Bible Book: Colossians 1

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, who are at Colossae: Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Like in his epistle to the Ephesians Paul emphasized in the salutation that he was an apostle by the will of God. In the beginning the believers in Colosse will not have doubted that his apostleship, having heard the gospel by him. But 2 Timothy 1:15 makes clear, that the believers in Asia had turned away from him, that is especially from his teaching, and he wrote that not more than three years after he wrote this epistle to the Colossians. The results of the work by which the authority of Paul was undermined, probably will have been visible in the time in which he wrote this epistle. 
After the salutation he wished the believers grace and peace from God, our Father. 

3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
Praying always for you. That remark may make us thoughtful. For whom do we pray? For them we did not forget of course. And who are they we do not forget? Those we love or esteem highly.
If we forget to pray for several, perhaps after some time, it can be an indication that our love for them is lukewarm. Out of sight is often out of heart. With God it happily is different. Moreover He does not lose sight of us. 

4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which ye have for all the saints,
5 for the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven, of which ye heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel.

Those two, faith in Christ Jesus and love to the saints, belong to each other. Whosoever believes in Him, knows God and has been born of God. John wrote about it:
1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and every one that loveth Him that begot, loveth Him also that is begotten by Him.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. (1 John 5:1 and 2).

And in chapter 4:20-21 he wrote:
20 If a man say, "I love God," and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loveth God love his brother also.

That so very important faith and love have to be fed by the vision of the future that has been given us, a future with perspective and hope. Without that we would soon fail to persevere in faith and love. 
But, praise be to God, though on earth persecution and sorrow can be our lot, we are confident, for we have a hope that does not only exist in our thoughts, but is reserved in heaven for us. It is the glory of which Colossians 1:27 speaks and is expressed in the words of Peter: 
an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:4).

6 the Gospel, which has come unto you, as it has 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.
The word of the truth that is mentioned in verse 5 is the gospel, that had not only come to them, but had been spread in all the then known world, brought forth fruit and extended. So it had been in Colosse, according to the parable of the seed in the field. The gospel of the grace of God must be heard and believed or accepted, in order to bring forth fruit.
The Lord mentioned three causes by which the gospel that has been heard, will not bring forth fruit.
1 The suggestions of the devil who, being the father of lies, will always try to weaken the truth of God 
2 An undecided choice, so that a set back will soon be too much.
3 The temptation of various desires and lusts.
It will be good to put those causes opposite the reasonings which say the cause is “election to perdition”, a thing nowhere mentioned in the Word of God.

To know the grace of God in truth. Why the addition “in truth”? 
The background probably is that the preaching of the grace of God by the addition of the preaching of the law was presented as insufficient. Therefore it could be useful to press, that the grace of God, which had been preached to them, is exactly what a sinner needs and is conform the commission of God.

7 Ye also learned of it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ,
8 who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.

Epaphras, who had preached to them the word of the grace of God, is called a faithful minister of Christ, in order the Colossians would not doubt the dependability of his message. He also had given a reliable report about them to the apostle.

9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
The good report of Epaphras had been a cause for the apostle to pray continually for these believers. To know and receive salvation is one, but what has to follow after that is to become filled with the knowledge of Gods will. The sinful will of our flesh should no longer play a role in our life.
But the apostle added; “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding”.
Now the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, (Proverbs 1:7) and without that, the wisdom to know Gods will certainly will be missing. But God has also been willing to make us know his will in relation to Christ in the fullness of time, in which we have a part, the mystery that is meant in Ephesus 1:8 and mentioned there with these words:
8 wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.
9 He hath made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself,
10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him. 
11 In Christ also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will,
12 that we, who first trusted in Christ, should be to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 1:8-12).
To that high destination, given by grace, keeping the law cannot add anything; it ought however to set the tone for our daily walk. 

10 that ye might walk worthy of the Lord, in all pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Our walk should be characterized by those things:
pleasing for God,
fruitful and 
growing in the knowledge of God.

11 strengthened with all might according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
12 giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.

