Notes on the Epistle to the Colossians - Fulness Reserved
W. Fraser Naismith, Kilmarnock
The key verse of this chapter is "Christ is all, and in all", v. 11. The chapter contains three precious truths:
1. Christ, the Object of the believer's heart and mind, vv. 1-4.
2. The practical response to having such an Object for the affections, vv. 5-11.
3. Christ as the Example for the believer to follow, vv. 12-17.
To summarize these factors we learn that Christ is all for our self-emptying, w. 5-11, and He is also all for our filling, w. 12-17.
Christ is the heavenly Man, and as risen with Him let us seek those things which are above. Luke encourages us by a similar emphasis in his Gospel, "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also", 12. 34. This enables us to reach the zenith of true happiness, and to exclaim with the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee", Psa. 73. 25. Things above are ever in contrast to things of this ephemeral scene.
Resurrection postulates death, and the believer has passed from death to life. Now that we are on the resurrection side of things, we ought to seek those things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. When our minds are engaged with heavenly things we concur with His mind and have His approval; then others lake cognizance that we have been with Jesus. We have died, and the life of temptation and sin has no appeal to the new creation, for we walk by faith and not by sight.
The statement, "your life is hid with Christ in God", v. 3, is not given as an assurance of the security of the saint - there are numerous scriptures which provide such assurance. It means that the life we are now living daily for His glory, though at present out of sight to the world, will one day be brought to light from its hiding place and manifested to a wondering universe when Christ returns in might and in majesty. We have life in Christ: "this life is in his Son", 1 John 5. 11. He is out of sight, and so is our life, though God is taking cognizance of every emotion of the heart, and of every thought, and word, and deed. Note the distinctions:
"your life", the Treasure;
"is hid with Christ", the Treasurer;
"in God", the Treasury.
To have a heavenly object for the heart lifts the longings from this scene below to heaven itself where the object resides. To covet the plaudits of a world that crucified our Lord is the antithesis of the teaching here. How can we be true to our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God has given to us for our eternal enjoyment, and at the same time find our delight in a world that cast Him out?
The practical side is emphasized when we are exhorted to mortify our members which are upon earth. Have we put to death all those members of the old man? It is not our bodies we have to mortify, but our members which are upon the earth. We are exhorted to present, or yield, our bodies a living sacrifice, Rom. 12. 1. The body acts through the members, and if these are put to death then the former lusts will not govern. We once walked in them, but have now put off the old man and put on the new man.
Putting off and putting on are acts requiring power in that which is good. Mortification requires power for its accomplishment. The lampstand in Zechariah 4 was on the earth and could only bear witness through its seven lamps when these were sustained by the oil from the golden bowl on the top of it. In like manner it will be impossible for us effectively to "put off" or "put on" without the aid of that oil, the Holy Spirit, who enables us to fulfil these things in our lives. The Holy Spirit is not alluded to in the ethics of this Epistle (1. 8 is an incidental reference).
In the letter to the Ephesians the Holy Spirit is referred to constantly. He is the Spirit of Promise - we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. He is the Spirit of access to the Father. He is the Spirit through whom we are builded into an habitation of God. He is the power for our strengthening. We must not grieve Him, but rather be filled with the Spirit. The weapon of attack on the "marshals of the dark spiritual empire of the unseen" is the sword of the Spirit. The exhortations in Ephesians are more or less connected with the Spirit, but in Colossians they are associated with the power of the Word of God, and the fact that we are holding the Head.
To the believer Christ is all - that is. He is everything to us. He is also in all; He is in every believer, and there is in Him a fulness that can satisfy the yearnings of the individual; not at a distance, but a very present help since He dwells in us by faith. The new man has the very nature of God, and He is the standard by which all things are enacted. Such a person has the light, walks in its beams, and so is renewed after the image of Him who created him. There are no human distinctions existing, for Christ is all and in all.
To act in accordance with the divinely given injunction will become manifest in the "bowels of mercies", the "kindness", the "humbleness of mind";, the "meekness", and the "long-suffering", * 'forbearing", and "forgiving". The outer covering for all those virtues is love.
We are designated "elect of God", and this implies that we have been the objects of divine choice. When we are aware of this we should put on things that are appropriate to the sanctified position into which we have been brought. The things mentioned in verses 12 to 14 are the positive moral qualities of Christ. We should seek to feel and walk as He did in this world. He was the only Man who only did the will of His Father. How necessary that we should deny self! "Self-denial" may fill our hearts with pride; denying self cannot do so.
Forbearance and forgiveness should characterize us, and love is the topstone. Love is God's nature in activity. It is desire determining upon its object for good. God's nature is morally Light, while Love is the energizing force.
Verses 14 to 16 reveal three great principles:
1. The Love of Christ, v. 14.
2. The Peace of Christ, v. 15 R.v.
3. The Word of Christ, v. 16.
We have been exhorted to "put on love", v. 14 r.v., which is the bond of perfectness. Love is never out of place! The example of our Lord should ever be kept before the mind. Love is a greater power by far than force or strategy. "Love never faileth".
The peace of Christ is that which He said He left to His own when He was about to leave this world. He stated, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you". It is the peace which He ever enjoyed in fellowship with His Father. It is that peace which is His portion in a realm where nothing can possibly disturb. This peace should preside in our hearts. Peace is that unbroken fellowship which has been apportioned to the redeemed.
The word of Christ abiding in us enables us to appreciate the standard which He has set. If we live in the enjoyment of His Word then our worship will be true and acceptable, our service will be done unostentatiously, and our lives will be lived to His praise and glory.
In v. 13 the truth of the Forgiveness of Christ is emphasized.
In v. 14 the theme of the Love of Christ is indicated.
In v. 15 the thought of the Peace of Christ is suggested.
In v. 16 the teaching of the Word of Christ is expounded.
In v. 17 the Triumph of the Name of Christ is announced.
Surely this presents a line of sequence! It is necessary to know forgiveness as we taste of the wonders of His love, and live in the enjoyment of His peace amidst the turmoil and distress of this scene. His word comes to comfort and console us; it also counsels us as it directs us towards Christ who is the centre of attraction for His people; it also enables us to teach and admonish one another, and thereafter praise is forthcoming. Truth makes music in the heart of the saint.
Verses 18 to 25 bring before us the varied relationships of time - wives and husbands; children and parents; bondmen and masters. Wives are called upon to be submissive to their own husbands; for a further comment on this obligation one should read Ephesians 5. Husbands arc required to love their wives, and no evidence of bitterness has to be permitted. Children are instructed to be obedient to their parents - not the parents to be obedient to their children, as is manifestly seen in some quarters. Child delinquency is partly caused through children having been allowed to indulge in "self-expression". The writer was instructed by his parents that "little children should be seen and not heard"- and this principle was excellent training for the young person who naturally wanted to "kick over the traces". The fathers have not to provoke their children to anger. The counsel of the Old Book (The Word of God) cannot be improved, so let the wise father and mother bring before the child the truths of Proverbs 6. 20-23. There they will find the Word of God as :
1. The Traveller's Guide in a world of Darkness; this produces Instruction.
2. The Sleeper's Guardian in a world of Danger; this produces Protection.
3. The Welcome Guest in a world of Distress; this produces Communion.
The servant and the master are not overlooked. In fact all that is done should be done "from the soul"-"heartily". There is a day of review ahead when rewards will be bestowed commensurate with the faithfulness of the individual. May we all adjust our lives in the light of the Judgment Seat of Christ.