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Colossians 3:14-17

14. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

14. Propter omnia haec caritatem, quae est vinculum perfectionis:

15. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

15. Et pax Dei palmam obtineat 443443     “Regne, ou, gouerne;” — “Reign, or, rule.” in cordibus vestris, ad quam etiam estis vocati in uno corpore, et grati sitis.

16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

16. Sermo Christi inhabiter in vobis opulente in omni sapientia, docendo et commonefaciendo vos psalmis, hymnis, et canticis spiritualibus cum gratia, canentes in cordibus vestris Domino.

17. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

17. Et quiquid feceritis sermone vel opere, omnia in nomine Domini Iesu, gratiae agentes Deo et Patri, per ipsum.

 

14. On account of all these things. The rendering that has been given by others, “super omnia haec,” (above all these things,) instead of insuper, (over and above,) is, in my opinion, meagre. It would be more suitable to render it, Before all these things. I have chosen, however, the more ordinary signification of the word ἐπί. For as all the things that he has hitherto enumerated flow from love, he now on good grounds exhorts the Colossians to cherish love among themselves, for the sake of these things — that they may be merciful, gentle, ready to forgive, as though he had said, that they would be such only in the event of their having love. For where love is wanting, all these things are sought for in vain. That he may commend it the more, he calls it the bond of perfection, meaning by this, that the troop of all the virtues 444444     Virtutum omnium chorum. See Cic. 50:3, Offic. c. ult. — Ed. is comprehended under it. For this truly is the rule of our whole life, and of all our actions, so that everything that is not regulated according to it is faulty, whatever attractiveness it may otherwise possess. This is the reason why it is called here the bond of perfection; because there is nothing in our life that is well regulated if it be not directed towards it, but everything that we attempt is mere waste.

The Papists, however, act a ridiculous part in abusing this declaration, with the view of maintaining justification by works. “Love,” say they, “is the bond of perfection: now perfection is righteousness; therefore we are justified by love.” The answer is twofold; for Paul here is not reasoning as to the manner in which men are made perfect in the sight of God, but as to the manner in which they may live perfectly among themselves. For the genuine exposition of the passage is this — that other things will be in a desirable state as to our life, if love be exercised among us. When, however, we grant that love is righteousness, they groundlessly and childishly take occasion from this to maintain, that we are justified by love, for where will perfect love be found? We, however, do not say that men are justified by faith alone, on the ground that the observance of the law is not righteousness, but rather on this ground, that as we are all transgressors of the law, we are, in consequence of our being destitute of any righteousness of our own, constrained to borrow righteousness from Christ. There remains nothing, therefore, but the righteousness of faith, because perfect love is nowhere to be found.

15. And the peace of God. He gives the name of the peace of God to that which God has established among us, as will appear from what follows. He would have it reign in our hearts. 445445     “Rule in your hearts, (βραβεύετο.) Let the peace of Christ judge, decide, and govern in your hearts, as the brabeus, or judge, does in the Olympic contests... While peace rules, all is safe.” — Dr. A. Clarke. — Ed. He employs, however, a very appropriate metaphor; for as among wrestlers, 446446     “Le mot Grec signifie aucunesfois, Enclins a rendre graces, et recognoistre les benefices que nous receuons;” — “The Greek word means sometimes — having a disposition to give thanks, and to acknowledge the favors that we receive.” he who has vanquished all the others carries off the palm, so he would have the peace of God be superior to all carnal affections, which often hurry us on to contentions, disagreements, quarrels, secret grudges. He accordingly prohibits us from giving loose reins to corrupt affections of this kind. As, however it is difficult to restrain them, he points out also the remedy, that the peace of God may carry the victory, because it must be a bridle, by which carnal affections may be restrained. Hence he says, in our hearts; because we constantly feel there great conflicts, while the flesh lusteth against the Spirit. (Galatians 5:17.)

The clause, to which ye are called, intimates what manner of peace this is — that unity which Christ has consecrated among us under his own direction. 447447     “En son nom et authorite;” — “In his own name and authority.” For God has reconciled us to himself in Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:18,) with this view, that we may live in entire harmony among ourselves. He adds, in one body, meaning by this, that we cannot be in a state of agreement with God otherwise than by being united among ourselves as members of one body. When he bids us be thankful, I do not take this as referring so much to the remembrance of favors, as to sweetness of manners. Hence, with the view of removing ambiguity, I prefer to render it, “Be amiable.” At the same time I acknowledge that, if gratitude takes possession of our minds, 448448     “Si nous auons les cœurs et les sens abbreuuez de ceste affection de n’estre point ingrats;” — “If we have our hearts and minds thoroughly imbued with this disposition of being not unthankful.” we shall without fail be inclined to cherish mutual affection among ourselves.

