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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 1

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

General remarks. The date and by whom the church at Colosse was planted is uncertain. I have consulted a goodly number of reference works, and nothing more definite than "perhaps" or "maybe" was found in any of them. We know it was not by Paul, for chapter 2:1 indicates he had not even seen those brethren when he wrote this epistle. A little information about conditions in Colosse as it pertains to religion and social life, will help to understand the various passages in the epistle. The Colossians were mostly Gentiles, but some Juda-istic teachers had come among them. In addition to this, some theories of philosophy had been injected among them. Smith's Bible Dictionary refers to such a condition in the following words: "The main object of the epistle is to warn the Colossians against a spirit of semi-Judaistic and semi-Oriental philosophy which was corrupting the simplicity of their belief." Summing up, a mixture of Judaism, philosophy, idolatry, and a form of extreme bodily self-denial, had to be encountered when Paul wrote this epistle. Col 1:1. An apostle means one who is sent by another on a mission. Paul was sent into the world by Jesus Christ on the mission of preaching the Gospel, hence he was His apostle. The entire arrangement was according to the authority of God, which caused it to be by His will. Timotheus is another form of Timothy; he was with Paul and joined in the salutation to the Colossian church.

Verse 2

Col 1:2. Saints and faithful are not different people. The second term is just one description of the first. A saint is a person who has accepted the G spel through obedience to its com mands, and who has promised to continue in the service consistently. The term faithful is added to show that these brethren were actually making good their promised loyalty to Christ. Grace is the unmerited favor of God, and peace is that state of mind that is made possible by accepting the salvation coming from God, and bestowed upon man through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 3

Col 1:3. It is important to note that God is called the Father of Christ. This refutes the doctrine of Rome, and most of the denominational world, that God and Christ are one and the same person. It is foolish to imply that a father can be his own son, or vice verse. In the beginning of the verse Paul says we give thanks', and in the close lie says he is praying for the brethren. This is because there are various forms of addresses to God; thanks being offered for past favors, and prayer being requests for future ones.

Verse 4

Col 1:4. We heard of your faith. According to chapter 2:1, Paul had not seen these brethren (see "general remarks"), but had received a report of them through others. It is significant that their faith in Christ Jesus is coupled with their love for all the saints. This agrees with 1Jn 3:14 1Jn 4:7-8; it is morally impossible to love God and not love His children.

Verse 5

Col 1:5. For is from DIA which means "on account of." It is connected with the preceding verse which asserts the love the Colossians had to all the saints. The idea is that the hope for heaven they had, was an inducement for them to act the part of true brethren in Christ by showing genuine love for them. Heard before refers to the fact that they had heard these great truths in the beginning of their contact with the Gospel, by the ones who brought the good news to them.

Verse 6

Col 1:6. World is from a Greek word that means the people of the earth. It is sometimes limited to the people of the Roman Empire by various commentators, yet that is rather insignificant, since virtually all the civilized world was under the rule of that Empire at the time the New Testament was written. Besides, verse 23 of this chapter says the same Gospel was perached "to every creature which is under heaven." It all gives the conclusion that the commission that Christ gave the apostles in Mat 28:19-20 and Mar 16:15-16, had been fulfilled in the time of Paul's writings: the same fact is taught in Rom 10:18. Bringeth forth fruit refers to the effect that was produced by the hope given to those who believed the Gospel. Grace of God in truth means the favor of God is for those only who accept the truth.

Verse 7

Col 1:7. Epaphras had been associated with the church at Colosse, but when this epistle was written, he was in Rome and a prisoner on behalf of the Gospel. This is indicated in Phm 1:23, where Paul calls him his "fellowprisoner." A faithful minis ter. The last word is from DIAKONOS, and in the King James Version it is rendered deacon 3 times, minister 20, servant 7. Thayer defines it, "one who executes the commands of another, especially of a master; a servant, attendant, minister; deacon; a waiter, one who serves food and drink." It is never used to designate a preacher as a separate class, for the preachers of the New Testament church are never called "ministers" in that sense. Epaphras is called a minister, because he faithfully served the interests of the church at Colosse, which included his preaching of the Gospel.

