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Colossians 1:12-17

12. Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

12. Gratias agentes Deo et Patri, 291291     “A Dieu et Pere, qui nous a faits, ou, au Pere, qui nous a faits;” — “To God and the Father, who hath made us, or, to the Father, who hath made us.” qui nos fecit idoneos ad participationem hereditatis sanctorum in lumine.

13. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

13. Qui eripuit nos ex potestate tenebrarum, et transtulit in regnum Filii sui dilecti:

14. In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

14. In quo habemus redemptionem per sanguinem eius, remissionem peccatorum:

15. Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

15. Qui est imago Dei invisibilis, primogenitus universae creaturae.

16. For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

16. Quoniam in ipso creata sunt omnia, tum quae in coelis sunt, tum quae super terram; visibilia et invisibilia; sive throni, sive dominationes, sive principatus, sive potestates.

17. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

17. Omnia per ipsum, et in ipsum creata sunt: et ipse est ante omnia, et omnia in ipso constant.

 

12. Giving thanks. Again he returns to thanksgiving, that he may take this opportunity of enumerating the blessings which had been conferred upon them through Christ, and thus he enters upon a full delineation of Christ. For this was the only remedy for fortifying the Colossians against all the snares, by which the false Apostles endeavored to entrap them — to understand accurately what Christ was. For how comes it that we are carried about with so many strange doctrines, (Hebrews 13:9) but because the excellence of Christ is not perceived by us? For Christ alone makes all other things suddenly vanish. Hence there is nothing that Satan so much endeavors to accomplish as to bring on mists with the view of obscuring Christ, because he knows, that by this means the way is opened up for every kind of falsehood. This, therefore, is the only means of retaining, as well as restoring pure doctrine — to place Christ before the view such as he is with all his blessings, that his excellence may be truly perceived.

The question here is not as to the name. Papists in common with us acknowledge one and the same Christ; yet in the mean time how great a difference there is between us and them, inasmuch as they, after confessing Christ to be the Son of God, transfer his excellence to others, and scatter it hither and thither, and thus leave him next to empty, 292292     ”Ils le laissent quasi vuide et inutile;” — “They leave him in a manner empty and useless.” or at least rob him of a great part of his glory, so that he is called, it is true, by them the Son of God, but, nevertheless, he is not such as the Father designed he should be towards us. If, however, Papists would cordially embrace what is contained in this chapter, we would soon be perfectly agreed, but the whole of Popery would fall to the ground, for it cannot stand otherwise than through ignorance of Christ. This will undoubtedly be acknowledged by every one that will but consider the main article 293293     Statum The term is commonly employed among the Latins like στάσις among the Greeks, to mean the point at issue. See Cic. Top. 25. — Ed of this first chapter; for his grand object here is that we may know that Christ is the beginning, middle, and end — that it is from him that all things must be sought — that nothing is, or can be found, apart from him. Now, therefore, let the readers carefully and attentively observe in what colors Paul depicts Christ to us.

Who hath made us meet. He is still speaking of the Father, because he is the beginning, and efficient cause (as they speak) of our salvation. As the term God is more distinctly expressive of majesty, so the term Father conveys the idea of clemency and benevolent disposition. It becomes us to contemplate both as existing in God, that his majesty may inspire us with fear and reverence, and that his fatherly love may secure our full confidence. Hence it is not without good reason that Paul has conjoined these two things, if, after all, you prefer the rendering which the old interpreter has followed, and which accords with some very ancient Greek manuscripts. 294294     It is stated by Beza, that some Greek manuscripts have τῷ Θεῷ καὶ Πατρὶ, (to God and the Father,) and that this is the reading in some copies of the Vulgate. Wiclif (1380) reads, “To God and to the Fadir.” Rheims (1582) “To God and the Father.” — Ed At the same time there will be no inconsistency in saying, that he contents himself with the single term, Father. Farther, as it is necessary that his incomparable grace should be expressed by the term Father, so it is also not less necessary that we should, by the term God, be roused up to admiration of so great goodness, that he, who is God, has condescended thus far. 295295     “S’est abbaisé iusques là de vouloir estre nostre Pere;” — “Has abased himself so far as to be willing to be our Father.”

