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 Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

Text in red are my additions. Text in purple indicates quotations from Fr. Callan’s other commentaries.

GREETINGS AND THANKSGIVING 

A Summary of Colossians 1:1-8. Following his customary form, St. Paul, in company with Timothy, salutes the faithful of Colossae, assuring them of his constant prayers of thanksgiving to God in their behalf on account of their faith in Christ, their charity towards one another, and the consequent reward awaiting them hereafter. This hope of future blessedness came to them with the preaching of the Gospel truth; and with them as elsewhere, from the time of its first preaching, this worldwide message of salvation has yielded a great spiritual harvest. It was Epaphras, Paul’s beloved comrade, who preached the Gospel to the Colossians, and who has now brought news of them to him in Rome.

Col 1:1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, and Timothy the
brother,
Col 1:2. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, who are at Colossae.

For a nearly identical greeting see Eph 1:1. Father Callan translates that verse as follows: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.

Father Callan goes on to give the following commentary on the following words and themes that the two passages share:

Paul. It is to be noted that, whereas in the other Captivity Epistles Timothy’s name is associated with Paul’s, here, as in Rom., Gal., and the Pastoral letters, only the name of Paul is mentioned. As Timothy had been with Paul at Ephesus and was therefore well known to the Ephesians, the omission of his name in the greeting of this Epistle is taken as an argument that the letter was not directed to the Church of Ephesus (see Introduction, No. IV).
 
Apostle, that is, a legate to whom is committed a mission with power and authority. Hence, the term implies more than messenger and it is applied in the New Testament to those who have been designated to preach the Gospel. By this title, therefore, Paul claims to be Christ’s legate, sent and commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel. Thus, our Lord said : “As thou hast sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

By the will of God, that is, Paul’s mission is both gratuitous and divine, and not the result of his own merits or choice. He has not taken the honor to himself, but has been called by God, as Aaron was (cf. Heb 5:4).

To all the Saints. The omnibus of the Vulgate is not represented in the Greek. “Saints,” that is, those who by Baptism have been consecrated to God and live in union with Jesus Christ. 

Timothy. See Introduction to 1 Tim., number I. Timothy was associated with Paul at this time in Rome, and probably he wrote down this letter as the Apostle dictated it.

Faithful brethren, i.e., fellow-Christians, who were full of active, living faith. See on Eph 1:1. Concerning the term faithful Father Callan wrote this in his Commentary on Epehsians 1:1~Faithful. This is a term frequently used by St. Paul. It designates those who with mind and heart have freely embraced the faith of Christ, subjecting themselves to His will and service.

Colossae. See Introduction, number I. Here is what Father Callan wrote concerning Colossae in his Introduction:

I. Colossae. Colossae was an ancient city of southwestern Phrygia in the Roman Province of Asia. It was situated in the valley of the Lycus River about one hundred and twenty miles east from Ephesus and on the great highway of trade between the East and the West of the ancient world. At one time it enjoyed considerable importance, but declined with the foundation and growth of Laodicea, some ten miles to the west, about the middle of the third century B.C. Besides the wealth and prosperity which developed in the closely adjacent Laodicea, other factors which contributed to the decline and ruin of Colossse were the earthquakes that repeatedly shook it and the fame and attractiveness of Hierapolis, the Sacred City, situated only thirteen miles to the northwest. Hierapolis, the birthplace of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus and the later residence of the Apostle Philip of Bethsaida, was a pleasure and health resort and a centre of pagan worship.

In the time of St. Paul Colossae was but a small town or mere village, lacking any special industry or commercial importance. Its inhabitants, therefore (largely Phrygian, intermingled with Greeks and some Jews), had more leisure time than was wholesome for their spiritual welfare: they talked and speculated too much, and so developed some erroneous doctrines by attempting to express Christian ideas in the terms and forms of philosophic and religious thought then current in Phrygia and in Asia Minor generally. Repeated raids and devastations by the Saracens during the seventh and eighth centuries completed the destruction of Colossae and the town became a heap of ruins. Nothing remains of it now. The Lycus still flows through the valley, but the city once overhanging it on the upper part of its course, and forever distinguished by the letter of St. Paul, has long ago ceased to exist.

In the Vulgate of verse 2 Jesu should be omitted, as in the Greek.

Col 1:3. Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

Grace be to you and peace, etc. See on the same sentence in Eph 1:2. Here is what he wrote there:

Grace . . . peace. This is Paul’s usual salutation. Grace, God’s special help and favor, is the root and source of our supernatural union with Him and with Christ, and peace is the blessed fruit of that same union.