The eleventh verse points to the necessity to be strengthened by God, in order to show patience and longsuffering. They are not our natural characteristics and we may pray the Lord that He may give us that power, for in trial we certainly will need patience and longsuffering. As long a we have not known more severe trial, we often do not realize how much we need both. It has been a subject in the prayers of Paul, that the believers in Colosse might know patience and longsuffering. Let us not forget to pray the same prayer for ourselves, and not think that we do not need it. 
Verse 12 says that we thank the Father. It is however more an admonition to do that and will not be without reason. For giving thanks we have abundant reason, for God not only saved us, but has also made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. 
The forgiveness of our sins is an eternal reason for gratitude. But that God moreover has given us such a precious heavenly blessing and a so precious destination, who could have expected it or imagined it to be possible? For all who had been taught that keeping the Jewish laws would add to their spiritual status or make them more acceptable for God, it was necessary to point to that heavenly inheritance, which is so very much greater than all that God had promised to Israel. The law claims obedience as from servants; the grace of God accepted sinners as sons, who, contrary to servants, are heirs.
In his epistle tot the Romans Paul has written in that sense: 
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God;
17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if so it be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. 
(Romans 8:16 and 17).
The ground of these glorious truths is our being one with Christ, the great mystery of his love.

13 He hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son,
14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.

We have been purged by the blood of Christ, Thanks be to God. 
But we have also been delivered from the power of darkness and been translated into another sphere, the kingdom of the Son of Gods love. That is a remarkable way of speaking. A kingdom makes us think of power and authority, but Scripture is speaking in a different way here: The Son of Gods love. To the notion “Kingdom”, that asks obedience, and respect it adds the warmth of Gods love.
What a privilege to belong to that kingdom.
We know that the love of God is for us as well, for we have the redemption in that Son and the forgiveness of sins. So we live in that kingdom with a heart full of gratitude and warm ourselves in the love that is the ruling principle in it. 

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.
In the preceding verse and some following the greatness of Christ is emphasized, and is shown that He, who is so great, is Head of the church, and that He will present the believers to himself not having any spot or wrinkle. That means that higher, better, greater or more for a Christian is an impossibility. What the gospel promised us and what we have in Christ cannot be improved or exceeded by the law nor by any theory, doctrine or ritual. 
Hebrews 7:4 says “Now consider how great this man was”. We could adopt that for this verse 15. The almighty, eternal, invisible God, how great is He, whose throne is higher than the heavens, whose appearance is like the appearance of fire with brightness round about. The Seraphs cover their faces in the presence of his glory. He makes Himself known in Him who came in flesh, the firstborn in the whole creation. People have known Him upon earth in simplicity and humiliation but He was nevertheless the expression of the substance of the most high God, seen by three disciples on the mount where He spoke with Moses and Eliah.

16 For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.
17 And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.

Let us not think too low of Him, even when we know and recognize Him as the Son of God. By Him all things were made. We are inclined then to think of the visible things with the stars in heaven we see in the night. That is correct, but too short. What do we know about things in heaven, except that God has angels? What do we know of invisible things? What do we know of principalities, powers and mights in the invisible world, created by Him and for Him? All things, visible and not visible, the thinkable and the things not thinkable which are above our understanding, have been created by Him. 

  Er is een erfdeel boven,
waar onze Vader woont.
Wij danken en wij loven
voor de gunst die Hij betoont.
Maar zijn liefde is het allergrootste goed
dat ons elke dag de Vader danken doet.

Hij wilde ons bekwamen
om erfgenaam te zijn
met alle heil’ gen samen
die straks in de hemel zijn.

Hij trok ons uit het duister
en bracht ons in de sfeer
van goddelijke luister
in het rijk van onze Heer.

De Zoon die God zo liefheeft,
die in zijn koninkrijk
van liefde ons een plaats geeft,
die van koningen gelijk.

We hebben ondervonden
verlossing door zijn bloed,
vergeving van de zonden,
daar Hij voor ons heeft geboet.
Ja, zijn liefde is het allerhoogste goed
dat ons elke dag die Redder danken doet.

There is an inheritance in heaven,
where our Father lives.
We thank and praise Him
for the favours He has shown us.

Refr. But his love is the greatest thing
making us daily thank the Father.

He wanted to make us meet
to be partakers of the inheritance
with all saints together who by and by
will be in heaven.

He delivered us out of the darkness
and has brought into the sphere
of godly glory
in the kingdom of our Lord.

The Son God so loves
who gives us a place 
in his kingdom of love,
a place like kings.

We experienced 
redemption by his blood,
forgiveness of sins,
thanks to his paying for us.
     Yes, his love is the very best thing,
     which makes us thank the Saviour every day.

(Sorry, the poem is Dutch.)

  More than we see upon earth,
more than the microscope lets us see,
more than a telescope can show us,
more than all creatures living in the sea,
more than angels, great in power,
more than the universe, so wide and so far,
more than the highest heavens,
more than the mightiest of heavenly powers,
a thousand times more is the Son who created it all.