But for what kindness does he give thanks to God? For his having made him, and others, meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints. For we are born children of wrath, exiles from God’s kingdom. It is God’s adoption that alone makes us meet. Now, adoption depends on an unmerited election. The Spirit of regeneration is the seal of adoption. He adds, in light, that there might be a contrast — as opposed to the darkness of Satan’s kingdom. 296296     “Afin qu’il y eust vne opposition entre les tenebres du royaume de Satan, et la lumiere du royaume de Dieu;” — “That there might be a contrast between the darkness of Satan’s kingdom, and the light of God’s kingdom.”

13. Who hath delivered us. Mark, here is the beginning of our salvation — when God delivers us from the depth of ruin into which we were plunged. For wherever his grace is not, there is darkness, 297297     “Là il n’y a que tenebres;” — “There is nothing but darkness.” as it is said in Isaiah 60:2

Behold darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the nations; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

In the first place, we ourselves are called darkness, and afterwards the whole world, and Satan, the Prince of darkness, 298298     “One of the names which the Jews gave to Satan was חש — darkness” — Illustrated Commentary. — Ed under whose tyranny we are held captive, until we are set free by Christ’s hand. 299299     “Iusqu’a ce que nons soyons deliurez et affranchis par la puissance de Christ;” — “Until we are delivered and set free by the power of Christ.” From this you may gather that the whole world, with all its pretended wisdom and righteousness, is regarded as nothing but darkness in the sight of God, because, apart from the kingdom of Christ, there is no light.

Hath translated us into the kingdom. These form already the beginnings of our blessedness — when we are translated into the kingdom of Christ, because we pass from death into life. (1 John 3:14.) This, also, Paul ascribes to the grace of God, that no one may imagine that he can attain so great a blessing by his own efforts. As, then, our deliverance from the slavery of sin and death is the work of God, so also our passing into the kingdom of Christ. He calls Christ the Son of his love, or the Son that is beloved by God the Father, because it is in him alone that his soul takes pleasure, as we read in Matthew 17:5, and in whom all others are beloved. For we must hold it as a settled point, that we are not acceptable to God otherwise than through Christ. Nor can it be doubted, that Paul had it in view to censure indirectly the mortal enmity that exists between men and God, until love shines forth in the Mediator.

14. In whom we have redemption. He now proceeds to set forth in order, that all parts of our salvation are contained in Christ, and that he alone ought to shine forth, and to be seen conspicuous above all creatures, inasmuch as he is the beginning and end of all things. In the first place, he says that we have redemption 300300     “Redemption et deliurance;” — “Redemption and deliverance.” and immediately explains it as meaning the remission of sins; for these two things agree together by apposition 301301     The following explanation of the meaning of the term apposition is furnished in a marginal note in our author’s French version: “C’est quand deux noms substantifs appartenans a vne mesme chose, sont mis ensemble sans conionction, comme par declaration l’vn et l’autre;” — “This is when two substantive nouns, relating to the same thing, are placed together without being conjoined, as if by way of explanation, the one and the other.” For, unquestionably, when God remits our transgressions, he exempts us from condemnation to eternal death. This is our liberty, this our glorying in the face of death — that our sins are not imputed to us. He says that this redemption was procured through the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of his death all the sins of the world have been expiated. Let us, therefore, bear in mind, that this is the sole price of reconciliation, and that all the trifling of Papists as to satisfactions is blasphemy. 302302     “Blasphemes execrables;” — “Execrable blasphemies.”

15. Who is the image of the invisible God. He mounts up higher in discoursing as to the glory of Christ. He calls him the image of the invisible God, meaning by this, that it is in him alone that God, who is otherwise invisible, is manifested to us, in accordance with what is said in John 1:18,

— No man hath ever seen God: the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, hath himself manifested him to us.

I am well aware in what manner the ancients were accustomed to explain this; for having a contest to maintain with Arians, they insist upon the equality of the Son with the Father, and his (ὁμοουσίαν) identity of essence, 303303     See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 196, n. 1. while in the mean time they make no mention of what is the chief point — in what manner the Father makes himself known to us in Christ. As to Chrysostom’s laying the whole stress of his defense on the term image, by contending that the creature cannot be said to be the image of the Creator, it is excessively weak; nay more, it is set aside by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:7, whose words are — The man is the IMAGE and glory of God