16. Let the word of Christ dwell. He would have the doctrine of the gospel be familiarly known by them. Hence we may infer by what spirit those are actuated in the present day, who cruelly 449449     “Si estroitement et auec si grande cruaute;” — “So strictly and with such great cruelty.” interdict the Christian people from making use of it, and furiously vociferate, that no pestilence is more to be dreaded, than that the reading of the Scriptures should be thrown open to the common people. For, unquestionably, Paul here addresses men and women of all ranks; nor would he simply have them take a slight taste merely of the word of Christ, but exhorts that it should dwell in them; that is, that it should have a settled abode, and that largely, that they may make it their aim to advance and increase more and more every day. As, however, the desire of learning is extravagant on the part of many, while they pervert the word of the Lord for their own ambition, or for vain curiosity, or in some way corrupt it, he on this account adds, in all wisdom — that, being instructed by it, we may be wise as we ought to be.

Farther, he gives a short definition of this wisdom — that the Colossians teach one another Teaching is taken here to mean profitable instruction, which tends to edification, as in Romans 12:7He that teacheth, on teaching; also in Timothy — “All Scripture is profitable for teaching.” (2 Timothy 3:16.) This is the true use of Christ’s word. As, however, doctrine is sometimes in itself cold, and, as one says, 450450     “Comme a dit anciennement vn poëte Latin; — “As a Latin poet has anciently said.” when it is simply shewn what is right, virtue is praised 451451     “Probitas laudatur et alget;” — “Virtue is praised and starves,” — that is, is slighted. See Juv. 1:74. — Ed. and left to starve, 452452     “Il se trouue assez de gens qui louënt vertu, mais cependant elle se morfond: c’est a dire, il n’y en a gueres qui se mettent a l’ensuyure;” — “There are persons enough who praise virtue, but in the mean time it starves; that is to say, there are scarcely any of them that set themselves to pursue it.” he adds at the same time admonition, which is, as it were, a confirmation of doctrine and incitement to it. Nor does he mean that the word of Christ ought to be of benefit merely to individuals, that they may teach themselves, but he requires mutual teaching and admonition.

Psalms, hymns. He does not restrict the word of Christ to these particular departments, but rather intimates that all our communications should be adapted to edification, that even those which tend to hilarity may have no empty savor. “Leave to unbelievers that foolish delight which they take from ludicrous and frivolous jests and witticisms; 453453     “Plaisanteries pleines de vanite et niaiserie;” — “Pleasantries full of vanity and silliness.” and let your communications, not merely those that are grave, but those also that are joyful and exhilarating, contain something profitable. In place of their obscene, or at least barely modest and decent, songs, it becomes you to make use of hymns and songs that sound forth God’s praise.” Farther, under these three terms he includes all kinds of songs. They are commonly distinguished in this way — that a psalm is that, in the singing of which some musical instrument besides the tongue is made use of: a hymn is properly a song of praise, whether it be sung simply with the voice or otherwise; while an ode contains not merely praises, but exhortations and other matters. He would have the songs of Christians, however, to be spiritual, not made up of frivolities and worthless trifles. For this has a connection with his argument.

The clause, in grace, Chrysostom explains in different ways. I, however, take it simply, as also afterwards, in Colossians 4:6, where he says, “Let your speech be seasoned with salt, in grace,” that is, by way of a dexterity that may be agreeable, and may please the hearers by its profitableness, so that it may be opposed to buffoonery and similar trifles.

Singing in your hearts. This relates to disposition; for as we ought to stir up others, so we ought also to sing from the heart, that there may not be merely an external sound with the mouth. At the same time, we must not understand it as though he would have every one sing inwardly to himself, but he would have both conjoined, provided the heart goes before the tongue.

17. And whatsoever ye do. We have already explained these things, and what goes before, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where the same things are said almost word for word. As he had already begun to discourse in reference to different parts of the Christian life, and had simply touched upon a few precepts, it would have been too tedious a thing to follow out the rest one by one, he therefore concludes in a summary way, that life must be regulated in such a manner, that whatever we say or do may be wholly governed by the authority of Christ, and may have an eye to his glory as the mark. 454454     “Comme a son but principal;” — “As to its chief aim.” For we shall fitly comprehend under this term the two following things — that all our aims 455455     “Toutes nos œuures et entreprinses;” — “All our works and enterprises.” may set out with invocation of Christ, and may be subservient to his glory. From invocation follows the act of blessing God, which supplies us with matter of thanksgiving. It is also to be observed, that he teaches that we must give thanks to the Father through Christ, as we obtain through him every good thing that God confers upon us.


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