Verse 8

Col 1:8. Epaphras had been associated with the church at Colosse, and could give a first hand report of its conduct to Paul and the other brethren in Rome. Love in the Spirit denotes their love was spiritual because it was prompted and directed by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 9

Col 1:9. For this cause refers to the good things that Paul (and his companions) had heard about the Colos-sian brethren. Ever since he heard about it, the apostle had continuously prayed for them. Such good disciples are worthy of further encouragement and assistance, hence he desired that they might be filled with knowledge of the Lord's will. For all practical purposes, wisdom and understanding may be used with the same sense, but when a distinction is made by using them in one sentence, the first refers to the mind or intellect, and the second to the proper use of it in applying the truths at hand. Paul specifies that he is speaking of truths that have been revealed by the Spirit.

Verse 10

Col 1:10. To walk worthy of the Lord means to walk in a way befitting a servant of His. Unto all pleasing: walk in a way pleasing to the Lord. Being fruitful or producing every good work, which consists in doing the good things required by the Gospel. Increasing indicates that a Christian should not be satisfied with his present degree of good works. However, his growth must be in accordance with the knowledge of God; this knowledge is to be obtained through Christ (chapter 2:2, 3).

Verse 11

Col 1:11. When used as distinguishing terms, might means strength or ability, and power means dominion or authority to use that ability. All authority in heaven and earth was given to Christ (Mat 28:18), and He gives his disciples the right to operate under that power; this is what will strengthen them in the service. The special meaning of patience in this passage is endurance or perseverance, and longsuffering refers to the un-resentful attitude of one's mind while under difficulties.

Verse 12

Col 1:12. Thayer defines the original for meet, "to make sufficient, render fit." No human being can ever be worthy of the salvation provided by the Lord, if measured by the strict rule of justice. But He has made it possible for the faithful disciples to be "sufficient" or entitled to it through the merits of Christ. The passage in Rom 3:24-26 should be considered in connection with our verse. It should be understood that no man will ever enter into eternal reward unless he has a right to it (Rev 22:14), but he may obtain that right through Jesus. Saints in light means those who have fashioned their lives after the light of divine truth as revealed in the Gospel.

Verse 13

Col 1:13. Power means authority or rule, and darkness is explained by Thayer as "ignorance respecting divine things and human duties." It applies to all who have renounced their interest in things of the world and taken the proper steps to get out of such a situation. Our verse, continuing the thought in the preceding one, tells us that it is the Father who can deliver men from such a state of darkness. Translate signifies to move something from one place or condition into another, and Paul tells us that the disciples had been translated (moved) into the kingdom of his dear Son. It is impossible to move a person into anything that does not exist. Therefore, the kingdom of Christ was in existence when Paul lived, thus disproving the heresy that the kingdom is still in the future.

Verse 14

Col 1:14. The pronoun whom refers to the Son, whose blood redeems men from the bondage of "darkness" as stated in the preceding verse. No man is free from the bondage of sin until something is done that can satisfy God, against whom all sin is regarded as being committed. That satisfaction can be accomplished only through the merits of the blood of Christ. When a sinner "obeys from the heart" (Rom 6:17) the doctrine or commandments of the Gospel, he is "then made free from sin," which is what our present verse declares.

Verse 15

Col 1:15. No man can see the face of God and live (Exo 33:18-23), yet he needed to be shown how to conduct himself. The situation was met by having Christ come into the world in the nature of man, hut in the form or image of God. That is why Paul calls Christ the image of the invisible God. Firstborn of every creature means that Christ existed before all other persons or things in all creation. That enabled Him to take part with the Father in the creaiton of the universe, and it accounts for the plural form of the pronoun (us) in Gen 1:26 Gen 3:22 Gen 11:7. (See also Joh 1:3; Eph 3:9; Heb 1:2).