That, therefore, we may not receive anything but what is solid, let us take notice, that the term image is not made use of in reference to essence, but has a reference to us; for Christ is called the image of God on this ground — that he makes God in a manner visible to us. At the same time, we gather also from this his (ὁμοουσία) identity of essence, for Christ would not truly represent God, if he were not the essential Word of God, inasmuch as the question here is not as to those things which by communication are suitable also to creatures, but the question is as to the perfect wisdom, goodness, righteousness, and power of God, for the representing of which no creature were competent. We shall have, therefore, in this term, a powerful weapon in opposition to the Arians, but, notwithstanding, we must begin with that reference 304304     “Relation et correspondance;” — “Reference and correspondence.” that I have mentioned; we must not insist upon the essence alone. The sum is this — that God in himself, that is, in his naked majesty, is invisible, and that not to the eyes of the body merely, but also to the understandings of men, and that he is revealed to us in Christ alone, that we may behold him as in a mirror. For in Christ he shews us his righteousness, goodness, wisdom, power, in short, his entire self. We must, therefore, beware of seeking him elsewhere, for everything that would set itself off as a representation of God, apart from Christ, will be an idol.

The first-born of every creature. The reason of this appellation is immediately added — For in him all things are created, as he is, three verses afterwards, called the first-begotten from the dead, because by him we all rise again. Hence, he is not called the first-born, simply on the ground of his having preceded all creatures in point of time, but because he was begotten by the Father, that they might be created by him, and that he might be, as it were, the substance or foundation of all things. It was then a foolish part that the Arians acted, who argued from this that he was, consequently, a creature. For what is here treated of is, not what he is in himself, but what he accomplishes in others.

16. Visible and invisible. Both of these kinds were included in the foregoing distinction of heavenly and earthly things; but as Paul meant chiefly to make that affirmation in reference to Angels, he now makes mention of things invisible. Not only, therefore, have those heavenly creatures which are visible to our eyes, but spiritual creatures also, been created by the Son of God. What immediately follows, whether thrones, etc., is as though he had said — “by whatever name they are called.”

By thrones some understand Angels. I am rather, however, of opinion, that the heavenly palace of God’s majesty is meant by the term, which we are not to imagine to be such as our mind can conceive of, but such as is suitable to God himself. We see the sun and moon, and the whole adorning of heaven, but the glory of God’s kingdom is hid from our perception, because it is spiritual, and above the heavens. In fine, let us understand by the term thrones that seat of blessed immortality which is exempted from all change.

By the other terms he undoubtedly describes the angels. He calls them powers, principalities, and dominions, not, as if they swayed any separate kingdom, or were endowed with peculiar power, 305305     “Ayent vertu ou puissance d’eux — mesmes;” — “Have power or authority of themselves.” but because they are the ministers of Divine power and dominion. 306306     “Sont executeurs de la puissance Diuine, et ministres de sa domination;” — “Are the executors of God’s power, and ministers of his dominion.” It is customary, however, that, in so far as God manifests his power in creatures, his names are, in that proportion, transferred to them. Thus he is himself alone Lord and Father, but those are also called lords and fathers whom he dignifies with this honor. Hence it comes that angels, as well as judges, are called gods. 307307     See Calvin on John, vol. 1: p. 419. Hence, in this passage also, angels are signalized by magnificent titles, which intimate, not what they can do of themselves, or apart from God, but what God does by them, and what functions he has assigned to them. These things it becomes us to understand in such a manner as to detract nothing from the glory of God alone; for he does not communicate his power to angels as to lessen his own; he does not work by them in such a manner as to resign his power to them; he does not desire that his glory should shine forth in them, so as to be obscured in himself. Paul, however, designedly extols the dignity of angels in terms thus magnificent, that no one may think that it stands in the way of Christ alone having the pre-eminence over them. He makes use, therefore, of these terms, as it were by way of concession, as though he had said, that all their excellence detracts nothing from Christ, 308308     “N’oste rien a la gloire de Christ;” — “Takes nothing from the glory of Christ.” however honorable the titles with which they are adorned. As for those who philosophize on these terms with excessive subtlety, that they may draw from them the different orders of angels, let them regale themselves with their dainties, but they are assuredly very remote from Paul’s design.

17. All things were created by him, and for him. He places angels in subjection to Christ, that they may not obscure his glory, for four reasons: In the first place, because they were created by him; secondly, because their creation ought to be viewed as having a relation to him, as their legitimate end; thirdly, because he himself existed always, prior to their creation; fourthly, because he sustains them by his power, and upholds them in their condition. At the same time, he does not affirm this merely as to angels, but also as to the whole world. Thus he places the Son of God in the Highest seat of honor, that he may have the pre-eminence over angels as well as men, and may bring under control all creatures in heaven and in earth.


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