Meer dan hetgeen wij op aarde aanschouwen,
meer dan een microscoop ons vertoont,
meer dan een telescoop ons kan ontvouwen,
meer dan al wat de zeeën bewoont,
meer dan de engelen, groter in krachten,
meer dan ’t heelal, zo wijd en zo diep,
meer dan de hoogste der hemelse machten
duizendmaal meer is de Zoon die het schiep.
(In Dutch it is in rhyme.)

18 And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence.
He, so great, is Head of the church, which means that the church has been brought to an inconceivably high and blessed position, that cannot be improved or raised by anything.
Christi not only has the pre-eminence among all heavenly powers and among all men, but also among all who finally will raise from the death, so that He will be above all in every respect and among all that exists or will be. Anyone realizing that will no longer look for higher of better things, nor believe any proposal, pretending to bring us farther or higher or make us more blessed. On the contrary we will seek to know Him better, convinced that He will always be greater and more than ever we will understand.

19 For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell, 
In Him, the Man Christ Jesus, God lives. But that is getting more emphasis here because here is not spoken of God, but of “all fullness”. That is what we find in Colossians 2:9:
“For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”.
How great is He. But also how great, that He bothered about (thought of, looked out) us, sinners. The more we see his greatness, the more we appreciate his work of redemption.

20 and having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself—by Him, I say, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven.

  Vrede door het bloed, de wonden,
door het sterven van de Heer.
Vrede, want Hij droeg de zonden,
vrede, want God toornt niet meer.

Vrede, eeuwige voldoening
door het Lam dat is geslacht.
Vrede, eeuwige verzoening,
Vrede, want “het is volbracht”.

Peace by (or through) the blood and the wounds,
by the death of the Lord.
Peace, for He bore our sins,
peace, for God no longer is wrathful.

Peace, eternal satisfaction
by the Lamb that has been slain.
Peace, eternal reconciliation, 
peace, for “it is finished”. 

By the blood of Christ all will be cleansed and reconciled to God.
Man, not being a apathetic creature, who has consciously chosen for satan, is reconciled to God if he accepts the hand of God in mercy outstretched to him in Jesus Christ. God gives and is willing to give. We have to accept the gift of God. The offer is made in the preaching of the gospel. We do accept Gods offer by believing the message and believing in Him who is presented in the gospel, Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Saviour. Then it is proper and a matter of course to thank God and the Son for that gift, and never stop thanking. 

21 And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, even now hath He reconciled
22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in His sight,

We were far off from God and proved our hostility by our wicked works. But God makes that hostility melt away if the message of salvation and forgiveness convinces us of his warm love, and we learn to see that He Himself in his Son has paid for all evil we have done. But the Son has also united us with Himself in death and resurrection, a truth for all who believe. And if united with Him for eternity, would we not be purified and sanctified? O, surely, He will present us to himself, not having spot or wrinkle, and rejoice in his redeemed ones without end.

23 if ye continue grounded and settled in the faith, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, which ye have heard and which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am made a minister.
There was that danger. Satan tried, and still does so, to make Christians waver, using all means whatever. He sometimes puts on a scientific coat, trying to undermine the faith with so called scientific arguments; another time he will tempt us with titillating things in order to make us sin. But he uses pious reasonings as well: It is not that easy, it has to be given to you, do not think that God has forgotten his law and you have to observe it etc. 
In the gospel however God does not propose us an impossible thing, to the contrary. He offers a wonderful outlook to us who had no outlook at all, safe judgment. The gospel shows us what precious future God has prepared for all who believe and it tells us that the Lord promised to prepare a mansion for us in the house of the Father in heaven. We may keep that and look out for his coming, meanwhile singing: The best part is that we’ll see Jesus. 

24 Thans verblijd ik mij over hetgeen ik om uwentwil lijd, en vul ik in mijn vlees aan wat ontbreekt aan de verdrukkingen van Christus, ten behoeve van zijn lichaam, dat is de gemeente.
It mattered a great deal to the apostle that the believers would be steadfast in keeping the truth, and indefatigably, notwithstanding opposition and oppression, he remained true to his calling and encouraged the believers. The fact that it caused him to suffer he saw as an extension piece of what the Lord suffered for his church that was still necessary to establish the believers in the truth and to arm them against deception. In that way Paul followed the Lord who loved the church, and loved us, till death. 

25 of which I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God, which is given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God—
26 even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints.

Because of the love of the Lord for the church and realizing that he himself had experienced so much of that love, he desired to be a servant for the church according to the will of the Lord. The Lord himself had taken upon Him the form of a servant indeed (Philippians 2:7).
The Lord had entrusted him with a very great and important thing: to fulfill the Word of God by adding the last mystery of God, the mystery of the heathen being partakers in the great truths of Christ and the church, and Gods purpose for the fullness of times, to gather together in one all things in Christ, which are in heaven and which are on earth, He being Head over all things (Ephesians 1:10).

