Study

a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

1. Supremacy of Christ

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, 2To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, 5For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; 6Which is come unto you, as it is 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: 7As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; 8Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. 9For 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; 10That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; 12Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For 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: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20And, 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 in earth, or things in heaven. 21And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: 23If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 24Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: 25Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil 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: 27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.

24. I now rejoice. He has previously claimed for himself authority on the ground of his calling. Now, however, he provides against the honor of his apostleship being detracted from by the bonds and persecutions, which he endured for the sake of the gospel. For Satan, also, perversely turns these things into occasions of rendering the servants of God the more contemptible. Farther, he encourages them by his example not to be intimidated by persecutions, and he sets forth to their view his zeal, that he may have greater weight. 329329     “Et monstre le grand zele qu’il auoit, afin qu’il y ait plus de poids et authorite en ce qu’il dit;” — “And shews the great zeal that he had, that there may be greater weight and authority in what he says.” Nay more, he gives proof of his affection towards them by no common pledge, when he declares that he willingly bears for their sake the afflictions which he endures. “But whence,” some one will ask, “arises this joy?” From his seeing the fruit that springs from it. “The affliction that I endure on your account is pleasant to me, because I do not suffer it in vain.” 330330     “M’est douce et gracieuse, pouree qu’elle n’est point inutile;” — “Is sweet and agreeable to me, because it is not unprofitable.” In the same manner, in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians, he says, that he rejoiced in all necessities and afflictions, on the ground of what he had heard as to their faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:6, 7.)

And fill up what is wanting. The particle and I understand as meaning for, for he assigns a reason why he is joyful in his sufferings, because he is in this thing a partner with Christ, and nothing happier can be desired than this partnership. 331331     “Ceste societe et conionction;” — “This fellowship and connection.” He also brings forward a consolation common to all the pious, that in all tribulations, especially in so far as they suffer anything for the sake of the gospel, they are partakers of the cross of Christ, that they may enjoy fellowship with him in a blessed resurrection.

Nay more, he declares that there is thus filled up what is wanting in the affliction of Christ. For as he speaks in Romans 8:29,

Whom God elected, he also hath predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, that he may be the first-born among the brethren.

Farther, we know that there is so great a unity between Christ and his members, that the name of Christ sometimes includes the whole body, as in 1 Corinthians. 12:12, for while discoursing there respecting the Church, he comes at length to the conclusion, that in Christ the same thing holds as in the human body. As, therefore, Christ has suffered once in his own person, so he suffers daily in his members, and in this way there are filled up those sufferings which the Father hath appointed for his body by his decree. 332332     “It is worthy of remark, that the Apostle does not say παθηματα, the passion of Christ, but simply θλιψεις, the aff1ictions; such as are common to all good men who bear a testimony against the ways and fashions of a wicked world. In these the Apostle had his share, in the passion of Christ he could have none.” — Dr. A. Clarke. — Ed. Here we have a second consideration, which ought to bear up our minds and comfort them in afflictions, that it is thus fixed and determined by the providence of God, that we must be conformed to Christ in the endurance of the cross, and that the fellowship that we have with him extends to this also.

He adds, also, a third reason — that his sufferings are advantageous, and that not merely to a few, but to the whole Church. He had previously stated that he suffered in behalf of the Colossians, and he now declares still farther, that the advantage extends to the whole Church. This advantage has been spoken of in Philippians 1:12. What could be clearer, less forced, or more simple, than this exposition, that Paul is joyful in persecution, because he considers, in accordance with what he writes elsewhere, that we must

carry about with us in our body the mortification of Christ, that his life may be manifested in us? (2 Corinthians 4 10.)

He says also in Timothy,

If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him: if we die with him, we shall also live with him, (2 Timothy 2:11-12)

and thus the issue will be blessed and glorious. Farther, he considers that we must not refuse the condition which God has appointed for his Church, that the members of Christ may have a suitable correspondence with the head; and, thirdly, that afflictions must be cheerfully endured, inasmuch as they are profitable to all the pious, and promote the welfare of the whole Church, by adorning the doctrine of the gospel.

