The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Colossians 3:12-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 19, 2013

Text in purple indicates the Bishop’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

Col 3:12  Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience:

Wherefore, as men elected by God, sanctified by Christ, and loved by him from eternity—put on the most lively feelings of compassion for your brethren, gentleness and sweetness of disposition, humility, modesty, patience.

As Christ alone is to be considered in this new man, the Apostle shows the duties they owe each other, and the acts of the new man whom he wishes them to put on. “The bowels,” i.e., the most tender feelings “of mercy.” In Greek, of mercies. The Vulgate is, however, generally adopted by critics.

Col 3:13  Bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another. Even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also.

Bearing with each other’s weakness and imperfections, pardoning and remitting to each other the injuries which you may have mutually to sustain, after the example of God, who has pardoned us our manifold sins and transgressions against him. Bishop MacEvilly offers no comment on this verse beyond the thoughts supplied by his paraphrase.

Col 3:14  But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection.

But above all things, have charity or love for one another, which is the most perfect bond of union.

“Which is the bond of perfection,” i.e., the most perfect bond of union. All other bonds of human society are imperfect and easily broken by the slightest provocation; charity is eternal and indissoluble.

Col 3:15  And let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be ye thankful.

And may the peace of God, to which you were called, when you became one body, victoriously exult in your hearts, and be ye grateful for the past benefits of God.

“Of Christ.” In Greek, of God. “Rejoice.” The Greek word for which, βραβευέτω, means either to gain the prize of victory, or to award it; in the former acceptation, it refers to the persons engaged in the contest; in the latter, to the judges, who are to decide the struggle and award the prize. Here, then, according to this twofold acceptation, the words may mean:—May the peace which Christ brought from heaven, and to which the unity of the Church, of which we are members, obliges us, obtain the victory over all the adverse passions in your hearts. This is the more probable meaning. They may also mean: In all your differences may the decision be, not according to the dictates of passion, but of the peace of God. “Be ye thankful,” besides the meaning in the Paraphrase, may also mean, according to some Expositors—Be ye kind, courteous, and civil to one another; as this contributes much to peace. The Greek word, εὐχάριστοι, will admit this latter meaning, which also accords with the context.

Col 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly: in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God.

Let the doctrine of Christ permanently reside in you, so as that you may be filled with the abundance of all spiritual wisdom, teaching and instructing each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing the praises of God with joyous and grateful hearts.

He says that the doctrine and gospel of Christ should be engraved on our hearts, so as to dwell there and fill us with the abundance of true wisdom, which we may dispense to others. Hence, the word of God is to be read, not with hurry or precipitancy, but with reflection and meditation on its sacred truths, so as that it may “dwell” in us, and not rarely, but frequently, “abundantly.” Would to God, the meditation on the SS. Scriptures was substituted in place of those light and frivolous works of fancy, which poison and corrupt the mind! “Teaching … in Psalms,” &c. See Epistle to the Ephesians 5:19-20. “Singing in grace,” may either mean with thanksgiving, or in an agreeable, pleasing manner, so as to excite feelings of devotion “in your hearts.” In Greek, in your heart.

Col 3:17  All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Direct all your words and actions to the glory of God, invoking the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and rendering thanks to God the Father through him.

To God.” In Greek, to the Lord. This verse contains a negative precept prohibiting us from offering our actions to God through angels, according to the corrupt notions of the heretics, who prefer them to Christ, as has been already explained, or from giving thanks through them, and indirectly commanding us to do so through Christ. He is the meritorious cause of the benefits which we enjoy, and through Him thanks should be given; it also contains a positive precept of referring our actions, occasionally, by a direct intention to God. The practice of referring them as frequently as possible is very commendable. For the rest—see 1 Cor 10:31.

Col 3:18  Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it behoveth in the Lord.

Women, be subject to your husbands, according to the will of God, and as far as the law of Christ permits.

“To your husbands.” In the Greek, to your (own) husbands, as if to withdraw their attention from any other men.

Col 3:19  Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter towards them.

Husbands, love your wives, and be neither morose towards them, nor provoking them to bitterness.Love your wives. Put your wives well-being and happiness before your own.Be not bitter. The Greek word πικραίνω (pikrainō) is used only here in the NT.

Col 3:20  Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord.

Children, obey your parents in all things; for such is the good will and pleasure of God.

“In all things,” not prohibited by the law of God. “For this is well pleasing to the Lord,” that is, this is pleasing to God as being his own precept.—(See Epistle to Ephes. chap. 6)

Col 3:21  Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged.

And parents, do not, by undue and untimely severity, provoke to anger or exasperate the minds of your children, lest, falling into despondency, they cease to perform anything good.

Note the switch from “parents” in verses 20 to “fathers” here. The Jewish law severely mitigated a father’s authority over his children in comparison with the practice of other cultures of the time. “The law of the Romans gave absolute and full power to the father over his son (and his daughters), whether he thought it proper to incarcerate him, flog him, chain him, keep him toiling in the fields, or to put him to death. This power held even if the (adult) son belonged to the highest offices, or was noted for his love for the commonwealth” (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, 2.26.4). 

In the ancient world a father had the right to decide if a new-born would live or die, and if his wife should abort. Girls were more likely to come down on the negative side of the father’s judgment. That attitude exhibited toward female children is witnessed to in this excerpt from an ancient letter written by a Pagan business man to his wife: “If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy, keep it, if a girl discard it.”

Jew were looked upon as “sinister and revolting” (Tacitus) for forbidding such practices. The early Church Fathers maintained the Jewish morality:

The Church Fathers were familiar with this line of thinking. In pagan Rome, a child did not achieve personhood until recognized by the head of the family, the father. When the mother had given birth, a midwife placed the child on the floor and summoned the father. He examined the child with his criteria of selection in mind.

Was the child his? If the man suspected his wife of adultery — ancient Rome’s favorite pastime — he might reject the child without so much as a glance.

If the child were an “odious daughter” (a common Roman phrase for female offspring), he would likely turn on his heel and leave the room.

If the child were “defective” in any way, he would do the same. As the philosopher Seneca said: “What is good must be set apart from what is good-for-nothing.”

Life or death? It all depended upon the will of a man. Human life began when the child was accepted into society. A man did not “have a child.” He “took a child.” The father “raised up” the child by picking it up from the floor.

Those non-persons who were left on the floor — while their mothers watched from a birthing chair — would be drowned immediately, or exposed to scavenging animals at the town dump.

Against these customs, the Church consistently taught that life begins at conception and should continue till natural death. In such matters, Christianity contradicted pagan mores on almost every point. What were virtuous acts to the Romans and Greeks — contraception, abortion, infanticide, suicide, euthanasia — were abominations to the Christians.

The papyrus trail is especially extensive for abortion, which is condemned by the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Apocalypse of Peter; by Justin, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Hippolytus, Origen, and Cyprian. And that partial list takes us only to the middle of the third century.

The earliest extrabiblical document, the Didache, begins with these words: “Two Ways there are, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the Two Ways.” The Fathers converted their world from one Way to the other, and they were judged righteous.

Our last generations have perverted our world from one Way to another, and we too will be judged. But we can still do something, as our earliest Christian ancestors did, and we must. (source)

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