About that mystery the apostle had written shortly in the epistle to the Romans:
25 Now to Him who has the power to establish you according to my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began
26 but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
27 to God alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. 

(Romans 16:25-27).

In 1 Corinthians 2:7 he only referred to it with a few words:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world for our glory— 

In his epistle tot the Ephesians he wrote more extensively about it: 
9 He hath made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself,
10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him. 
(Ephesians 1:9 and 10), and:

2 if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me towards you,
3 how by revelation He made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote before a few words on this,
4 whereby when ye read this, ye may understand my knowledge of the mystery of Christ),
5 which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel. (Ephesians 3:2-6).

In this epistle to the Colossians the Apostle wrote likewise more extensively about it, but looked to from another point of view than in the Epistle to the Ephesians. In that epistle he wrote about the believers as being “in Christ”, whereas in this epistle he pointed out that Christ is living in us.
It will be well to go some deeper into it:

In the early histories of the Old Testament two very exceptional persons are presented to us, both having the character of a redeemer: Joseph and Moses. In his speech to the Jewish counsel Stephan mentioned them to prove, that the ancestors of the people always had rejected the saviours God had sent them in their days. The Jews in the days of Stephan did what their ancestors had done, rejecting the great Saviour, the Christ of God. 
Joseph had been the beloved son of his father Jakob, who was sent to his brothers who were far from home. They however hated him and sold him as a slave. As such he was brought to Egypt, where he innocently was thrown into jail.
The great ruler however liberated him and made him king over the whole of Egypt. Being in that position, Pharaoh, gave him his wife Asenath who consequently was united with him in his royal state. 

Moses has been the man who had been educated an Egyptian prince, but chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God. He was however rejected by them and fled to Madian, where he, the prince, lived as a shepherd. In that time he married his wife Zipporah, who consequently has been united to him in his humiliation.
Between the life of Joseph and that of Moses there are many similarities. Both wanted to be a blessing for their brothers, but have been rejected.
The great difference however is, that the wife of Joseph has been united with him in his exaltation, whereas the wife of Moses has been united to him in his humiliation.

Joseph and Moses are prophetic images of the great Saviour, Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of the Father who has been sent to his brethren – Israel - , was rejected, but has been exalted by God. He was a nobleman of high birth, who visited his brethren, but was rejected on earth and still is the rejected One.
The bride of Joseph is an image of the church, the bride of the Lamb, and so is the bride of Moses as well. The difference is, that the bride of Joseph typifies the church as united to the glorified Lord, whereas the bride of Moses typifies the church as united with the still rejected Lord.

Those images present to us the reality. Believers are “in Christ”, and because He is in heaven, they are seated there with Him. That is what the bride of Joseph presents.
On the other hand we are still on earth. But we are united with the Lord who still is despised here; He is in us and is our hope of glory.
Both positions are true in the same time for every Christian: united with the exalted Lord and united with the rejected Lord. Now we could say that the first thing, union with the exalted Lord, is the picture in the epistle to the Ephesians, whereas the second position, union with the rejected Lord, so that He is living in us, is the picture in this epistle to the Colossians.

27 To them God would make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
The apostle is calling Christ here the “hope of glory” because in due course Christ will be revealed in glory and we with Him. It signifies that we are living towards that glory.
Jews know the promises that God in time will fulfil for them. That will be glory for Israel. But we, Christians, need not be envious or be inclined to keep the law in order to obtain the same blessings, for now or in future there is nothing greater in heaven or on earth than Christ and his glory, and that glorious One is living in us, so that his glorious future is our future or hope. Jewish zealots for the law created the impression, that gentile believers would receive a lesser part. Therefore here has expressly been written about the glory of this mystery “among the gentiles”.

28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,
29 for which I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.

In verse 28 is expressly stated that the teaching of the apostle was for “all men” and that he worked for all. He so excluded the possibility to think, that in the church there would be a difference between Jews and gentiles. 
Believers are perfect in Christ, as a born prince is a prince. But the teaching of the apostle had in view the perfection of the saints in their life upon earth, just like it is becoming that a prince looks like a prince and behaves himself as one, showing that he realizes his responsibilities. In that teaching the insight in Gods purpose with Christ in the time of the end, that is with the church also, surely has no small place. It belongs to the perfection of Christians, to their growth toward spiritual maturity, to have insight – wisdom – in the mystery that Paul had in view in verse 27.

J. Ph. Buddingh