Papists, however, disregarding and setting aside all these things, 333333     “Mais quoy? Les Papistes laissans tout ceci;” — “But what? Papists leaving all this.” have struck out a new contrivance in order that they may establish their system of indulgences. They give the name of indulgences to a remission of punishments, obtained by us through the merits of the martyrs. For, as they deny that there is a gratuitous remission of sins, and allege that they are redeemed by satisfactory deeds, when the satisfactions do not fill up the right measure, they call into their help the blood of the martyrs, that it may, along with the blood of Christ, serve as an expiation in the judgment of God. And this mixture they call the treasure of the Church 334334     See Calvin’S Institutes, vol. 2, p. 237, and Calvin on Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 68. , the keys of which they afterwards intrust to whom they think fit. Nor are they ashamed to wrest this passage, with the view of supporting so execrable a blasphemy, as if Paul here affirmed that his sufferings are of avail for expiating the sins of men.

They urge in their support the term ὑστερήματα, (things wanting,) as if Paul meant to say, that the sufferings which Christ has endured for the redemption of men were insufficient. There is no one, however, that does not see that Paul speaks in this manner, because it is necessary, that by the afflictions of the pious, the body of the Church should be brought to its perfection, inasmuch as the members are conformed to their head. 335335     “We are not to suppose that our Lord left any sufferings to be endured by Paul, or any one else, as the expiation of the sins or the ransom of the souls of his people... The filling up spoken of by the Apostle is not the supplementing Christ’s personal sufferings, but it is the completing that share allotted to himself as one of the members of Christ, as sufferings which, from the intimacy of union between the head and the members, may be called his sufferings. Christ lived in Paul, spoke in Paul, wrought in Paul, suffered in Paul; and in a similar sense, the sufferings of every Christian for Christ are the sufferings of Christ.” — Brown’s Expository Discourses on Peter, vol. 3, pp. 69, 70. — Ed. I should also be afraid of being suspected of calumny in repeating things so monstrous, 336336     “Tels blasphemes horribles;” — “Such horrible blasphemies.” if their books did not bear witness that I impute nothing to them groundlessly. They urge, also, what Paul says, that he suffers for the Church. It is surprising that this refined interpretation had not occurred to any of the ancients, for they all interpret it as we do, to mean, that the saints suffer for the Church, inasmuch as they confirm the faith of the Church. Papists, however, gather from this that the saints are redeemers, because they shed their blood for the expiation of sins. That my readers, however, may perceive more clearly their impudence, allow that the martyrs, as well as Christ, suffered for the Church, but in different ways, as I am inclined to express in Augustine’s words rather than in my own. For he writes thus in his 84th treatise on John: “Though we brethren die for brethren, yet there is no blood of any martyr that is poured out for the remission of sins. This Christ did for us. Nor has he in this conferred upon us matter of imitation, but ground of thanksgiving.” Also, in the fourth book to Bonifacius: “As the only Son of God became the Son of man, that he might make us sons of God, so he has alone, without offense, endured punishment for us, that we may through him, without merit, obtain undeserved favor.” Similar to these is the statement of Leo Bishop of Rome; “The righteous received crowns, did not give them; and for the fortitude of believers there have come forth examples of patience, not gifts of righteousness. For their deaths were for themselves, and no one by his latter end paid the debt of another.” 337337     The reader will find the same passage as above quoted by Calvin in the Institutes, vol. 2, pp. 238, 239. See also Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 69, n. 1. — Ed.

Now, that this is the meaning of Paul’s words is abundantly manifest from the context, for he adds, that he suffers according to the dispensation that was given to him. And we know that the ministry was committed to him, not of redeeming the Church, but of edifying it; and he himself immediately afterwards expressly acknowledges this. This is also what he writes to Timothy,

that he endures all things for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 2:10.)

Also, in 2 Corinthians 1:4, 338338     The reference would seem to be more appropriately directed towards 2 Corinthians 1:6 — probably a typesetting error in the original text. — fj. that

he willingly endures all things for their consolation and salvation.

Let, therefore, pious readers learn to hate and detest those profane sophists, who thus deliberately corrupt and adulterate the Scriptures, in order that they may give some color to their delusions.


VIEWNAME is study