Verse 16

Col 1:16. The existence of Christ before all other things in the universe (God, of course, being excepted) is still the subject under consideration. Paul is dealing thus particularly with this matter because of the pretensions of philosophy that were being injected into the Colossian community. (See the comments in "general remarks.") This verse is more specific, mentioning things both material and spiritual, and both visible (to man) and invisible.

Verse 17

Col 1:17. Before is used in the sense of time or order of existence, and it denotes that Christ existed before anything else in the universe of creation. Consist is the same as "exist," and it means that all things were created through Him, but also they continue to be through Him. This is the same thought that is expressed in Heb 1:3 which says of Christ, "and upholding all things by the word of his power."

Verse 18

Col 1:18. The church is declared to be the body, which is taught also in Eph 1:22-23. In Eph 4:4 Paul declares there is one body, so that is equivalent to saying there is one church; our present verse says Christ is the head of that one church. All of this is not only scriptural, but is logical or reasonable. A body with more than one head in nature would be a monstrosity, likewise a head with more than one body would be one. Hence it is easy to understand that since there is but one Christ (which is admitted by all professed Christians), there can be but one church recognized by the Lord. Who is the beginning. This is true of Christ in many respects, but here it means he is the beginning of the new creation or age of the one body. Firstborn front the dead does not mean Jesus was the first person to die and rise again, for there are numerous cases in the Bible where it occurred before the time of Christ. It means He was the first person to come to life never to die again. (See Rom 6:9.) The chief purpose of making Christ to be the first person to come from the dead never to die again, was that He might have the preeminence. That means to be above all other persons who would go through death and rise to die no more, in that He was the first to have that honor.

Verse 19

Col 1:19. The word fulness means that nothing is lacking in Christ that is necessary for the spiritual welfare of mankind. The Father is not in the Greek text directly, but is of necessity implied. This "preeminence" of Christ was accomplished through His resurrection, and that event was made possible by the Father. (see Act 2:24 Act 10:40; 1Co 15:15.)

Verse 20

Col 1:20. Made peace pertains to the satisfaction which Christ gave his Father by shedding His blood on the cross. In other words, such a supreme sacrifice was enough to answer the demands of God, and that opened up the way so that the Son could bring about reconciliation between God and the forces arrayed against Him. Or things in heaven would necessarily be the good angels, since an angel who sins is cast out (2Pe 2:4). Good angels, however, have never offended God, and hence they do not need reconciliation in the strict sense of the word. But they are called upon to recognize Christ as King and spiritual Ruler through the centuries of the final dispensation. In this way they are a part of the body of Christ, and thus participate in the grand plan of reconciliation through Christ. (See Mat 28:18; Heb 1:6; Php 2:9; Rev 5:13.)

Verse 21

Col 1:21. Alienated is from APALLO-TRIOO, which Thayer defines, "to be shut out from one's fellowship and intimacy." Paul tells the Colossians they were once in that condition with God, but that it was caused by their own wicked works. Such a state of mind and conduct rendered them the enemies of God.

Verse 22

Col 1:22. The condition of enmity mentioned in the preceding versa was overcome (reconciled) by the fleshy body of Christ. This work of reconciliation was accomplished through death, thereby making the "supreme sacrifice" that took the place of all those offered under the Jewish law (Heb 10:1-9). This great plan made it possible for Christ to present his followers unblameable and unre-bukeable in His (God's) sight. Not that men can become "as sinless as angels," but the blame will be removed by the blood of Christ, so that when they are presented to the Father, there will be nothing for which He will reprove them.