From God the Father, etc. In these words we have indicated the author and the fountain-head of the blessing which the Apostle imparts. Since the same divine favor is asked from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, we have here a proof of the divinity of our Lord: He and the Father are one (John 10:30).

And from the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nearly equal MSS. evidence for the omission or the retention of this phrase here, which is found in Eph 1:2,

We give thanks, etc. The meaning is that, as often as he and Timothy prayed, they gave thanks to God for the Colossians’ life of faith and love; or that, as often as they prayed for the Colossians, they thanked God for the spiritual benefits the latter enjoyed.

Col 1:4. Hearing your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which you have towards all the saints,

The reason for his prayer of thanksgiving is now assigned, namely, the Colossians’ faith in Christ and their charity to their brethren.

Hearing, from Epaphras (see Col 1:8).

Col 1:5. For the hope that is laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard in the word of the truth of the gospel, 
Col 1:6
. Which is come unto you, as also it is in the whole world, and bringeth forth fruit and groweth, even as it doth in you, since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth
.

For the hope, etc., i.e., on account of the hope, etc. There is question here, not of hope, but of the object of hope, of the thing hoped for, the reward awaiting the faithful life hereafter; and so it is disputed whether St. Paul is thanking God for the reward in store for the virtues and good works of the Colossians, as well as for their faith and love, or whether this hoped-for reward is the basis and motive of their active faith and love. The former explanation seems to be the meaning here (cf. Knabenhauer, hoc loco).

Which you have heard, etc. Better, “whereof you have heard, etc.”

In the word, etc., i.e., in the announcement or preaching of the Gospel which was given them (Col 1:6), and which everywhere in the whole Roman world is a growing and fruit-bearing seed, as it has been with them ever since they first “heard and knew” (i.e., understood and recognized) “the grace of God” (i.e., the contents of the Gospel) “in truth” (i.e., as it is in reality).

Col 1:7. As you learned of Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ,
Col 1:8. Who also hath manifested to us your love in the Spirit
.

Epaphras, a resident and perhaps also a native of Colossa; and, if not the founder of the Church there, at least one of the chief workers in it. He is mentioned below in Col 4:12 and in Phm 23. Tradition makes him the first Bishop of Colossae. It is unlikely that he is to be identified with Epaphroditus, spoken of in Philippians 2:25, 4:18, though his name is an abbreviation of the latter’s.

Fellow-servant, i.e., companion in the service of Christ, who preached the Gospel at Colossae, and who now has brought to Paul and his companions in Rome a report of the love the Colossians have for them.

The Jesus of the Vulgate (ver. 7) is not in the Greek.

DOGMATICO-POLEMICAL PART OF THE EPISTLE

A Summarry of Col 1:9-2:23~ The Apostle prays that the Colossians may grow in knowledge of God’s will and purpose in their regard, so as to be able to increase correspondingly the spiritual fruitfulness of their lives, aided by the strength He gives them. They must thank the Eternal Father who has made them members of His kingdom through the redemption wrought by His Son (Col 1:9-14). He next describes the person and work of Christ, who is the image of the unseen God, the Creator of all things, the Head of the Church, and the Saviour by whose redemptive merits all things have been reconciled to the Father (Col 1:15-20). May the Colossians show in their conduct the benefit of the redemption they have received by leading holy and blameless lives, which will be possible only if they hold fast to the faith preached to them, of which Paul is the minister (Col 1:21-23). The Apostle then explains his sufferings for Christ and his commission to preach to the whole world God’s age-old mystery, now made manifest to Christians through Christ, of uniting Jews and Gentiles in the one Church of Christ (Col 1:24-29) . This is why he prays for the unity, charity, and purity of faith of the Colossians, Laodiceans, and all who have not seen his face (Col 2:1-7).Let the Colossians be on their guard against false teachers among them, whose erroneous speculations will lead them away from Christ, their true head and redeemer (Col 2:8-15), and will plunge them into practices that are useless, false, and vain (Col 2:16-23). See Introduction, No. IV, B. Col 1:9-14

THE APOSTLE’S PRAYER FOR THE COLOSSIANS 

A Summary of Col 1:9-14~The report of the Colossians given to St. Paul by Epaphras has enabled the Apostle properly to direct his prayers for them. Accordingly he prays that they may receive a clearer knowledge of the divine will and purpose, to the end that they may lead lives more pleasing to God and more fruitful in good works, thus manifesting the results of the blessings of redemption they have received.

Col 1:9. Therefore we also, from the day that we heard it, cease not to pray for you, and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom, and spiritual understanding:

Therefore, i.e., in view of the report given by Epaphras in the preceding verses 4-8.

