts from being ensnared by such delusions.
Would the airy, dreamy speculations of men, the workings of the human mind, unenlightened by or certainly not in subjection to divine revelation, hold out promises of deliverance from sin and from the world? Christians had in, and with Christ, but a Christ who had died and had risen, what met their condition, and provided a position before God and the world, and a standing too before God. All that they wanted they had already. As to their condition, they were in Christ circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the putting off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. (11) As to their position, they were buried with Him in baptism, wherein also they were raised with Him through faith of the operation of God, who raised Him from the dead. (12) As regards their standing, formerly dead in offenses and the uncircumcision of their flesh, they were quickened together with Christ, and all their offenses forgiven. Further, by His cross the full need of the Jew was met as much as that of the Gentile. Principalities and powers too, stripped of their prey, were led in triumph, proofs of His complete and abiding victory. What could philosophy, even if allied with Judaism, offer in comparison with all this? It might promise a great deal, but only on condition of its adherents sedulously pursuing the study of it. Christianity left it far in the background. The student of philosophy might hope to acquire much by effort and protracted labor. The Christian, as in Christ, and as associated with Him, had all that has passed before us. What fullness could philosophy open up compared with the truth about Him in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily? On what heights could it plant its votaries, as compared with Christians being in Christ, who is the head of all principality and power? To state this should be enough for a subject mind Would Judaism prove a snare, bringing into bondage to its observances those who were never put by God under law? A religion of ordinances is often attractive. Now it was true that the injunctions about new moons and sabbaths, and regulations about meats and drinks, were from God, and were really shadows of things to come. The body however, of which they were true shadows is of Christ. Correct then as they were as shadows, delineating truth about Him who has come, they could not even foreshadow all that He is. Judaism could never present to those who were nurtured in it the full truth about Christ. “The body is of Christ.” How souls would lose if they turned to that! There is in Christ what is positive, substantial, and ‘full; and since Judaism could present but the shadow of things to come, why turn to the shadow after the substance has appeared?
C. E. S.
1. MSS. vary in the text they here present, and the judgment of critics likewise. The right reading is probably either “the mystery of God,” as Gb. Sch. Alf. adopt, or “the mystery of God, even Christ,” as La. Tis. Tre. adopt on the authority of the Codex Vaticanus. The doctrine is the same whichever of these two readings is preferred