Verse 23

Col 1:23. The blessings promised in the preceding verses are based upon an important if, which Is that they must continue in the faith. This requires that they be grounded and settled, which means to be fired in their determination to serve Christ, and hence are steadfast in their service to Him. Such a life will prevent them from being moved away from the hope of the Gospel which they had heard. The Colossians were not the only ones who had heard the Gcod News, for it 'was preached to every creature which is under heaven. This fact fulfilled the commission that Christ gave his apostles in Mat 28:19-20 and Mar 16:15-16, and it is also declared to have been accom-plished in Rom 10:18. This teaching refutes those who quote the "great commission" and apply it to preachers of the Gospel in our day. No uninspired man can "preach the Gospel to every creature," for there are too many languages in the world.

Verse 24

Col 1:24. The afflictions which Christ personally suffered were complete so that God was satisfied (Isa 53:10-11), hence this verse does not mean there was anything behind on His part. But Christians are expected to have fellowship with Jesus in his sufferings (Rom 8:17; 2Ti 2:12; 1Pe 4:1), and if Paul had shrunk from suffering for the sake of Christ, then he would have been the one to be behind as to his duty. But in undergoing tribulation in service to the brethren, he would be credited with doing so on behalf of Christ, since the church is His body. This great truth caused Paul to "rejoice in my sufferings for you."

Verse 25

Col 1:25. Paul calls himself a minister because the word means a servant, whose duty it is to administer the affairs of his master. Such ministra-tion is to be done according to the directions of the master. God had commissioned Paul to dispense (dispensation) His word by preaching (or writing) it to the Colossians and to all others where opportunity appeared.

Verse 26

Col 1:26. A mystery is anything unknown, regardless of whether it is complicated or simple in its form. The mystery Paul is referring to had been kept back from ages and from generations. Not that the Old Testament writers were entirely silent on the subject, but it was couched in prophetic passages to such extent that the New Testament preachers had to explain the subject in light of the Gospel. (See the following verse.)

Verse 27

Col 1:27. The pronoun 'whom refers to the "saints" in the preceding verse. All Christians are saints, but the ones to whom the mystery was to be directly made known were the inspired preachers and writers of the New Testament. After such revelation was made known, others would also be able to understand it. That is why Paul writes in Eph 3:4, "when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ." The particular• part of the great mystery was that which pertained to the Gentiles, namely, that they were to be given the same privileges as the Jews. Of course this is to be enjoyed through Christ (not Moses), and it is in you (the Gentiles), extending to them the hope of glory. For centuries the Jews overlooked the predictions of the Old Testament, which pointed to the final acceptance of the Gentiles.

Verse 28

Col 1:28. Whom refers to Christ who is the subject of Paul's preaching. Warning is from NOUTHETEO, which Thayer defines, "to admonish, warn, exhort." It has a somewhat milder meaning than it generally has, and signifies an earnest piece of advice to accept Christ (in the place of Moses), as the lawgiver who is in authority now. Teaching every one. It would not be of much use to exhort people to follow Christ unless they know what Christ wishes them to do, hence Paul states he is teaching them. In all wisdom means the instructions that the Holy Spirit would impart unto the apostle. Perfect means complete or rounded out in knowledge of divine things. By giving full information to them concerning the Gospel for the Gentiles (which was not fully known before), they would have their knowledge advanced as perfect (complete) in Christ Jesus.

Verse 29

Col 1:29. Whereunto denotes the purpose to whch Paul was laboring, as described in the preceding verse. Striving is from AGONIZOMAI, and the lexicon of Thayer defines it, "To enter a contest; contend in the gymnastic games; to contend with adversaries, fight; to contend, struggle with difficulties and dangers; to endeavor with strenuous zeal, strive." Paul uses the athletic contests of his day to illustrate the struggles connected with his labors for Christ and his disciples. His working refers to the use that Christ was making cf the apostle in the great conflict against sin. Mightily is frcm DUNAMIS, which is one of the strongest words in the Greek New Testament for power or ability. Paul uses it to indicate the help his Trainer is giving him in the contest going on in the arena of life.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Colossians 1". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/colossians-1.html. 1952.
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