We heard it, i.e., heard of their faith in Christ (ver. 4).

Cease not to pray, etc., means to pray frequently, as in Rom 1:9; 1 Thess 1:2, 2:13, 5:17; 2 Tim 1:3.

Wisdom is such an illumination of the mind as to enable the judgment to go back to the supreme cause of things, and, thus enlightened, to direct particular things to their proper ends (Cajetan).

Understanding is that perception of things which enables us rightly to grasp their nature and character, and thence to formulate rules for action. The term “spiritual” here qualifies both wisdom and understanding, showing the Spirit of God to be the source of both.

Col 1:10. That you may walk worthy of the Lord in all things pleasing: being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God:

This verse gives the purpose of the gifts just requested for the Colossians.

The Deo of the Vulgate should be Domino, according to the Greek.

Col 1:11. Strengthened with all might, according to the power of his glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joy,

Besides a deeper knowledge of God’s will and divine mysteries, the Apostle asks that the Colossians may also be strengthened from on high, so as to be able to resist all their temptations and bear all their trials.

According to the power of his glory, i.e., in a manner worthy of His supreme nature as manifesting itself.

Unto all patience, etc., i.e., the effect of the divine power implored is to enable the faithful to bear their suffering and trials with a spirit of holy endurance and perseverance, and with a joyful heart. The phrase “with joy” more properly belongs to what immediately precedes than to what follows.

In the Vulgate we should read in omnem patientiam et longanimitatem, to agree with the Greek.

Col 1:12. Giving thanks to the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light:

Giving thanks to the Father, etc., as becomes dutiful and grateful children whom the heavenly Father, the fountain and source of all blessings, has admitted to a share in the glorious inheritance of the saints, which is a life of grace here and eternal beatitude hereafter. This kingdom to which we are admitted in Baptism is “in light,” as opposed to the kingdom of darkness over which Satan presides (Eph 5:8, 6:12; 1 Thess 5:5; Rom 13:12).

The Deo of the Vulgate is not in the Greek.

Col 1:13. Who delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love,
Col 1:14. In whom we have redemption, the remission of sins:

13-14. These verses show how the Father has made us Christians “worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light.” It was by delivering us from the power of sin and Satan and making us members of the kingdom of His beloved Son, through the redeeming blood of that same divine Son.

Power of darkness, i.e., the dominion of Satan who rules that part of the world which has not been regenerated by Christ.

Delivered . . . translated. These verbs are aorist in Greek, the first expressing the negative and the second the positive aspect of the one and same process of regeneration and sanctification.

Kingdom means the Church Militant.

Son of his love is a Hebraism meaning beloved Son.

Per sanguinem eius of the Vulgate is not according to the best Greek MSS.; it was perhaps introduced here from Eph 1:7, which see.

THE SUPREME DIGNITY OF CHRIST

A Summary of Col 1:15-23~In the preceding verses St. Paul has shown, against the false teachers who were trying to pervert the Colossians, what great blessings we owe to our Lord. And now in this section he goes further, and shows that Christ is the image of the invisible God, anterior to all creation; the Son in whom and by whom all things were created and are sustained. And not only is the Son the head of the universe, but He is also, in a very special manner, the head of the Church; in Him dwells the fullness of Divinity, and through His sacrificial death on the cross all things have been reconciled to the Father (ver. 15-20). The Colossians are included in this redemption, for they were formerly enemies of God, but have now been reconciled to the Father through the atoning death of the Son. The goal of this reconciliation was that they might be spotless before God here and now; and this they will continue to be, if only they hold fast to the faith which they have received, which is the same everywhere, and of which Paul is the minister (ver. 21-23).

Col 1:15. Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature:

Verses 15-20 here are the most important part of the present Epistle. They constitute a compendium of Christology, and, taken in conjunction with Eph. 1:20-23, Phil 2:6-1 1 and Heb 1:1 ff., they represent St. Paul’s most sublime writings relative to the person and dignity of Christ (Sales, hoc loco).

Who is the image, etc., i.e., the inward utterance and perfect expression of His Father, the Word of God (Rickaby, hoc loco). Christ is the substantial and perfect image of the Eternal Father, having the same divine nature and essence and having been begotten as the Eternal Son of the Father from eternity: “Philip, he that seeth me, seeth the Father also” (John 14:9).

The first-born of every creature, i.e., born of the Eternal Father from eternity, as is clear from the two following verses.

Col 1:16. For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations or principalities, or powers—all things were created by him and unto him.

That the Son was begotten before all ages, before anything was created or made, is now proved; “for in him,” as effects are in their cause, “were all things created,” i.e., produced and brought into being; which shows that He existed prior to and above all creation, all succession, all becoming.

