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

Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians 1:24-29

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 16, 2013

This post opens with Fr. Callan’s brief summary of verses 24-29, followed by more detailed notes.

THE APOSTLE’S COMMISSION

A Summary of Colossians 1:24-29~Paul tells the Colossians that he is suffering on their account, but that this is a source of joy to him since his afflictions help the Church to contribute her part toward the sufferings of Christ; for God has commissioned him a servant of the Church for the purpose of making known the long-hidden mystery that Gentiles, as well as Jews, are to be embraced in the one Church of Christ, thus becoming heirs of heavenly glory. This is the universal doctrine St. Paul proclaims, laboring and striving with the help of divine power.

24. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.

The qui (“who rejoice”)  of the Vulgate at the beginning of this verse is not supported by the best Greek MSS.  St. Paul will explain in the verses that follow (up to Col 2:3 inclusive), why he is writing to a Church he has not founded, nor ever visited.

Now I rejoice, etc. The Apostle is in prison for preaching to pagans the same Gospel that the Colossians have received, and he rejoices on their behalf, because of the spiritual benefits his afflictions bring to them and to the Church.

Fill up those things, etc. Better, “fill up on my part (ανταναπληρω) those things, etc.” The Apostle does not mean to say that his labors and sufferings on behalf of the Gospel added anything to the efficacy and satisfactory value of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and death on the cross, which, being superabundant and infinite, were more than sufficient for the redemption of all mankind, and of many more worlds than ours (St. Thomas). But by “the sufferings of Christ” he means here the fatigue, labors, persecutions, and the like, endured by our Lord in His public life and ministry, which, as they were the lot of Christ, the head, during His brief mortal existence, must also be the lot of His mystical body, the Church, till the end of time; it is these sufferings of Christ’s mystical body that must be supplied by the Apostles and their true followers throughout the history of the Church. Our Lord labored, preached and suffered for a time for the spread of the Gospel, and His Church must continue through its ministers to labor, to preach and to suffer for all time for the same purpose, thus vicariously supplying to the ministry of Christ what was not possible for our Lord in person to supply. This is the obvious and natural meaning of this great passage. But the Greek Fathers explain it otherwise. Admitting that the passion of our Lord was entirely sufficient to save all mankind, they hold that its fruits are not applied to all except through the sufferings of the saints; and hence what is “wanting of the sufferings of Christ” is their application through the trials and tribulations which the Apostles and the faithful endured and continue to endure for Christ’s sake and in union with Him.

In my flesh, i.e., in St. Paul’s own body. The Apostle endured in his own body and person many grievous sufferings and afflictions for the sake of the Gospel and the Church.

25. Whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God, which is given me towards you, that I may fulfill the word of God,

Whereof, i.e., on behalf of which, namely, the Church, he has been “made a minister,” or servant, “according to the dispensation,” or stewardship, committed to him by God Himself for the benefit of the Colossians, as of all other pagans. The Colossians were embraced by Paul’s ministry, for to him it was given to “fulfill the word of God,” i.e., to spread the teachings of the Gospel, to found Churches etc. everywhere, especially among the Gentiles (Rom 15:19; 1 Cor 14:36; 2 Cor  2:7), that he might “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (ver. 28).

26. The mystery which hath been hidden from ages and generations, but now is manifested to his saints,

The mystery, i.e., the “word of God,” or the teaching of the Gospel, spoken of in the preceding verse. This mystery, or secret, undiscoverable by natural means, was the salvation of all men. Gentiles as well as Jews, through Christ and the revelation made by Him, and the union of all men in the one Church of Christ. See on Eph 3:2-9.

To his saints, i.e., the faithful, both of Jewish and pagan origin.

27. To whom God hath willed to make known the riches of the glory of this ministry among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

To whom God hath willed, etc. These words show that the revelation of the great secret was a free and gratuitous act on the part of God.

The riches of the glory, etc., i.e., the wealth of divine goodness and mercy which has been manifested in the conversion of the Gentiles even more than in that of the Jews, for the latter had a revelation of the Messiah to come and of a future life.

Which is Christ, i.e., this mystery or the riches of this mystery is all in Christ, in whom are contained all the divine counsels regarding human salvation and all the blessings promised to man.

In you, i.e., among you, and in your hearts by faith (Eph 2:12 ff.).

The hope of glory, i.e., Christ is their and our hope of glory and eternal beatitude; He is the author and source of all good for time and eternity.

In the Vulgate there should be no comma after Christus, but one may be placed after vobis.

28. Whom we preach, admonishing every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

Such is the Christ whom St. Paul and his companions preach, the sole and all- sufficient author and means of salvation here and of future blessedness hereafter, whose hidden mystery has been made known to all men for the salvation of all. The Apostle is criticizing the false teachers at Colossae who were insisting on the necessity of legal prescriptions, on an exaggerated cult of angels, and on an initiation into perfection which was confined to a select few.

Every man. St. Paul repeats these words three times in this verse in order to stress the universality of salvation for all, Gentiles as well as Jews.

In all wisdom may mean, (a) that St. Paul and his helpers corrected faults and explained doctrine with all the knowledge with which they were endowed, or (b) that they disciplined and instructed every man in a perfect knowledge of God, so as to enable each one to live a life worthy of God.

That we may present, etc. The scope of Apostolic discipline and teaching was to make every man perfect in the faith and love of Christ.

29. Wherein also I labor, striving according to his working which he
worketh in me in power.

Here the Apostle tells us that the end and purpose of all his labors and struggles, like those of an athlete in the arena, was to render every man perfect in Christ, and that the secret of his endurance and success was to be found, not in his own strength and merits, but in the grace of Christ which was efficacious in him.

Striving. The Greek of this word contains a reference to the contest of the athletes in the arena. Cf. 2 Tim 2:9; 2 Tim 4:7.

2 Responses to “Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians 1:24-29”

  1. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians 1:24-29. […]

  2. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians 1:24-28. Includes verse 29. […]

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