In heaven and on earth, etc., i.e., everything in the whole created universe was made by the Son. To emphasize his doctrine against the false teachers who were denying Divinity to the Son and maintaining a chain of angelic mediators between God and the world, the Apostle repeats at the end of the verse that “all things were created by him,” as by their first cause, “and unto him” (εἰς αυτω= eis auto),i.e., for Him, as their final cause and goal. (Some manuscripts read εν = en in place of εἰς = eis).  Eis is the more probable here because it indicates motion towards or into (unto) a goal, whereas en usually indicates locality of place or time. The difference can be seen in Mt 2:1~”When Jesus therefore was born in (en = locality of place) Bethlehem of Juda, in (en = locality of time) the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to (eis) Jerusalem.”

Thrones, dominations, etc. See on Eph 1:21. That verse reads: Above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. Commenting on it Fr. Callan writes: The Apostle here mentions four orders or classes or choirs of celestial beings above which Christ in heaven is said to be exalted (cf. 1 Peter 3:22, and below, Eph 3:10). In Col. 1:16, we have a parallel passage where St. Paul adds the order of “thrones,” but omits the order of “virtue” here mentioned. In that passage the thought is that Christ in His pre-existent glory and divinity is the Creator of those angelic beings; whereas here His Headship over them is the dominant thought. The division of angels into nine orders and three hierarchies is due to the Pseudo-Dionysius in his book On the Celestial Hierarchy, a notable work which first appeared about 500 a.d., but which from then on exercised a great influence till the close of the Middle Ages.

Col 1:17. And he is before all, and in him all things consist.

To stress the pre-existence and pre-eminence as well as the creative power of Christ, the Apostle here repeats against the false teachers that the Son was prior and superior to all created things, and that all were not only created by Him, but are maintained in their existence by Him.

Consist. Better, “stand together,” hang together, cohere; all things were created by the Word, and all continue in existence and are conserved by Him.

The Vulgate ante omnes should be ante omnia, denoting all creation, as in the Greek.

Col 1:18. And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead ; that in all things he may hold the primacy;

Christ is not only the creator and conserver of all things in the universe, but He is also the creator of the new spiritual order of things inasmuch as He has repaired and redeemed all things; for He is the Founder and Head of that mystical body which is His Church (see on Eph 1:22). That passage reads: And he hath subjected all things under his feet, and hath made him head over all the church. Commenting on it Fr. Callan writes: And he hath subjected, etc. An allusion to Ps. 8:8, where man is described as the crown of the visible world (cf. 1 Cor. 15:26 ff.; Heb. 2:8 ff).

And hath made him head, etc. The Greek reads : “And gave him to the Church head over all.” The words “over all” show the dignity and excellence of Christ whom the eternal Father has given to the Church as its head. Our Lord made St. Peter the visible head of the Apostolic College and of the Church, but He Himself ever remains the supreme head, not only of the Church Militant, but likewise of the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant.

Who is the beginning, i.e., the efficient cause and creator of that organization which is the Church; He is the fountain and author of grace and glory.

The first-bom from the dead, i.e., the first in time to be raised from death to a glorious and immortal life, thus becoming the principle and model of the final resurrection of all who belong to Him. Just above, in ver. 15-16, it was said that Christ was the “first-born” of all things in general, that is, the creator of all, and here it is said that He is the “first-bom” of His redeemed creation. In both orders, the natural and the supernatural. He holds “the primacy” of power and dignity; He is the creator of all things in the natural order, and He is the redeemer and saviour of all in the supernatural order of grace and glory.

Col 1:19. Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all the fullness should dwell;

Here and in the following verse the Apostle further shows how the Word holds the primacy in all things. First, “because in him, etc.,” i.e., at the time of the Incarnation it pleased the Father, or God, that “all the fullness” of Divinity, and consequently of grace and truth (John 1:14), through the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the one Person of the Word, should take up its permanent abode in Christ.

The Father is not expressed in Greek, but it is most natural to take it as the subject of the verb “hath well pleased” in view of the subject in verses 12 and 13 and the context of verses 15-18.

Fullness, i.e., plenitude, totality—”the fullness of the Godhead,” as it is expressed in 2:9 below. See on Eph 1:23. On that verse Fr. Callan wrote: The fullness of him, i.e., the totality or completion of Christ, or that which renders Christ complete. The Greek word πληρωμα (fullness) here is obscure and has received various explanations, the most probable of which we have just given in the preceding sentence. The Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of the Church. From this union of head and body there results one whole, which is the mystical Christ. The Church, therefore, the body of Christ, completes Christ; or, to put it in another way, Christ, the head of the Church, is completed by the Church. In other words, as in the human body the members are the completion or complement of the head, since without them the head could not exercise the different actions, so the Church, which is the body of Christ, is the complement of Christ the head, because without it Christ would not be able to exercise His office of Redeemer and Sanctifier of souls.

Should dwell. The Greek implies permanency of dwelling.

Col 1:20. And through him to reconcile all things unto himself (eis auton), making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.

In the second place, it has pleased God the Father “through him” (i.e., through Christ) “to reconcile all things unto himself” (cf. Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18, 19). These references to Romans and 2 Corinthians show that we should understand eis auton (“unto himself”) here to mean the Father rather than the Son.

Making peace through the blood of his cross. The meaning is that through the sacrificial death of the Son on the cross peace was effected with the Eternal Father (cf. Rom 5).

Both as to the things that are on the earth, etc. See on Eph 1:10. The Apostle is stressing the point here, against the false teachers at Colossae, that Christ is the one and only medium of reconciling with the Father all things, spiritual and material, human and angelic. Men, indeed, needed reconciliation in the strict sense of the word; but as regards the material creation and the angelic world see on Eph 1:10. Here, however, there is no question of reconciling men and angels with one another, but of reconciling all with God the Father. Therefore, to explain how the sacrificial death of Christ effected reconciliation and peace between the angelic world and the Father some have had recourse to the meaning of  Eph 3:10, and explain the difficulty in the sense of that passage. Thus, men are really cleansed and restored to divine favor, while angels acquire greater knowledge and joy as a result of man’s salvation (so Knabenbauer, hoc loco). Others think that reconciliation, as applied here to angelic beings, must be taken in a wide sense, meaning that Christ’s propitiation brought the world of angels into closer union with God, thus making them less alien than they had been before that august event (so Alford, Moule, etc.).

Col 1:21. And you, whereas you were some time alienated and enemies in mind in evil works,

In verses 21-23 St. Paul applies to the Colossians what he has been saying in general regarding the redemptive work of Christ. Formerly, in their pagan state, they also had been alienated from God; their mental attitude was hostile to Him, as was proved by their evil deeds. But now they have been reconciled to the Father through the atoning sufferings and death on the cross of God’s only Son.

Col 1:22. Yet now he hath reconciled you in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unspotted, and blameless before him:

In the body of his flesh, etc., i.e., in His own mortal, passible body, as distinguished from His mystical body, the Church: “For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, etc.” (2 Cor 5:19).

To present you holy, etc. The purpose of this reconciliation was the sanctification of the Colossians, so that they might appear in the sight of God here and now free from vice of every kind and adorned with all virtues.

Col 1:23. If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immovable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister.

Here the Apostle tells the Colossians that they will continue in their holy state only if they preserve unsullied the faith which they have received from Epaphras, and which is the same as that preached everywhere else by St. Paul and his disciples.

Grounded and settled, etc. See on Eph 3:17Father Callan wrote the following on that verse, which reads: “That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; that being rooted and founded in charity.”

By faith, i.e., by means of an implicit trust in all that has been revealed, and this, not merely by a speculative adhesion of the mind to revealed truth, but by a practical exercise in works of what one believes, by a faith that lives by charity: “If any one love me, he will keep my word, etc.” (John 14:23 ff.).

Being rooted, like a tree of the Lord in the rich soil of the love of God, and founded, like stones of the Temple on the same love.

In charity. It is disputed whether these words should go with what precedes or with what follows ; and also whether there is question of God’s love for Christians or of the love Christians have for God. As to the first point, it seems that the participles “rooted” and “founded” need determination, and therefore that the phrase “in charity” should go with them. As to the second point, since the Apostle is praying that his readers may understand Christ’s love for them, and since love is perceived by love and the more Christ is loved the better He is understood, it would seem that the words “in charity” ought to refer to the love Paul’s readers have for Christ. 

The hope of the Gospel, which is eternal salvation.

Which is preached, etc. St. Paul wants to assure the Colossians that the Gospel they have heard is the same as the authentic Gospel preached elsewhere.

Whereof I am made the minister. Some think these words were added to show the identity between the Gospel preached by Paul and that delivered by Epaphras; but it is more likely that they were intended as a link between what the Apostle has been saying and what he is about to say regarding his work in behalf of the pagans.

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.

Col 1:24. 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.

Col 1:25. 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).

Col 1:26. 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. For commentary on those verses go here.

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

Col 1:27. 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.

Col 1:28. 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.

Col 1:29. 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.

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